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Nurse Bullying | One Guy’s Perspective

Mike Pope, LVN
Mike Pope, LPN

I am a male nurse in a woman’s world. When we think about it who took care of us when we were kids, it most likely was mom. But as times change, with it the whole job market. Women can work construction and men can be nurses. But, sometimes it’s hard—and not only because I am going against cultural stereotypes about gender. When I was in school I remember some of the instructors saying nurses eat their own. I didn’t really know what that meant until I started working.

I don’t think it’s any worse for men than for new female nurses. But being a man can add another opportunity for discrimination, and gives me a different perspective about nurse culture. I believe men and women are equal. Well, women may be a little bit better than us guys at some things. 🙂 Guys definitely do things differently. Guys, if we have a problem, we’re like, “Hey bud, I’ll wait for you out in the parking lot and we’ll talk.” Some women seem to be willing to spend the next twenty years messing with each other. Sometimes, I wonder what I have done to myself.

I love nursing and have met great people. Nurses that are both old school and new that have been very nice and fun to work with. I have worked really hard, I’m never late, never call in sick, and am always a team player. I’m willing to work with anybody, I just hope others will work with me too, and not treat me badly because I don’t look like the nurse they think I should—whether because I am a man, or because I am less experienced than they.

I became a nurse after I started to volunteer at the local fire department. I went on a few calls, and I really liked the feeling of helping others. I stared out as a CNA for the NOC shift at a rehab hospital. I transitioned to being a nurse. It was great being new and learning in that environment. Everyone was excited for me to make the transition to nurse. I was very eager and also very nervous. I asked lots of questions. Everyone was so helpful. We were a team for sure. NOC shift seems to be that way.

My next job was in a juvenile corrections setting. I should have run out the first week. It wasn’t the patients that were intolerable, but the mean old school nurses. They didn’t like new nurses and it was no secret. They seemed so unhappy in their own lives. Misery loves company. They put the new nurses down, expecting us to know much more than we did. These nurses with thirty-plus years experience had forgotten what its like to be new at something. They were very rude and short, saying things to each other like, “They must not teach that in school anymore,” or to us, “You would never have made it back when I went to school.” I was happy to be there and eager to learn from them, but they were unwilling to help me or share any of their knowledge. After nine months, I had enough and moved on. A few other new nurses left shortly after me.

I then signed up with an agency and started working in and around the area where I live. It seemed to me very quickly, becoming a nurse may have been a mistake. I continued to run into bullying issues wherever I went. There seem to be cliques like back in high school, and if you’re not in it well, then you’re the odd man out. In one setting, problems started by my asking two talking co-workers in front of my station if they might talk somewhere else so I could get to my computer. It wasn’t a critical work-related conversation I had interrupted. Word had got around that someone was offended. After that some other co-workers would not help me or if I brought a chart to the unit secretary she wouldn’t bring it back or sometimes wouldn’t do other of her job duties for me that she would for others. These women talked about everyone. To me, they seemed like the “Mean Girls.”

I don’t think the treatment I received in these situations was specific to me being a man. (Though, I think their are women who truly don’t like men in the nursing profession for whatever reason.) I’ve heard stories from other women nurses that had way worse things done to them by other women nurses. It’s just a nurse thing I think. But why?

I just smiled through it and worked for my patients, thinking it would go away. I have had many great experiences in my short nursing career so far, along with the some not-so-great. But I like to try to learn from them both. I sometimes ask my wife if there something about me that others might not like. I trust her, we’ve been together since high school, and were in our forties now. She said I hold myself somewhat arrogantly. But I don’t intend to project that. Nurses need to take time to to give others a chance, to see the person behind the first impression. We are all human and need to be sensitive to each other, particularly in a profession as demanding as nursing in so many other aspects.

I love it when I ride my Harley and meet others and they ask me what I do for a living. I say, “I’m a nurse.” You should see their faces. Then, I tell them I’ve been married to the same woman I’ve been with since high school, again, their facial expression is priceless. I guess if I could get anyone to learn anything here it is this: not everything is as it seems. That male nurse might look like an arrogant jerk, but he may not be. More experienced nurses, new nurses, we all have something in common, we are here to help people. He or she needs your help in feeling part of the team. Everyone wants to belong and have a place to fit in. Who knows? Maybe you can even make a new friend.

Life is short. I don’t want to have issues at work, or drama with my co-workers. I have learned much from many experienced nurses who exercised patience and acceptance with me. I wouldn’t be the nurse I am today without them. Set aside your feelings and help us newbies become better nurses and, as in my case, better men. Just one guy’s perspective.

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