Have a Heart

Several months ago I posted about a fellow nurse on my team who questioned my knowledge of proper nursing practice and documentation due to my “newbie” status. I took the post down recently after re-reading it because I felt that it was really negative and reactive. I decided to give her the benefit of a doubt and chalk it up to stress about some new practices that we were instituting at the time. I tried not to take it personally. I took a deep breath, took the high road and moved on.

Along the way there have been additional comments that have felt a bit back-handed. Asides about us “youngsters” not having enough respect for the rest of the team by taking time off without checking (even though we’ve all been extra conscientious about checking in to ensure coverage before we put in any requests for time off). I’ve tried to brush them aside.

But today. Today was a cluster on many levels. But it started with a nurse team meeting. During which we discovered that some of our teammates worked off the clock, kept their cell phones on after hours when they knew that co-workers were out in the field, “just in case” they needed to be consulted. The other “youngster” and I tried to explain that this was a violation of our union contract, and a huge liability issue to boot. When there was concern expressed about the “corporate” nature of 8-5 hours that weren’t always compatible with the demands of our jobs, we encouraged each other to consider requesting a more flexible schedule.

Then the anti-newbie team member chimed in and said that this was the difference between the “old guard” (her words, not mine) and us younger nurses. We looked at it like a job, whereas they were guided by their hearts.

Well. You can imagine how that made us feel.

Especially when I have spent the past 18 months doing what I do. Especially when I worked all afternoon to help a client obtain a new mattress to protect her skin as she recovered from an injury (and physically moved the mattresses around myself, then helped repeatedly with transfers). Especially when I get yelled at almost weekly by someone with mental illness or by an abusive/neglectful family member.

Don’t tell me I don’t have heart. Heart is the only thing keeping me going on the days when my head repeatedly meets the wall.

I have heard that this perception exists throughout nursing. I have heard older nurses complain that if they get called for extra shifts, they step up to the plate, unlike “those young nurses” who say repeatedly say no and complain about being asked. I don’t know how accurate this really is, but the conversation made me acutely aware of a generational divide that is not limited to acute care settings. It’s as if new nurses have a perceived weak work ethic. I beg to differ with this perception. But I know it exists.

What have you experienced in your own practice? Do you think a generation gap exists about this or other issues? If you are a more experienced nurse, do you agree with the perception of new nurse laziness? If you are a new nurse, how do you feel about this stereotype?

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