June 24th, 2008 | The Blog
My mom once told me, “Emily, it costs nothing to be nice to someone. It can cost you everything if you are not.” Over the years, those words have played across my mind in a variety of situations, but never so much as when I was going through orientation both as a new nurse, and as a new flight nurse.
Why does the phrase “nurses eat their young” persist? What is it about our profession that breeds this attitude, not of acceptance, but necessitating a new person to struggle until they prove themselves?
A Google search of the phrase brings a plethora of blog posts, video posts, formal papers and books written on horizontal violence. Over at Nursing Voices Forum, it is a hot topic with both new nurses and experienced nurses adding amazing insight to the issue. It is well defined, but my question is . . .what are we doing to fix it?
A mentor from the Army taught me that if you have a problem with something, don’t just complain about it. Bring at least one or two solutions, otherwise you are just whining. This advice has served me well and while reading up on the topic I began to look for proposed solutions. Unfortunately, even some of the “experts” on the topic simply kept with defining it. The party line right now simply runs with the Golden Rule: be nice to each other.
Surprise, surprise . . .that has not worked.
In keeping with my Army mentor’s advice, I have two suggestions:
1) We need to continue building a supportive structure online within the profession. In my last post, I talked about changing the stereotypes of nursing and how the Internet is going to play a role. I also mentioned to someone, not long ago, how amazed I am at the interaction and support between the professionals and peers I have met through my blog. Whenever I have had something I needed help with, there were others willing to share their experiences, give me a shoulder to cry on, and hold me up until I could once again stand on my own. Not something you will necessarily find on the floor or the unit. In the video post I linked to above, the nurse echoed this and encouraged others who were struggling to get involved in forums where she received tons of support from, yes, other NURSES!!
2) We, as a profession, need to find a way to implement formal leadership programs and groom the next generation of nurse leaders from day one of nursing school. Nurse leadership programs currently exist but more so at the graduate level. Whether we understand it or not, each one of us is in a leadership position by virtue of our role, no matter our specialty area. One of the basic roles of an RN is to manage care given by LPNs, medical assistants and staff who are caring for their assigned patient. That in itself requires a skill set in management and leadership. We also need to demand strong nursing leadership from those who are currently in management positions. So much of horizontal violence is allowed to continue because people at the top ignore it.
Although I played down the “be nice” solutions earlier, I do really believe that each one of us can do our part in stopping the cycle of feasting on the young. Never allow those times in which you were treated badly slip far from memory. They serve as good reminders to take a deep breath, smile, and take a minute to help out a new nurse, who is struggling just like you were at one time.