Eating Our Young

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An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. 

– Benjamin Franklin

‘How many times have I heard this?’ I think to myself as I am walking around a brand new unit with a brand new nurse. He was soft-spoken and gentle natured. He was walking me around the back of the unit to a quieter hall where his cart was waiting on him. He was talking to me about how they eat their young on that unit and I was keeping my eyes wide open. From the moment I walked in, I heard about this floor. I heard about the reputations of the tough to crack energy surrounding it.

He went on to describe how he felt like he had a target on his back. How he didn’t feel secure in his position. I sat back then and just watched. I am there to learn after all. I am there to shift gears and to learn from even the young. As he was giving medications he leaned over and fed each pill to his patient. He knew his patient, was familiar with her ways, and knew exactly how to talk to her. So I asked him how long he’d been there. “Nine months.” he said easily. But he’d been a tech for five years prior to his LPN.

We got out of the room and he began apologizing for being a nurse for ONLY a little less than a year and that things just aren’t always perfect. This is where I stopped him. I said his name and looked him in the eye. Having his full attention, I told him exactly what I thought. That not only could I tell he was already a good nurse, but he was going to be a GREAT nurse one day. I told him it was his attention to detail and the need to do things the right way. What I didn’t tell him is that it was his sweet and soft smile as he worked with the patient that told me more. I didn’t need to point that out. I wanted him to keep being himself.

The best message I can deliver stems from personal experience: fearless pursuit can equal limitless possibilities. 

– Leila McKinney

I spent my time with him encouraging what I saw in him. I told him to be bold and brave with me because he is at his best when he is himself. We had that one moment. I had that short time to lift up that nurse that needed to hear he was on the right track. And here I was his orientee for the first day.

In the next moment I got to see exactly what I wanted to see. A complete breakdown on the floor. Something unexpected came up and I jumped in to keep that new nurse floating. I knew nothing. I was on the floor for less than an hour ever. But I did know how to double-check everything. I knew how to calm a family member. But I also knew that what was missing was teamwork. Another thing I heard in passing before I ever arrived on that floor. Every one of them said teamwork was missing and that was what they wanted. So why weren’t they doing it?

Hold your own, know your name, and go your own way. 

– Jason Mraz

It boiled down to the generational differences. It was about seniority and eating their young. It is an older style of trial by fire from nurses. A way to see how someone works and if they can survive. A right of passage that is nothing excellent for the new way of creating a safe and family like working environment.

Our parents and grandparents didn’t eat us alive (mostly) on a daily basis. So we as nurses need to take time to grow our young in the way we wish them to go. Just like our children. SHOW them how to best be themselves and succeed. Don’t become jealous of their success and fear them being your superior one day. That is inevitable. At some point they will be our boss, our manager, our trainer. And they may not forget how we ate them alive.

Treat each other as if that is your son, your daughter, your mother, your father. Treat them as we would a patient. Grow them in the way that best helps the patient. Teach them and train them to be the best they can be.

“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million empty words.”


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