I remember hearing the phrase, “Watch out. Nurses eat their young,” when I first entered the health-care profession 17 years ago. It’s a phrase that baffles me as much now as it did then. After all, it’s no secret that there is a nursing shortage. Perhaps instead of belittling and demeaning new generations of clinicians, seasoned health-care providers should mentor and support them.
When I was starting out, I was lucky to have two wonderful mentors, Marti and Karen, who were as different in style and personality as any two nurses could be. But together they gave me a solid foundation of assessment and organization skills that I still depend on as an advanced practice nurse today.
Although my mentors were exacting and sometimes very tough with me, I always felt supported. I knew I had an ally in both of them, if I was uncertain or floundering. They never made me feel stupid or tried to embarrass me in front of my boss or other nurses.
When I started at my first midwifery job, I again found some wonderful mentors — this time among the physicians who worked at my practice. Although our responsibilities are somewhat different, these doctors took me in and helped guide me in my new role as a midwife, offering listening ears and shoulders to cry on. Most importantly, they gave me sound clinical guidance and supported my medical judgment when I was less than confident.
Mentoring is vital in all areas of the medical field. Disparaging and humiliating new providers creates animosity and fosters similar behavior for generations of health-care practitioners to come. Instead of looking at each new crop of clinicians as a threat, we should focus on helping shape them into the type of colleagues that we want working by our side.