This article surprised me in that it comes from Marie Claire magazine. Although written in 2015, the article still remains pertinent and applicable to today’s nursing. There is the nurse culture of bullying and hazing and it is one of nursing’s secrets, even today.
When you think of nurses, you probably think of calm, competent men and women who try to do whatever they can do to help a person recover from an injury or illness. This is an accurate picture, but underlying that calm, helpful image is a bizarre negative.
Nurses can be angels sent from heaven and usually are, but they can also be hateful, deceitful, vengeful, people–usually toward other nurses. If you ask nurses about the nurse culture of bullying and hazing, you will be met with a blank stare and a confused expression.
But if you ask “why do nurses eat their young?”, every nurse will understand what you are asking and will probably have their own personal story to illustrate this concept. It is not that nurses intend to be mean to each other; rather it is the stress of the job, the expectations of the patients and families, and the limit of time that contributes to nurses not being as nice to each other as they could be.
Please read this article and decide what you think about this culture of bullying and hazing.
Over the course of four years, I interviewed hundreds of nurses for a book (The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital), examining a subculture the public knows little about. The nursing profession demands a lot from its ranks: 12-to 14-hour shifts coping with traumas, managing grotesqueries, soothing distraught family members. And they do it with a calm and grace that belie just how complicated their jobs really are. The women and men I spoke with exuded the compassion and selflessness we’ve come to expect from nurses, traits that make it easy to understand why the country’s 3.5 million nurses have topped Gallup’s annual poll of Honesty and Ethical Standards in Professions for 13 straight years.
Which makes the profession’s silent secret all the more surprising: rampant hazing, bullying, and sabotage so destructive that patients can suffer and, in a few cases, have died. Nurses told me about numerous daunting behavioral patterns: colleagues withholding crucial information or help, spreading rumors, name-calling, playing favorites, and intimidating or berating nurses until they quit.
Nurse bullying is so pervasive that it has its own expression. In 1986, nursing professor Judith Meissner coined the phrase “Nurses eat their young” as a call to action for nurses to stop ripping apart inexperienced coworkers. Nearly 30 years later, the bullying seems to be getting worse, says Gary Namie, Ph.D., director of the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Washington, which receives more calls from nurses than from workers in any other field (36 percent vs. 25 percent from educators, the next-most-frequent callers). “The profession’s on the brink of some sort of transition,” Namie says. “Nurses uniformly seem to accept nurse-on-nurse violence as just part of the job. But they’re losing nurses by the drove.”
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