Do experienced nurses really eat their young?

nurse-jackie-preceptorI have lots and lots of opinions on this issue, having graduated a few years ago and having served as a preceptor to new RNs frequently. As a nurse, we should all strive to eradicate the adage about experienced nurses “eating their young” because we were all there at one point.

Most hospitals have orientation periods for new graduates that concentrate on pairing the new nurse with more experienced nurses for days to months at a time before they are left to care for patients on their own. As a nurse alongside a new nurse- even if you are not directly precepting them- be sure to seek them out for unusual procedures that may be done on the floor so they can watch. This will only benefit the floor in the long run.

Be critical but not harshly critical, just constructively. Harp on their strengths but be sure to mention what they should focus on as weaknesses. In nursing school, you merely skim the issues that you will encounter as an official RN and most of the training that you receive is on-the-job. Be mindful of this because this new nurse may not have been exposed to some of the stuff in nursing school.

Don’t be afraid to let management know if there is a problem though because this nurse is going to be a part of a team, and teamwork is huge in nursing. A weak member of the team can hurt the entire floor, so be sure to advocate for the new nurses but speak up if you think they need more training before they are left on their own.

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Nicole Lehr

Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.

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9 Responses to Do experienced nurses really eat their young?

  1. Caleb

    I’ve never understood that concept of nurses eating their young, and fortunately never experienced it. It shows a complete lack of compassion that we, as nurses, claim is a hallmark of our profession.

  2. maria

    I have experienced it, repeatedly. The worst was the foreign nurses who had a bsn, when we had only associates degrees. It is a disgrace to be harassed in your own country by foreigners.

  3. Luci

    I was exposed to that the firt time I switched jobs. I was orienting with a nurse that from the get go told me, “I don’t know why they give me new nurses to orient, I don’t like it, so you do what you want to do, if you have a question tell me! Otherwise I am just going to do my work.” I laughed and she looke at me and I said to her , ” I am not a NEW nurse, just new to here! If you don’t like to orient than we are even, I don’t like to be oriented, and if you like I can take half of the load now!” After that week of fun ( I acctually liked her from then on), we made an agreement that if we got new nurses I would be the orienter not her, I don’t like the new nurses feeling so anxious and out of place, its a hard job to begin with without the negativities added on by each other.

  4. Nemrac

    maria – I agree with you, but you should have placed “only” in quotation marks. A BSN simply means that nurse has written more papers, and often (though not always) had less clinical time. Which translates into “less experience on the floor”. And while it looks good on paper, and in management’s eyes, we all know who with who we’d rather share the floor…

  5. Rebecca

    They do, but also, some of the younger nurses give older nurses a hard time too. Younger nurses are more adept with technology while older nurses have great bedside manner. I think younger nurses are more ambitious to climb the career ladder where older ones are more interested in direct care and dealing one on one. with the patient. This, of course has alot to do with the training. 20-30 years ago a nurse didn’t need a BSN or above to have a job. So it goes both ways.

  6. Rebecca

    In today’s job market a BSN will get a job alot quicker than an ADN or diploma. BSN is exactly what managers are looking for whether that nurse has alot of experience or not. I went 3 years to a BSN program then opted for an ADN because of family and work responsibilities. I got good clinicals in the BSN program but found the ADN harder. The BSN will win out however if the two resumes are compared side by side.

  7. Lori Morin

    I agree with you ~Maria ~. I have been a nurse for over 6 years and it has happened at each facility I have worked at. I think the older nurses are the worst. And I too was chewed out by a foreign nurse with a BSN. Very degrading, gave me negative feelings about the job.

  8. Lee Ann

    In our facility we have nurses that work very well together, even from different shifts, etc. There is no back stabbing or criticisms. however, we are united against a management team from hell. Our CNAs eat their young all the time. They won’t take the time to help someone new, they join together against the newbies, they turn them in, they complain about their slowness, they don’t help them out at all. we keep telling them that if you don’t help the newbies out, pretty soon, you’ll have no oldies either, because the newbies quit so soon. Our leadership team doesn’t help either. They have criticized and yelled at the CNAs to the point that their morale is shot. Then when I talked privately to the DON to tell her that a CNA did the right thing, she will say, “I know. I just wanted to keep them on their toes.” That’s the kind of group we are all dealing with.

  9. acates11

    I loved student nurses and graduate nurses. My orientation as a grad nurse was terrible.
    I swore I would always be good to new nurses and students and make their learning experience a very good one. Surprisingly I learned a lot from them too!!!