When discussing nurse bullying, most of us think about the crusty older nurse bullying the younger new nurse. However, lately I’ve been getting emails from older nurses who are being bullied by…yep…the newer, younger nurses! How can this be?

Before I go down this path, I want to add a disclaimer: Not all new nurses behave this way; just like not all experienced nurses “eat their young”. But it is what it is and worthy of discussion.
Here’s why I think this is happening:

Old to new distribution shift
Many older nurses are now retiring creating an unequal distribution of new to experienced nurses on a clinical unit. When this happens, most leaders worry about patient safety knowing that a predominately “young” staff doesn’t have the clinical knowledge of an experienced staff. Efforts are always made to ensure a few experienced nurses are working on every unit – every shift. When the majority of the nurses working are newer and younger this can lead to exclusion and ganging of the older nurses.
Generational differences
Generation Y has been called the generation of “entitlement”. Gen Y’s want what they want – when they want it, which is basically – NOW! They are used to getting their own way, want immediate accolades for minor accomplishments, and are not afraid to voice their opinion. Versus the Baby Boomers and Traditionalists who obey orders no matter what, are loyal to an organization, and who won’t speak up or confront authority even when confronted with horrendous behaviors and expectations.
Note:  Is this true for all? Fortunately, no. However, these characteristics do exist and can seep into the work environment leading to negative consequences.
Skill and competency differences
Younger, newer nurses are faster, able to utilize technology at lightning speeds, and are able to cope better with the variable shifts than older nurses. This gives the newer nurses a perceived power gradient over the older nurses. And they’re using it against them.
New nurse bullies are openly criticizing the older nurses, calling them slow, asking them when they are going to retire, etc.

What’s the solution?
I think the first thing we need to do is recognize that this is happening. When we focus so much on protecting the newer nurses, we get blindsided when hit with “older nurse bullying”. The second thing we need to do is to embrace our generational differences. Why not ask the newer nurses to teach and mentor the older nurses who aren’t as nimble using technology. Newer nurses should respect the wisdom and experience older nurses bring to the delivery of healthcare. We (older nurses) have learned the hard way that being a successful nurse requires both art AND science. And third, we need to address bad behavior independent of who’s behaving badly.
I’d love to hear from you regarding this topic. Whether you are a new, inexperienced nurse or an older, seasoned nurse.
Thanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected.
Renee
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