Do “New Nurses” Scare You, Too?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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Lately I find myself becoming quite the cynic. I’m not a cynical nurse, I’m just discovering things throughout my ‘world’ that are cause for cynicism. Well, not everything in my world. Mostly the new nurses.

Now remember, I haven’t even been a nurse a decade yet! And here I am remembering the “good old days” of nursing. Scary. I know.

I guess what gets under my skin is I’m finding more and more ‘newer’ nurses who think they know everything. OR they think they’ve experienced everything simply because they’ve been a nurse ‘long enough’, to see the ‘same thing’ more than once. Complacency can infect all of us at one time or another. We get so comfortable with repetition that we find safety in it, and then we find braggadocio. I’ve been doing this for a mere seven years, and to this very day, I still learn something new, or appreciate a new concept every day.

I cannot shake the feeling that the ‘newer’ nurses scare me just a little. This hollow, yet inflated, ego is going to get them in trouble. So much trouble that I often wonder if their patients will suffer.

It was handed down to me in a very profound way that it’s our job, as nurses, to expect the unexpected. To think in terms of the ‘worst case scenario’. To prepare for the worst, but expect the best. To always have our ‘game’ face on, and to always play our ‘A’ game. I just don’t see that with these ‘newer’ nurses. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen plenty of awe-inspiring new nurses, that can and have put me and other experienced nurses to shame. I am humbled by their skills, I really am. But, I can’t remember the last time I felt humbled by a new nurse.

I’m not just talking about whom I’ve worked with shoulder-to-shoulder. I’m talking all facets of interaction (in-person & on-line). So it’s not just my small circle of the world.

Maybe I need a breather?

Maybe I need a change of scenery?

Maybe it’s not me at all?

I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s my responsibility to myself and my profession to continually challenge this new attitude. I’m not saying we need to ‘put’ anyone ‘in there place’, but we definitely need to educate and enlighten those that need it.

Am I alone on this, or have others come across this ‘Bo Jackson’ phenomena of ‘knowing everything’?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below.


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. I am a physician of over 25 years practicing ER medicine. When I started, ER nurses where the cream of the crop, they had a minimum of 2 years ICU experience and prior to getting to the ICU would have several years of floor nursing. So, they were experienced with sick patients. Today, the average years of being a nurse in my ER is under 2 years. Again, when I began this business, a nurse with 2 years experience might get the opportunity to go to the ICU where she can be trained with another highly experienced nurse and get the comfort of dealing with only 2 or 3 patients for the shift. They exhibited ownership of that patient’s well being. It seemed that nurses of old had a true desire to learn about their patient’s disease, meds, prior treatments, prior surgeries, ect… They would inform the physician of the things necessary for great care to be given. Rarely did I hear of a nurse giving a wrong med, or more likely, the doctor ordering a med without an update about the patient condition or improvement thereof and the nurse giving it when it was not needed. What was great, was the nurse would communicate that to me. Today, I order a med, it takes way to long to get it to the patient and then I never hear if it worked. The nurses of old had a maternal desire to truly care for the patient. Nurture the patient. And most importantly, they were the physician safety net. The nurses were fully informed and understood the patient condition and would help the physician with medical decision making. I miss the old days when a nurse would say to me, “the patient in room 2 needs your attention”, I would go into the room and most of the necessary orders were already in motion, the meds required for this patient were also already order or infusing. The nurse was confident and knowledgeable about the disease state of this patient. Most of all, I miss nurses being nurses. Today they are no more then glorified data entry specialist and medication delivery system. By the way, my experience is they pull the drug and give it to the patient without given a first thought of what it was for. NOT AN EXAGGERATION. I will ask after I know the nurse has given the med ordered, say for high BP, I will ask what was the BP before you gave the med…….. silence. They did not take it prior to given the med. Now I could understand if this occurred in isolation, but it happens routinely. Not just where I work but all over the US. How do I know, I am an ER doc, I have friends all over the nation and we vent to each other about the same poor quality nursing. I never experienced this prior to 5 years ago. Over the past 5 years there have been at least a 5 fold increase in med errors and just basic failures of nursing that I have never experienced previously. No longer are nurse doing the job for all the right reasons. It is a good pay check, thats all. I will not hear that the patient in room 2 really needs me to see them now, the meds and labs required are not ordered. And, when that rare instance occurs when they do recognize a sick patient they have not done any assessment themselves. Not even simple things like listen to the lungs. No longer can I trust a nurse. Now I know those reading this will think many bad things about me, and of course there are exceptions, but the poor state of the nursing corp today this is the rule not the exception. It is no longer ok for me to get upset when a nurse messes up. Even if this puts the patient’s life in danger. In the old days, I could make a stern point to the offending nurse, and guess what, she did not make that mistake again. Today, the nurse’s feeling get hurt if I point out that she screwed up, instead of thinking, “my goodness I could have hurt the patient”, they run to administration of say how mean the doc was and how her feeling were hurt or better yet, the work environment is hostile. I agree, the work place is hostile……. for the patient because of the poor state of the nursing profession. There is not a physician today with at least 10 years experience that does not have the same feeling and experiences with nurses I have just laid out. Nursing today is dangerous. Now, I can also go on about medical education for physicians as well, they too have an thin skinned entitled mentality like the new nursing corp and between the 2, God help us all in 20 years.

  2. Yes new nurses are scary however so are some nurses that have been in the profession for years. I head the nursing department in a LTC facility and its scary. They don’t sign off their medications given, no follow through on issues and attitude ! I am not sure this facility can survive theses nurses but they don’t care, it’s frustrating and scary.
    I have been in the profession for 40 plus years and 30 of that managing nurses but it’s seem social media takes precedent over everything. Heaven help us in the future.

  3. At some point each commenter has been the “scary” new generation to the staff nurse/preceptor. I look back 36 years and see myself as the barely prepared nurse that made mistakes, took direction from those that taught, and shied from those caustic, been there/done that, how can you be so stupid, bitches happy to let you fail. IF your concern is their assigned patients or any future patient–help them. Younger generations are more technologically driven, less likely to go on a scavenger hunt to the lab to fetch fallopian tubes or listen to stories about standing up to give the MD their seat at the desk. COME ON, nursing education changes, but not at the speed of change in medical care delivery. It is our duty to find ways to pass along our knowledge and prepare our successors.

    • This is a hot topic! There’s a lot of great comments here I would love to reply to individually, but I don’t have the time. This one is my favorite! I’m a new nurse myself and I truly can see both sides of the coin. What stands out to me most is there is an obvious DISJUNCT between the generations and furthermore, it’s disturbing that all new nurses are grouped into a single profile. Excuse me, but not ALL of us behave the “scary” way you describe — please give us each a chance before you profile. What disturbs me most is that the previous generation seems to be just sitting around complaining about the “scary new nurses” but doing nothing constructive to resolve the issues. My biggest problem as a new nurse has been just that — nurses complaining about me behind my back and never confronting me directly (and privately) about it. Then they go to the leadership and I’m side-swiped by problems I never even knew existed. EXTREMELY UNPROFESSIONAL and yes, perfect example of “bitches happy to let you fail.” (Let me say that I would have been happy to receive the criticism and make every effort to improve — but many of you never gave me that chance.) When this nasty passive aggressive behavior is executed — you not only fail the new nurse, you fail the patients, and ultimately, you fail yourself.

      I’m humbly request that we all come together as professionals and peacefully try to resolve these issues 🙂

  4. I am a nurse practitioner with 20 years experience and 20 years before that as an RN. Needless to say I have seen many generations of new nurses and nurse practitioners. While I was completing my education I taught in an ADN program where the students wore shirts with ” 73 equals RN ” when I asked what they meant they would laugh and say that was the lowest grade they could receive and pass. I was appauled how could they be so cavalier to think they would have the tools to succeed if they barely Passed. I began to tell them in clinic that I wanted to feel, if I were the patient looking up from the bed at my nurse, I would know she/he was well prepared and understood how much I was depending on their knowledge.

    So yes I worry about new nurses but now there is a bigger fear as nurse practitioner are allowed to go from their BSN directly into their NP program. Nursing is just like life you learn something from every experiences, every patient every illness we our selves suffer. How I ask, can these young nurses Be In charge of a patients healthcare. When my now elderly husband goes to see the doctor he see’s a nurse practitioner. Part of me is proud how far we have come but then when questions that should be asked regarding His chief complaint are not asked or test results are not completely explained I worry. I try to step back and let them practice but it is difficult. We all need to grow and continue to learn and never and I do mean never stop learning. All of us “older nurses and NP’s” must mentor the new nurse. By gently guiding their continuing education by demonstration, patiences and understanding that they too will be the “older” nurse one day.

    • I absolutely agree with your assessment of the cavalier attitude some nursing students possess with 73=RN. When I was in nursing school, several of my cohorts had this attitude and it embarrassed me then and horrifies me now. My mother always told me she saw my attitude as “it wasn’t enough to know what time it is, I always want to know how to build the clock”. To me, anything less was not being what a nurse should be, nor taking the best possible care of your patients. We can only encourage new nurses to adopt this attitude.

  5. I work private duty home care and have for about 20 of my 25 years of nursing. I have found an interesting mix in the new nurses and often it truly is us who are the problem. I like to take someone fresh out of school and break the bad habits they were taught right from the outset. I was rather surprised to find that home care is being taught as the “lowest form of nursing” where’s I find it to be one of the more challenging since you truly have little back-up in the home. I have no tolerance for what we call “paycheck nurses.” I have little tolerance for those who think that just because our patient can’t speak or see that that means he has no value. My approach though is to teach and share and try to get past that mostly false bravado of the new nurse who really just wants to be taught the things suddenly facing them. Ours is a daunting career and very complicated. The psycho-social aspects of treating not just your patient but, instead, remembering the rest of the frightened family and managing their issues as well is a huge part of nursing and it is just not taught anymore. If that means we have to teach, then let’s teach. If they refuse to learn they rarely stay with the position anyway. I like to show them resources for continuing to learn. I like to explain that I had the same performance anxiety (often hidden behind that veneer of bravado) when both teaching and learning. The new groups didn’t learn the same values we may have when breaking into the profession, but that doesn’t mean we can’t teach them. Regardless, yes, the new nurses can be scary, but the rest of us also gave the skills to either make them or break them. I prefer to work and try to produce a more polished and compassionate nurse and one willing to keep up with the rapidly changing field. I will not, however, ever retain a paycheck nurse once it becomes clear that nursing is clearly not their calling. Let them explain to the next employer why they can’t keep a job more than a month or two. In the long run, though, I find most of them are just covering up anxieties about the responsibilities or trying to impress. Let them know you see that, understand and you will do your best to make them into a better nurse, if that is what they really want to be. Try it. You might find an appreciative person on the other end.

  6. Just an FYI- A new nurse may not ask questions because they are not comfortable with who is training them, or simply just do not know the questions to ask. As a new nurse myself, I know for a fact I don’t know everything, however I find it very difficult to ask questions at times because when I have I get rude comments or looked at like I’m stupid. Its not always the “new nurses” fault. Preceptors these days are rude and inconsiderate. Through nursing school and training I have had only one preceptor that actually gave a crap about what they were doing. I had to quit only after a month. I could not learn in an environment that frowned upon new nurses. Everyone was new at some point in their career. I have the utmost respect for experienced nurses. It is a difficult job. But if you do not want to train someone new, SPEAK UP!

  7. I have been a cardiac nurse for 17 years. I continue to work in a clinical management position. The lack of knowledge of the new nurses regarding medications and their lack of compassion is disturbing. It seems as if they call physicians just to document that they have called. They have not checked on the pt; only calling per a monitor tech’s report or CNA VS information from 2 hours ago. It is sad. Nursing is such a rewarding profession.

  8. I have been a critical care nurse for 19 years. I also have found this recent group of new nurses scary. In the past I have trained and enjoyed educating new nurses. Recently , however, they know too much to ask questions. Any nurse can learn something new. Any one that says they know everything is dangerous.

  9. I’m in total agreement with you. I’ve been at this profession for 40 years now and am still learning new things. It is scary to see some of the new nurses coming out thinking they have a handle on everything.

  10. As a patient, too often, I am scared of them. I always try not to say I am a nurse. But seriously their long hair touching me, and probably Mr so and so next door, bothers me. I was recently on the pulmonary floor with broken ribs, collarbone, and a pneumothorax, my first nurse and my last nurse (over 3 days there) actually listened to the breath sounds, the others barely touched my chest, moved too quickly to next area, and no way assessed at all, let alone to the extent I should have had. I try so hard to be patient but some times, yes the new ones scare me!

    • Yes, being in the bed as a patient, acutely ill and vulnerable is not the time you are up for being your sharpest and brightest. Yet you must! It’s your life!
      I’ve encountered an equal mix- The “fingernail, coach handbag, Face-booking in your room, payday & sunset crowd” & The “on point careful thinkers and compassionate achievers- that actually anticipate your needs, perform all frequently ordered VS”
      As an RN since 1994, it’s easy to spot which is which!
      Back to Benner! Lol 1. Assessment- of your staff nurse- 2. Professional Diagnosis I have a longer list- these are good but just comic relief and not truly germane to a solution)
      I am willing to help anyone at anytime, yet it get’s old when you do this and it becomes a one-way street. You fall behind an hour helping others, yet they resist pitching in to help back. Of course everyone will agree to do something for you when they need something from you- but at end of shift, Oh I forgot, I’ll catch you tomorrow!!!! LaLaLaLaLa! When you are the charge nurse, it’s part of your job description to help- and within that same job description to document continuing concerns so more appropriate retraining can occur through the clinical education dept.
      WE don’t have to take on everything Individually, just facilitate and put out immediate fires on our shifts. Patient care & safety is always the first priority!
      I found asking myself: What’s best for the patient? Will lead me in the correct direction! Like you, I learn something new everyday. Evidence based practice dictates things will change & improve and we must keep pace with the changes or become relics of the Paternalistic era!

  11. My answer is a definite yes!!!Too many new nurses are out there only for a paycheck.They have no time for patient care…they are too interested in who is on facebook or who is texting them at that moment.They go down the hall with their music blasting.Maybe this is the dawn of a new day ???How about spending time with the patients?You may think you know everything but you DO NOT!!I have been a nurse for 30 years and at this point I am ready to hang it up.Yes there are a few really great new nurses…who really do care and who come to work to work.But the rest….go somewhere else!!!

  12. Having been a critical care nurse for 24 years I have been very cautious around nurses straight out of school, keeping a keen eye on their actions and reactions. I have been told on many occasions that nurse’s eat their young and frankly I am sick of hearing that expression. If that be the case, so be it! I am a patient advocate first and a nurse that is continuing to learn each and every day, I am also preceptor with an ever evolving and continuous learning curve. New nurses tend to be mechanical and task oriented and cannot encompass the patient’s situation as a whole. Critical thinking will hopefully come later as the new nurse is able to quantify or add the components of patient care together as to the why things are occurring and the how and what to apply to achieve excellent patient outcomes. I had a great nursing preceptor that wasn’t shy to stop me in my tracks and let me know that I didn’t have a grasp of the situation. I can tell you countless stories of letting go of what I thought I knew right out of school to learn what I really needed to know thanks to a nurse with the gumption to speak her mind. I am still humble when it comes to new ideas because health care changes on a daily basis. What you learn today may be old news tomorrow.

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