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The Elephant in the hospital room

Updated: Oct 24, 2018



Yes, I’m referring to the topic no one likes to discuss or recognize that is very present in our healthcare work environments today. It’s the hidden culture of lateral violence or what most know as bullying or incivility in the workplace. Both old and new nurses may be familiar with the popular phrase “nurses eat their young” but many will not acknowledge or admit how big of an issue it really is. As a new graduate nurse, I fell victim to this common phenomenon thinking it was normal for older nurses to 'give you a hard time' because that's what they do when they want you to be a 'great nurse' right? Wrong!

"He or she is just having a bad day today OR he or she is like that to everyone, OR just try not to take it personal."
"I'm only this hard on you because I want you to be a good nurse."

Those are just a few statements I've personally encountered to excuse the behavior of fellow coworkers that display acts of incivility, bullying and workplace violence. So, after a few months of enduring this unprofessional behavior, I decided it was time to let management know what was going on and so I did. I was assigned a new precptor and instantly recognized a difference. I began thinking to myself, 'wow, this is how things were suppose to be from the beginning?' Following my situation, new graduate nurses that followed my cohort were assigned two preceptors to alternate between instead of just one. Assigning two preceptors to new grads was an attempt to reduce the occurrence of nurse bullying and give new nurses different learning styles to adapt to.

If you ask me, there seems to be a deeper root in this vicious cycle of 'nurses eating their young' that stems from another common phenomenon in our nursing culture---nurse burnout a.k.a. compassion fatigue. Personally, I feel like nurse burnout attributes directly to this type of unprofessional behavior in the workplace. Think about it, you don't hear the phrase "doctors eat their young" or "[insert any other healthcare professional here] eat their young" because this has really only been accepted and perpetuated in the nursing culture. Whether we like to admit it, this culture begins in majority of our nursing schools. From the time you enter your first class as a nursing student, you may remember hearing your professor say something along the lines of:

"Look around, because by the end of the semester some of you will not be sitting here."

Many nursing students probably didn't think twice when the professors made that statement or something similar to it. Although we weren't aware of it, we were being mentally belittled and conditioned to think that it was every nurse for themselves, while professors viewed it as 'making you tough'. We are great at advocating for our patients but it’s time to advocate for each other. I challenge you to support the movement started by Nurse Blake and Nurse.org by clicking here an signing the pledge! If you’re a #nurseseattheiryoung type STOP! #nursessupporttheiryoung #stopeatingyouryoung


Anyone dealing with this type of lateral violence in their workplace?

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