We have all heard the adage, “Nurses eat their young”. I was hopeful that this common practice was not so common anymore, however it is something that continues to occur in the workplace. New Grads are given poor treatment by their older colleagues and bullied simply because they are new nurses. Help is not given when asked, nurses are talked down to when a question is posed, they are told they are stupid, and so forth. Even as a new nurse myself, I was victim to these circumstances and as such, my confidence took a huge hit. I hated going to work because I hated the feeling of being less than what was expected. As new nurses, how do you overcome this toxic environment?Let me start by saying that every nurse who has more experience than you do, was once where you are sitting. They too were once a New Grad and knew next to nothing (sorry, but that’s the truth), so why is it that they feel the need to treat new nurses in such a negative light? I will say that you tend to see bullying of new grads occur more often on critical care units, such as ICU, NICU, ED, and so forth. Now, it’s not to say that bullying doesn’t occur on other units, however this tends to be where the highest incidence of mistreatment of New Grads occurs.Why do we see higher rates of bullying in these types of units? There are several reasons, but the number one reason is because most nurses do not believe New Grads should be anywhere near a critical care unit. They do not feel you possess the knowledge or skill set to be there. What they don’t understand is that you are there because the hospital has a program set up to ensure that you succeed as a New Grad in a critical care unit. You are also there because you were hand selected out of hundreds, if not thousands of applicants.Is it jealousy? Not necessarily, but they are a little upset at the fact that you are there. Experienced nurses also don’t trust you yet. You have not earned their delicate trust, which is understandable on one hand because when you work in a critical care unit, you need to be able to depend upon the nurse next to you for when shit hits the fan and your patient starts to decompensate. I am in no way condoning their behavior, bur trying to provide a viewpoint. It’s important you understand the opposing viewpoint because this might help you in dealing with the issue at hand.So, how do we stop the bullying and mistreatment of New Grads? Let’s examine some steps you can take.
- When appropriate, ask to speak with the nurse who is bullying you
- In an area away from patient care, let the nurse know that what they did or said and how it made you feel
- Be direct and cite specific examples of their behavior
- Make sure that you are speaking calmly and professionally, and try not to come off as accusatory
- Let them know that how important this job is to you and that you don’t want there to be any friction
- If the issue is due to a mistake that was made, approach them from a learning perspective and ask them for constructive criticism
- Some nurses are unaware of their behavior and it is in your best interest to bring it to their attention
- If after your talk, the bullying continues, you should bring it to your Charge Nurse’s attention
- Again, be sure to cite certain examples of what occurred and when it occurred
- Throughout this process you should be keeping your own journal of what occurred, who you spoke to, and what the outcome was
- Alright, Charge Nurse didn’t really get you anywhere, so what do you do? Head to your Manager
- Let them know what has been occurring, the steps you’ve taken, and the outcomes
- If after all this and the behavior is still occurring, it’s time you head to HR
- Human Resources wants nothing more than for every employee to be happy and comfortable in their work environment, so think of them as an asset in your corner
As mentioned, throughout the process, it’s important you keep a journal of what occurred, when it occurred, the steps you took and the outcomes. The more details you have at your disposal, the more powerful defense you are able to mount.A great resource that hospitals have nowadays for employees are Employee Assistance Programs, otherwise known as EAP. These programs are free for all employees and one of their purposes is to help employees resolve personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee’s performance. They are 100% confidential and offer a wide range of services such as legal advice, child care, workplace abuse, relationship issues, traumatic events and many more. I highly encourage you to utilize this service in the event you are being bullied at work. This is something I would use in conjunction with what we discussed and not as a standalone.It’s not easy to stand up to your colleagues when you are a New Grad. You don’t know if you are in the wrong to begin with, you don’t want retaliation, and no one ever told you about how to deal with this type of situation. I truly hope that none of you have to experience this mistreatment, but if you do, remember these steps and the fact that you do have people on your side. Bullying or hazing of new nurses is NOT an ok practice and you are well within your rights to do something about. Not every work environment is perfect, however you are a member of the department now, so your opinion does matter.In closing I would like to say that bullying is not a common occurrence, so I don’t want you to think that once you step foot onto your unit, you are going to be bullied. It does occasionally happen and New Grads often struggle with how to deal with this issue, which is why this article was written. It’s important to remember a key fact, which is you were chosen to be there, so don’t ever think for a solid second that you shouldn’t. Now go into work with your head held high, and CRUSH IT!