Reasons Why Nurses Are So Mean to Nursing Students – FRESHRN

Today, I want to answer a question that I get in the nursing field all the time. Why are nurses so mean to nursing students? If you are a nursing student and have been in a clinical setting, you have probably experienced this yourself.

You might know that nurses are the ones in hospitals who run the show. They are the ones who make all of the decisions when it comes to patient care, and bear the responsibility of ensuring the patient’s needs are met and their complex care is coordinated efficiently. Let’s discuss why nurses might be unkind to the students who are with them.

Reasons Why Nurses Are So Mean to Nursing Students

Reasons Why Nurses Are So Mean to Nursing Students

When I was in nursing school, I thought that whenever I got my nursing license and had students with me, I would be really nice to them. During nursing school, I encountered many experienced nurses who we really rude, short, cold, or unwelcoming to the students who were on their unit. I vowed never to be mean to nursing students…

And then I became a new nurse.

Many Nurses are Brand New Themselves

What I didn’t realize as a student was that many nurses that I was working with in my clinicals were brand new nurses themselves. They were overwhelmed, behind, insecure, and just desperately trying to fly under the radar so they could finish their tasks on time.

When I was a brand new nurse, I was so scared and insecure. I hated having students at that time in my development because I didn’t know what I was doing. And here was this constant reminder (a bright-eyed excited student), asking me questions I didn’t know the answers to. It was surprising to feel that way, and I suddenly understood why people treated me in that manner during school – most of the nurses were in survival mode themselves. They were hours behind. They didn’t know the answers to all of my questions. They were just trying to get through the shift, praying I didn’t ask them a question they either didn’t know the answer to, or didn’t have the time to explain.

Insecurity and Vulnerability

Nurses often forget that nursing students are new to the work and have limited knowledge. They’re very task-focused at that point in development, and are not at the point where they fully understand the why – let alone explain it to someone else!

It can be really difficult to remember what it was like to learn these complex skills for the first time. And as a newer nurse yourself, having someone asking you questions that you don’t know the answers to can really amplify those feelings of insecurity and pressure.

Feeling Overwhelmed

Often times a hospital will take 8-10 nursing students and give them to a clinical instructor. That instructor cannot be one on one with all those students for the 3, 4, or 6-hour clinical time. They will take the students and pair them each with a patient. The patient already has a primary nurse assigned to them.

The primary nurse comes in and gets their patient assignment, and all of a sudden they have 1-4 nursing students as well. Those students all have different questions, different educational needs and preferences, and a baseline understanding of what’s going on and what to do.

Imagine being a newer nurse yourself who is struggling to make it through each shift on your own. All of sudden you have three students who are looking to you for everything, some of which are just starting out in clinicals and need guidance with every little task.

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I’m Ready

It’s like you’re out in the middle of the ocean, treading water to keep your head above water and someone hands you a 10lb weight.

You now have even more responsibility, barely know what you’re doing, and are now expected to teach others and have a positive influence on their professional development. Also, you are not being paid more to train them, ever formally trained on the right way to do this, or manage your time when you’re with them.

Nurses Are Stressed Out

It’s no secret that nurses are often stressed out and overworked, often leading to them being short and cold with nursing students. They are likely struggling to get everything done in a shift and now they are having to show a student how to do it and figure out how to teach, care for patients, and get everything done in the same amount of time.

As a nursing student, it’s essential to be understanding and patient. Remember that the nurses are under a lot of stress. So try to be respectful and understanding. I will never excuse the behavior of someone being unkind or intentionally mean, but understanding why they may behave that way can help in dealing with nurses.

These are some reasons for nurses being mean to nursing students. Hopefully, this has brought some understanding to the complex dynamic between nurses and nursing students.

Video on Why Nurses Are So Mean to Nursing Students

Final Thoughts

So, now you know why nurses can be mean to nursing students and how you can deal with them. Remember always to be respectful and understanding. Good luck in your future career.


Why do nurses hate nursing students?

Well, this is not true; nurses don’t hate nursing students. Nurses can be mean to students because they themselves are new nurses who are struggling in their jobs. While some are just genuinely unkind people, the vast majority are nice individuals trying to save face in their intimidating role. They want students to be successful in the profession, but this can be hard to convey when they are feeling insecure themselves. Nurses are also never trained to educate/teach nursing students and are not paid more, despite it being extra responsibility and a task that decreases their productivity.

How can I deal with a nurse if he/she is mean to me?

Nurse bullying can actually be quite subtle. It can be really hard to navigate this at any point in your career, but it is especially difficult for people who are new to the profession. I highly recommend reading this book about assertiveness. This is the skill you need to develop. While you are new, that doesn’t mean you should be disrespected. However, we may need to command respect in a tactful manner, and being assertive (rather than aggressive or passive) is how you do that.

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