Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business


When I started in nursing, I heard an expression:  “Nurses eat their young!”

“Nurses eat their young!”  I could not believe it!  How could nurses eat their young?  What does this even mean?

An interesting thing about the expression is that almost every nurse you talk to will know the saying.  I Googled the phrase and found that it is standard lore among nurses and that it means bullying or harassment.  It is abusive treatment of a new nurse that does not serve the profession.  In fact, there is a book on the subject titled “Ending Nurse-To-Nurse Hostility: Why Nurses Eat Their Young.”

What is amazing to me about that expression is why nurses would not support each other, work together and have a different expression: “Nurses support their young.”

I’m shocked why some nurses will backstab, intimidate and sabotage each other just because someone is new on staff and inevitably going to make mistakes.  Floor nursing is very difficult; you’re asked to work different shifts, holidays and long hours.  Stable patients can become unstable in seconds.  Doctors show up unexpectedly and staff absence requires nurses on the floor to pick up the slack by taking extra patients.

To me, it is unbelievable that when one nurse puts down a fellow nurse in front of another nurse, the witnessing nurse does not speak up.  Why would we allow nurses to talk to us in a way that we would never talk to our patients?  Why would nurses treat others that way or allow themselves to be treated this way?

As I’ve gotten older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve looked at things in different ways than in my younger years.  I look at such things as environment.  I had the fortune of working PRN and floating to several different nursing areas.  And I saw ones that functioned effectively and others that did not. There are good nursing units out there.  But, as long as nurses continue to put up with this behavior, the problem will continue to exist.  Nurses need to stand up and speak their mind and not allow this behavior to occur.

Allowing nurses to treat other nurses in a negative, demeaning manner and sitting idly by allowing other nurses to treat new nurses in this fashion, allows the problem to continue.  When nurses stand up for themselves and their profession and take responsibility for it by calling out nurses who don’t treat other nurses with respect, this is the only way this behavior will change.

Rather than being part of the problem and allowing this type of behavior to occur, be part of the solution.  If you are a victim of bullying or harassment, tell someone.  If you observe someone being harassed or bullied, tell someone.  The person may not even be aware that are being abusive and you can be a contribution to them by helping them to see their own behavior and how it makes you feel.

If you see it, say something!

As Seen On: