Musical selection: Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1, Prelude #1 in C, BWV 846, Johann Sebastian Bach, courtesy of Classical MIDI Archives, © 1999 Pierre R. Schwob


It troubles me to read about how nurses "eat their young" and how some nursing supervisors and instructors seem to have forgotten what nursing is really all about. Having been the target of one such instructor myself several years ago, I can readily empathize with the nurses and students who wrote those entries.

One expects these cutthroat tactics and the "us versus them" mentality in politics and big business, but it's demeaning and hypocritical for nurses to treat their own so callously. Where are the compassion, caring, and ethics that the nursing profession is built on? How can we be expected to treat our patients with the respect and emotional support they deserve unless we receive them from those we entrust to guide us? No wonder so many patients complain these days about nurses with attitudes!

Everyone appreciates a kind word of encouragement, especially those who are new in nursing. It costs nothing and takes so little effort, but the rewards are enormous.

Nursing is indeed a tough profession, and it's certainly never going to get any easier. This is all the more reason for instructors and supervisors to treat those they teach or supervise with patience and understanding. Being tough doesn't mean you can't be fair and kind. You were once where we are now. When we make mistakes, correct us, but do it in a helpful and constructive manner. Don't berate us, intimidate us, or tear us down. Would you treat your patients or kids like that? Would you want to be treated in that manner? It's beneath our dignity -- and certainly yours as well.

You have no right to bully us or abuse us.

To any instructors who may be reading this, take heed: Nursing students are like uncut diamonds. Treat them carefully and gently, and you'll be rewarded with precious, brilliant gems. Treat them roughly, and you'll end up with nothing but dust.

We are putting in a tremendous amount of time, money, effort, and ourselves to become nurses. We don't want coddling or hand-holding -- just respect, dignity, and encouragement. Intimidation,harsh, callous treatment, and setting students up to fail would be unconscionable in any other type of professional education -- accounting, engineering, office technology, etc. -- but yet it seems to be ingrained in nursing education. Don't bemoan the nursing shortage -- and then create an atmosphere that drives away prospective nurses.

No one expects nursing to be Disney World, but it's not Marine Corps boot camp or one of the old Soviet gulags either. Perhaps if we all followed the Golden Rule, things might be a little more tolerable for all of us. Or else, if the nursing profession declines, we have only ourselves to blame.

Remember, we're all in this together.

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