As the daughter of two Norwegian immigrants, I grew up hearing plenty of sayings from “the old country.” For example, if I complained that my shoes weren’t the latest style or that my brother was teasing me, I heard:
“Aldri så vondt at det ikkje kunne vore verre,” which translates “There is nothing so bad that it cannot be worse.”
Recently, I remembered another saying from Norway: “Some dei gamle sungo, so kveda dei unge.” In English, it means “As the old birds sing, so do the young ones tweet.”
The original saying was a cautionary tale to parents, warning them that their children would follow their example—be it good or bad. But, as I pondered the harsh truth that the average nurse aide in this country is about 40 and the average nurse is pushing 50, I couldn’t help but apply this old proverb to the nursing profession. Isn’t it true that as the old nurses “sing,” so do the young nurses “tweet?” (And I’m not talking about Twitter!)
Consider these two examples:
Sharon has been a nursing assistant at the same facility for 35 years and is very proud of her career. She settled into her own way of doing things a long time ago and lets every new nurse aide know that her methods are the best. Sharon has no time for small talk, tends to bark orders at her younger co-workers and sees no point in praising newly hired employees simply for doing their jobs. Over the years, Sharon has chased away many young nurses and nursing assistants. The ones who stayed have fallen in line with Sharon’s work style.
Just a year away from retirement, Milly can’t wait to leave her nursing career behind her. She hates all the changes she’s been made to endure at her workplace and is very vocal about her feelings. Negative energy surrounds her like a dark cloud. For example, Milly warns every new employee that the administration doesn’t really care about the nursing staff and she laughs when she hears a group of nursing assistants talking about going to nursing school. “You are all crazy! Don’t do it…you’ll be sorry!” Unfortunately, Milly’s constant griping is contagious and many of her co-workers voice their complaints, too.
In my opinion, all of us who fall into nursing’s “senior” generation have a responsibility to the profession—and to all the nurses and nursing assistants we will leave behind when we retire. The “song” we sing now stands to impact the future of nursing for years to come. So, regardless of our personal feelings, we need to pay attention to how we behave around our co-workers, so that when we leave nursing, the refrain we leave behind is a positive one.
And, if that isn’t motivation enough, remember that if our song is “out of tune” and we fail to nurture and support our younger co-workers, someday those same unhappy and disgruntled people will be our caregivers!
So, fess up…how sweet is the song you’ve been singing about nursing?