Do “New Nurses” Scare You, Too?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


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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3 years ago

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… Read more »

Burn/Trauma Nurse
3 years ago

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… Read more »

1 year ago

As an RN for over 45 years and still active I thought only us dinosaurs felt this way, thought it was a sign of aging. Yes, they scare the beejebus out of me, not just in nursing. I find the current crop of new professionals are of the mind that everything they need to know they already do and their mission is to bring the rest of us up to par. No longer are they told, as I was, here’s your degree and your license you have met the MINIMAL standards for practice go and learn all you can and… Read more »

1 year ago

I’ve been a critical care nurse for almost 31 years and I remember how appreciative I was when the more experienced nurses would teach me things I didn’t know. I think critical thinking skills come with time and education. I have seen some things that new nurses have done that made me nervous and if I have the opportunity I try and educate them on the correct or preferable way to do things. It doesn’t serve any purpose to degrade someone on something they did in error. I also believe that there are a lot of people going into the… Read more »

2 years ago

I love this post. I believe however, sometimes experienced nurses are intimidated by newer ones and it should not be this way. I think Dawn sums it up when she says one day those younger ones will be caring for the older nurses so may I suggest we embrace and teach and if we see something being done wrong correct, retrain should be the first approach not throw them under the bus and gossip about their lack of competency.

2 years ago

I am a nurse with 10 years experience. I went straight from nursing school into the ED. As a new grad , my manager hired me and 2 other new grads into a new program called the “Versant residency program ” ( suppose to be a 4 month orientation/ training). We were all placed with specifically an old nurse with 10 years plus and also a newer nurse with 3-5 years experience as our preceptors. I had the privilege of good preceptors and breezed through my training. I ( because I have always been a crap magnet) was then trained… Read more »

Karen Shea APN, CCNS
2 years ago

I’ve been a nurse for 30 yrs. 19 of those as an Advanced Practice RN. For the last 7 years I have taught in an associate degree program. Yes, I’ve had some stellar students. But I have had more mediocre students than I care to count. One thing I try to teach them is that all important “putting things together” piece of critical thinking. WHY is the patient getting that med? WHY did the MD order that test? Assessment can start by just taking to the patient. Are they SOB just sitting there? How’s their color? What about skin temp?… Read more »

2 years ago

I’m a new nurse, only four years of experience under my belt, and i had the privilege of attending an excellent nursing program. in those 4 short years, I’ve seen a deterioration in new nurses. even when i graduated, there were too many nurses that had obviously gone into the career because of the great career prospects and decent income. the nurses that I’ve seen coming into the industry within the last year scare me the most, the majority (it’s never all of them, there are exceptions to every rule) have this arrogant air about them, that they know everything… Read more »

3 years ago

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.

Bubbe C
3 years ago

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… Read more »

Marilyn Niahitni DNP
3 years ago

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… Read more »

3 years ago

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… Read more »

3 years ago

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… Read more »

3 years ago

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.

3 years ago

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.

Laura B
3 years ago

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.

3 years ago

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… Read more »

3 years ago

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… Read more »