Why Do Nurses Eat Their Young?

More and more Nurses are getting involved and looking for solutions that will end the scourge that has persisted for so many years and tarnished the good work and dedication of all Nurses everywhere.
Have you heard that phrase before? I graduated my Nursing Program way, way, back in 1955 and it was around even then. The perpetrator is usually a senior nurse with longevity but could be a new graduate bursting with new knowledge and techniques and anxious to give them a workout or it could be a Supervisor or someone with a higher or lower rank than the victim. Regardless who is creating the problem it is interesting that old cliché is still around in this the 21st Century.

I first encountered it when as an eighteen-year-old nursing student who had never been in a hospital had no idea what a hospital ward looked like. I was born at home, and my tonsils were removed on my Grandmother’s kitchen table when I was five. That was way, way, way, back, in 1935. So imagine my surprise to learn the "Ward" my Mother talked about when she had my brothers and sister, was not a long hallway with beds on either side, as I had envisioned, but a long hallway with rooms on both sides and it even had a kitchen. Yes, I remember it well.

We spent the first three months of our training in the classroom learning the basics of bedside nursing-bed making, vital signs, bed baths, enemas, along with medical terminology, anatomy, and other basic preparations for our initiation to "The Ward". We never got further than the lobby of the Hospital and the Cafeteria until the end of those first three months. Finally, the day came with the notification our schedules were changed. Starting immediately, we would spend four hours in the classroom every morning and four hours on the Ward in the afternoon. After class, we reported to our assigned Ward, and introduced ourselves to our R.N., Supervisor.

Miss G. was about four feet, ten inches, tall and weighed about ninety-eight pounds. She looked impressive in her starched, white uniform, white stockings, white, polished, shoes with clean, white, shoelaces, and perched on top of her head a starched, white, crinoline cap with a ruffled edge, with a black band around it. She wore her accessories with authority. Her school pin perfectly placed on her right chest, her nurses’ watch with its black, leather band and her black, winged, glasses, which she wore at the end of her nose so she could look directly into your eyes when she spoke. She was a retired Army, Staff Sergeant, probably in her middle thirties, and Single. Yes, I remember her well.

It was the first day of my first four- hour shift. Everyone gathered in the kitchen while the R.N. Supervisor dished out the diets on to a tray, from a warming cart, which we took to the bedside. I was assigned to feed a very ill young man, hooked up to an I.V. and too ill to feed himself. My patient had a bowl of Pea Soup, a glass of water, a cup of hot tea, a packet of sugar, and a glass straw. This was my first patient and the first time I would feed someone. I was scared to death.

I rolled his bed up, placed a napkin on his chest, told him my name, what I was about to do and asked him if he was comfortable. He nodded his head. I placed the glass straw into the bowl of pea soup and brought it to his lips. He was too weak to draw the soup up through the straw so I told him I would get a spoon and I would be right back.

Once in the hallway I forgot which way to the kitchen. I started back toward the Nurse’s Station and ran into Miss G. "Where do you think you’re going?" she said. "I’m looking for the kitchen." I said. "You mean to tell me you’ve been here an hour and a half and you don’t know where the kitchen is?" I looked at her with total surprise. "Yes.", I replied. She gave me directions and I was on my way.

There were lots of cupboards and drawers in the kitchen and I had no idea where they hid the tableware. I started opening drawers when I heard a sound behind me. Miss G. was standing in the doorway watching me. "Can you tell me where they keep the spoons?" I asked. "Don’t they teach you anything in that classroom? You were just in this kitchen. You don't remember where the spoons are. What kind of nurse do you think you will be if you can’t remember from fifteen minutes ago?" That was my intro to Miss G. and it was just the beginning. I finally got back to my patient but by that time, the soup was cold. I went back to the kitchen to get some warm soup. I’ll give you three guesses who was there and what happened next. The first two don’t count.

That was fifty-eight years ago. Do nurses still eat their young? Yes, they do and there is plenty of evidence to support its existence right here on the internet. Just go to any Nurse Blog or Forum and you will find page after page of comments from nurses, young and old, male and female, R.N.’s, L.P.N.’s, C.N.A;s, all venting their frustrations about the treatment they endure from NURSES WHO EAT THEIR YOUNG. Why do they do it? They do it because they can.

Fortunately, there is hope for the future. Due to Nursing Forums like this one, more and more Nurses are getting involved and looking for solutions that will end the scourge that has persisted for so many years and tarnished the good work and dedication of Nurses everywhere. Now if only someone would start teaching "How to build a team" or "Teamwork is the answer" that would be a place to start.


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