I’ve always been able to pick out the new nursing graduates who report for their first day on the job. Look at this young lady. Her uniform is spotless, her cap is impeccable perched on top of her head, her hair is perfectly coiffed, and she made the mistake of wearing high heel shoes to work. Didn’t anyone tell her about Nurse Mates? She’s going to have some really bad blisters by the time her shift is over. The biggest tip off, however, is her demeanor. She has the new graduate glow. Her shoulders are pulled back, she’s standing straight and tall, and her head is held up high. She’s full of confidence and pride.
Now imagine our fair young nurse’s arrival on her unit for her first day at work. Her new coworkers, who are sitting in their faded scrubs and mileage worn work shoes, barely have time to notice her entering the nursing station. The nurses from the previous shift are ignoring the relentless buzzing of call lights in the background as they hurry to get their charting done so they can go home. Their back and legs hurt, and the last thing they want to do is make one more trip down the hallway in order to put another patient on a bedpan. The nurses reporting for work aren’t happy either. They are preparing for another long, difficult shift. In the middle of the chaos stands our perky new nurse, bright eyed and full of zip. The old warhorse nurses take one look at her and the feeding frenzy begins.
(Warning: I’m about to get on my soapbox, so watch out.)
How many times have you seen this happen at work? Experts call it lateral violence in the workplace. Nurses call it eating our young. I’ve seen it a lot. In fact, I was a victim of this phenomenon. One group of nurses that I use to work with refused to talk to me unless it directly involved patient care, and they wrote me up for any little infraction that they could find or invent. A few of them even told me that I was a horrible nurse and that I should leave the profession. I cried a lot, but fortunately I’ve always been obstinate and I told the battleaxes to take a hike. I’ve never forgotten the pain that they caused me, and since then I’ve vowed to treat all new graduates with respect. If cheerful new nurses irritate you, so be it, but look at the situation logically. Who is going to take care of you when you are old if you keep running the newcomers out of the profession? Graduate nurses deserve our support, even the perky ones who report to their first day of work in high heel shoes. I’m not forgetting the guys. They deserve our support, too.