Facts About the Myth

In the nursing world, the term “eating their young” is typical. It’s not necessarily an accurate representation of the hazing/initiation process conducted by some older nurses when interacting with new members of a nursing team.

This term isn’t necessarily applicable in the modern-day nursing world. Many older nurses take on a mentorship role with their new chargers versus bullying or harassing them. This term, “eating their young”, is penned due to the idea that some wild animals will eat the young that are too weak to survive.

The American Nurses Association estimates that between 18-31% of nurses have been bullied at work- but that’s not specifically in relation to older nurses bullying newer nurses. It can be difficult to spot bullying or harassing behavior in the workplace that presents itself with natural challenges, so here are some things you can keep an eye out for:

  • Verbal criticism that’s out of line, or name-calling;
  • Intimidation;
  • Blaming for things going wrong when the actions done to prevent the “wrong” thing were appropriate for the situation;
  • Ethnic-based jokes, slurs, or other inappropriate behavior
  • Finding fault in nurses who did their job well;
  • Physical, emotional, mental, or psychological threats to your wellbeing;
  • Physical violence.

Some nurses may use covert bullying techniques, which are more difficult to spot. Make sure to notice of a nurse:

  • Intentionally sabotages your tasks;
  • Withholds information or doesn’t instruct you properly when completing complicated or in-depth tasks;
  • Excludes you from work-related conversation, or certain tasks that you’ve specifically been assigned;
  • Gives you unfair assignments, such as patients with problems you aren’t prepared for, or gives you too many patients to care for;
  • Undermines you as a person or as a nurse;
  • Downplays your accomplishments.

If you’re experiencing these issues, please consult your instructors or supervisors in the workplace.