I once witnessed a new nurse on her very first day, approach the unit secretary and announce that she was there to start work. The unit secretary, who didn’t smile or even truly acknowledge her presence, hollered to another nurse and said, “Hey Carol. Your baby nurse is here.” Carol looked up and said, “Great” sarcastically and then said to her, “Look. I don’t want to be a preceptor and I tried to get out of it but couldn’t. Just don’t get in my way and try not to kill anyone okay?” The look on this new nurse’s face was a look of terror.
Horizontal violence has been going on for a long time and although there are a lot of theories behind why nurses “eat their young” and what bullying looks like, it’s continued to plague our profession. Instead of worrying that the nurses will be mean, new nurses should be focusing on learning what they need to do to practice safely, provide awesome care and demonstrate their value. However, one of the reasons that this issue has gone on for so long is because we tolerate it. I’ve known so many bullies that the unit managers keep on staff because they’re either great clinicians, work a lot of overtime, or because they are their friend. It’s not right however it is the truth. Until we can come together as a profession and all take ownership of our behavior and hold others accountable, it will go on.