"Nurses Eat Their Young"
This is a fairly common and somewhat accepted term in the nursing world. I remember being in nursing school and hearing this and not really knowing what to make of it. Surely, I thought, this isn't the case anymore. With such a focus on anti-bullying and toxic work environments, how can this still be going on?
*Warning: This post may only make sense to other nurses. :)
When I was a junior, I was doing my clinicals on a med/surg floor at the VA hospital. Now, let me just start by saying that when you do your clinicals, you're taking care of a patient (giving their meds, completing orders, going with them to testing, etc.), but you're charting and assessments don't count. That patient still has a staff nurse that is responsible for their care. You are trying your best to stay out of the nurse's way, but you still need to work at a computer, ask them questions, and so on. Most of the nurses kind of treated us like a burden.
One day, I was standing out in the hall, and I saw the call light flashing all sorts of different colors outside of a patient's room. This guy wasn't my patient, but I thought I should be helpful and see what this guy needed. Apparently, he had hit the "Staff Assist" button on the wall because no one was answering his normal call light.
In hospitals now, there is a "Code Blue" button and a "Staff Assist" along with the normal call light. If you hit the "Staff Assist" button as a nurse, that means "I need help, right now!...Something very bad is happening with this patient." It sends out a page to the residents, the charge nurse, respiratory therapy and what seemed like 1,000 other people.
Before I knew it, the room was quickly filled with doctors, nurses, and RTs who were asking me what was wrong. I said that I had just walked in myself, and I didn't know what they were talking about. Everyone left, looking super annoyed, but the charge nurse. She then accused me of pushing the button and wasting everyone's time. The patient did NOT own up to it and just stared at me. With a LARGE eye roll and shaking her head, she left the room. I heard her say a loud, "UGH!"
|I didn't push this freaking button!|
So, fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was working my butt off in the busy ER, and all of my patients were VERY sick. At the time, I had four of them, which is too many for ICU level patients (but that's another rant). That particular day, I had a nursing student of my very own. She was a sweet, smart, and outgoing girl who had previous experience working as a tech in the ER.
I'm trying to explain everything to the best of my ability, but as I'm charting, running around getting meds, consents for sedation, pads for the patient who has pooped the bed for the 3rd time, more meds, hanging more fluids for the lady with a blood pressure, etc. I don't have time to really engage in any small talk or even ask her about her personal life. I'm embarrassed to admit that I never really learned her name. She was starting to get on my nerves, honestly... a little too confident whenever I told her something, stood REALLY close to me while I was charting, and was always in the way.
Anyways, we had a woman with cancer that had pretty much taken over her entire body. She hadn't eaten in days. I talked with her daughter about trying to get her to eat or drink something. She told me good luck, and the woman wasn't any help. She said that she would TRY to eat a little bit of a lime popsicle.
Well, I have a few secret weapons with patients who wont eat, so I thought I'd pull out the first one.
Orange sherbet and Sprite. It's delicious and total baby shower punch, but you have to make do with your limited resources in the ER. I also made a slushie out of a Pedialyte lime popsicle (as she requested), but those aren't as tasty.
The student and I walk into the room and give the patient her concoctions. The student happened to be carrying and hand her the sherbet/Sprite mix, and the lady LOVED it. Her daughter was ecstatic that her mom was finally eating something.
I was busy, charting her vitals, looking up her ordered medications, and reading her previous chart notes. I gave her the cup of the slushie and told her that she could try that as well if her appetite came back.
When we came back to check on her again, the woman told the student that SHE obviously should be the nurse because that Pedialyte slushie was disgusting and the punch that she made was delicious.
Ok, this is stressed out, not logical Emily's thought process.
"WTF?!?! I made them both. I took time to make you special drinks between keeping three other, very sick people alive, and you're going to complain about my slushie? I made you that freakin' punch, not her."
I SO had an internal glare going on towards my student who kind of took credit, and then I stopped myself.
"OMG, I'm eating my young," I thought. I'm so stressed out, and this girl isn't really even doing anything terrible, and here I am giving her some major side eye. I'm probably coming off like a total bitch because I'm so busy.
It just made me think back to that day with the "Staff Assist." Was that nurse just having a bad day? Did she have an extra assignment? Was she worried about getting everything done on time, and then got a page that one of her patients is in trouble?
I know that these stories probably aren't the best example, but I feel like it's pretty thought provoking for other nurses.
I think nurses do eat their young, but they're not really aware that they're doing it. We're more like the pigs that accidentally lay down and smother their piglets. I had no idea that I was probably coming off short and annoyed, when I was really just stressed. Maybe that's where the saying comes from?
What do you think?