When Mark Twain said the above, I don’t think he was talking about nursing. But I’m about to step into the adult pool without benefit of large studies or data collection other than my own observations. So I’m looking for some feedback.

I’ve written before about my distaste for mean people. I’ve also seen some recent posts by other bloggers that touch on the whole “eating their young” theme. But I’d like to take it a step further.

I’ve met burnt out nurses. I’ve encountered new grads with bad attitudes. I’ve run into pessimistic people all throughout healthcare. I actually understand the reasons behind why someone would feel so poorly about their vocational choice. I get it.

What I don’t get is when someone takes on the role of an instructor and then uses that opportunity to degrade, dominate, disempower, or otherwise abuse the students. What motivation could there possibly be to make that seem like a good idea. “Gee, I hate going in today, I really have a sucky life. I have a whole group of people eager and waiting to take on that load for me: I think I’ll go try to get them to quit.” Do people actually think that while looking up at the ceiling in the morning?

Here’s where I really start treading water. Not to mention generalizing (remember that title?). My thinking is it goes back to the largely feminine workforce in the profession. Nursing is a woman’s job. In the sense that people think of a nurse as a female. Males in the profession still comprise only about 6% nationally. The percentages are shifting because of the newly perceived advantages to careers in nursing, but this is a pretty recent phenomenon.

So, if we all think back a couple of years (or more) to junior high and high school, what are the dynamics within the female circles?

Mean Girls

That’s right. Estrogen and other hormones are now running and screaming down the hallways of these girl’s veins. Growing up as a guy is tough. I happen to know about this. Most of it has to do with physical size and intimidation however. Growing up as a girl is a completely different thing that uses that emotional kung-fu of groups and acceptance/outcast to a much further degree than guys can get a grip on. And it works. Any girl not willing to accept the rule of the dominant female can be made to suffer.

Now fast-forward several years, and you stick a bunch of women in a position that is under-appreciated, underpaid, disrespected, and demeaned. You get a lot of that same internal dynamic thing going on. Those that hold power do so through mastery of that psych-fu which served so well previously. Only this is the real deal. It’s not about position in lunch line, or where you sit on the bus. This is workplace bullying that has become so ingrained that it’s now accepted as part of the process of becoming a nurse–not only accepted, but expected. If you weren’t given a hazing that makes a Jackass segment look like a practice run, you must not be a real nurse.

I say nay. I know the world is largely male-dominated. I try not to take advantage of the fact that my plumbing is everted, but I think the guys have it on workplace professionalism. I know I’ve seen this faction-building and in-fighting to rival the best of reality shows right at my workplace. It’s not pretty. And the vast majority is initiated and perpetuated by the females. By ratio alone, each male would have to be monumentally cruel just to register.

But don’t get me started on MDs.

Am I alone in this perception?