Do Nurses Eat Their Young? - by Jemima Mitchell

Posted by Sarah Catling on

Do nurses eat their young?  This is a difficult topic to write about because there is a large part of me who wants to think positively, see only good things, trust that, of course, nurses would care for each other. But I feel a duty of care to share with student nurses, graduate nurses, bank and agency nurses and nurses in a new job that unfortunately, sometimes, nurses do eat their young.⠀

The term “nurses eat their young” is an expression, used globally, amongst the nursing profession. Let me assure you that this does not refer to cannabalism or to the physical act of humans eating other humans. Instead, it is a term which refers to bullying within the nursing community. ⠀

I can honestly say that as a fully qualified nurse I never felt bullied. I have always worked in young, enthusiastic environments and have felt welcomed and supported. However, when I was a student nurse, I remember assisting with an enema. It was a female patient and I was assisting a female nurse. Afterwards, I took the initiative to clean the space but I accidentally threw a soiled bluey into a normal rubbish bin (it was a first year placement and I am not even sure I knew what a yellow, infection bin was yet!). A male nurse who had already made some remarks previously, approached me in front of a number of other nurses, told me what I had done and demanded that I put the bluey in the right bin. He stood over me with a smug smile, while I stumbled to put gloves on, dug into the bin to remove the item and moved it to a yellow bin. An experience that was not only humiliating but also stayed with me throughout the rest of my placements - not great for one’s confidence.⠀

Some important things to remember:

Not all nurses eat their young. Instinctively our minds recall negative experiences. For every negative, try to remember all the positives. There are some wonderful leaders, educators and managers amongst us.⠀

➕ You will work out quickly who to avoid. Just remember that we are all humans first. Whether it be jealousy, burn out or a sick child at home there is a reason this person is behaving poorly and this is their issue, not yours.⠀

➕ You will also work out very quickly who to approach.⠀

➕ Distinguish between bullying and a nurse who demands the best of you - one day this will make complete sense.⠀

➕ Sistasaidso+ are always here. We are overwhelmed by the beautiful people who have already reached out to debrief - keep it coming, you are never alone.⠀

➕ Lead by example - you are the future and if you respect your power in this, you can overcome this important issue of nurses eating their young.⠀


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