Contesting the pre-existing culture
Jane Born (pseudonym)
Nursing is in my blood – from my mother, sister, aunts and cousins. Between them they have nearly 200 years of experience; there is nothing they haven’t seen or done. When I said I was going into nursing school I had a large range of responses, some excited for me, some telling me to turn back whilst I still had my sanity, but the most common theme was culture. Tales of old nursing pals that will stay with them forever, but the most concerning part was, most of these stories, started with either saving each other from, running away from or taking the brunt of a senior nurse.
One would think that a profession that is renowned for their round the clock, no limits or boundaries care would have respect for one another. This is what I went into nursing thinking anyway.
My year of experience includes working in a small emergency department in South Australia, where I was excited to get a taste of what emergency departments had to offer. On the outside the department is extremely friendly and cohesive, works well together and has fantastic statistics and goals. Once further into the group, I discovered the competitive nature and the sometime vicious ethos. In its most simplistic form it is as if the more experienced you are, the more protective you are of your position. As always, there are many exceptions to the rule – those wonderful experienced nurses whom only want to see all nurses succeed. The negative behaviours I found myself involved in most commonly were: intent to delay professional development and ridicule on everyday nursing tasks.
I was beyond frustrated with a group of nurses who would actively remove you from amazing learning opportunities. I would like to share one story, as to give a good understanding of how bad this issue actually is. I was on night shift, with 10 patients in a 50 bed department, working in high acuity that connects with resuscitation, we had one patient for the four nurses, they were stable. Call over the box, category 1, GSC 5, resp rate of 5, “please prepare for impending intubation”. The night shift consultant asked if I would like to observe and see my first intubation, the entire resuscitation team had no problem with me being in the room. Yet not two minutes after the arrival of the patient, as the team was in the final stages of their check list, my charge nurse pulled me out of the resuscitation room and said our patient needed vital signs…
She was a nurse known for removing any student or junior nurse from observing a procedure. I politely asked if I could complete this task after watching the intubation. It was a firm no, with not a single good reason. So I commenced doing vital signs on our one patient whilst four other nurses sat, drank coffee and gossiped. In the short time it took for me to finish, ICU had arrived ready to transport the patient. I know I am not the only junior nurse working through conditions like these, so I don’t let it get to me.
I do not think I will ever understand why some think work is a competition, whether it is lacking confidence or purely territorial. The only thing that I know for sure is, as one of the new generations of nurses, I will be that positive change. I will never endorse this behaviour and whenever my colleagues fall victim, I will help them promote the positive change that will eventually disarm those who use inappropriate behaviour in their workplace. I truly believe that it will only take a small few to enhance this positivity to make a permanent change. I am very aware not all my seniors are like this and I will go out of my way to thank those who aren’t for their ongoing support, my intent of this article is food for thought for those who haven’t been ‘new’ in a while and for those who are new to know that you are never alone. If these situations are a common occurrence or are affecting your mental health, never be afraid to seek help.