p2p bullying | why do nurses eat their young?

It’s your first day as a new grad nurse on your unit. Anxiety is through the roof, but you’re excited and optimistic too. This is what you’ve been working so hard for! It’s your first day in the professional world of nursing, and you’re looking forward to being the best nurse you can possibly be. Nobody could get in your way, right?


Unfortunately, nursing culture has a reputation for bullying…especially new nurses, but it can be an ongoing problem that persists within the field long after nurses have experience under their belt.


I think that when you work in a profession where the stakes are so high (after all, you are dealing with peoples’ lives!) veteran nurses want newbie nurses to be humbled by what they do not yet know. They want to see if the new nurses have “what it takes” to deal with high-stress, difficult situations, and they want to “toughen” them up.

While I agree that it takes practice to maintain composure in stressful situations, I also believe this is an ineffective way to teach competence and confidence to a brand new nurse. Imagine if you were inexperienced and a veteran nurse left you alone in a clinical situation you have never dealt with before. Chances are, you’d do something wrong, that nurse would berate you, and your confidence would be shattered.

“Nursing orientation should take place in an environment that is conducive to learning and asking questions.”

Nursing orientation should take place in an environment that is conducive to learning and asking questions. It does absolutely no good to make fun of a new nurse and say, “I can’t believe they didn’t know that!” and go around gossiping and spreading a bad reputation for that new RN. If a veteran nurse tells you they’ve never made a mistake or have been unsure, they’re lying. Making mistakes and self-doubt is a human thing and we’ve ALL been there.

It is a shame that nurses sometimes bash one another for admitting to mistakes/asking questions. Give me the nurse who is thorough enough and cares enough to research and understand something before taking a blind stab at it any day.

My best advice for brand new nurses:

You don’t even know what you don’t know. You will make yourself a target for bullying if you come onto the unit on day one acting like a hot-shot that knows and has seen it all. Veteran nurses are experienced enough to know that this “know-it-all” attitude is what gets you and your patients into trouble.  You can’t do healthcare alone. It truly takes a team.

At the root of nurse to nurse bullying, is ineffective communication. We hold grudges, talk behind coworkers’ backs, and “tattle” on one another which gets us nowhere. In a profession where the stakes are so high, we need to be honest and straightforward with one another.

  • Help each other with weaknesses constructively instead of with criticism
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Don’t be afraid to help someone improve themselves. You WIN when you have strong, knowledgeable coworkers…patients WIN too!
  • Don’t talk negatively about your coworkers- you are all on the same team, would you want to pit your team members against one another?

So on that first day, don’t accept bullying. Show you are a pleasant, yet no-nonsense person, who communicates directly, and is here to learn. If you keep consistent with that attitude and hold strong…..eventually you will chip away those cold, hard outer crusts of those bullies and catch a glimpse of their warm, gooey center that made them become a nurse in the first place…aww.


What about you? Have you experienced bullying in the workplace? Join the discussion below and share with others who might be interested.

P2P Bullying | Why do nurses “eat their young?”

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