An Open Letter to (Some) Nursing Education Faculty

Dear Nursing Faculty Around The World:

First, I’d like to thank you for devoting your time to advancing the nursing profession and passing along your knowledge to the next generation of nurses. You probably don’t get much public recognition for the work you do. I wish you did. Maybe that will change (read on).

In scanning around web, I’ve noticed lately that many nursing students are frustrated, disappointed and angry with the way they are treated in nursing school. If you honestly care about the future of the nursing profession, then you aught to determine if there’s anything you need to change about your approach.

I attended an accelerated program and my peers already had bachelors degrees. I am grateful for what the teachers did for my education. I detested most of the ridiculous and outdated approaches some of the faculty embraced, but I got what I wanted out of the whole experience. I am grateful for what the faculty did for me.

But I also had the chance back then to observe some of the behaviors of the nursing instructors. Frankly, I was disappointed in what I witnessed. The way some clinical instructors behaved toward their students was inappropriate, abusive and counterproductive. Nursing schools are going to have to put an end to these behaviors.

Having spent a few years in bedside nursing, I realized that the health care profession seems to have a higher proportion of unhealthy and harmful personalities. Most of the profession is composed of remarkable people. The bad apples, though, are spoiling the entire industry.

I suspect that the intra-professional abuse that happens stems from the need to take patient care seriously. It should be serious business: life is at stake. Using that premise as a pretext for displacing anger has no place in the health care setting. It’s dangerous: life is at stake. Berating your students or peers does nothing to help patients.

So to those of you who might be abusing your students: stop it. For those of who run nursing education facilities: do your part to stop the emotional violence. We’re losing the war in nursing and physician recruitment. In an age when one person can reach millions within minutes, you no longer can turn a blind eye to the problem.

Please think about the impact your behavior has on nursing students. If you were mistreated by crotchety nurses during your education, please don’t replicate that misfortune on people who don’t deserve it. If you do that then you are ruining the most important profession in the world.

Here are some practical tips for being a better nursing instructor:

  1. Understand that making mistakes is essential in learning well
  2. Appreciate your students’ inexperience
  3. Accept the diversity of your audience
  4. Never humiliate your students
  5. Lead your students as if they were the last hope for the profession
  6. Find a good therapist
  7. Don’t take it all so seriously
  8. Know the difference between constructive feedback and destructive emotionalism
  9. Learn to turn the most difficult students into remarkable opportunities for education innovation
  10. Elicit the help of your peers and school leadership during difficult times

We don’t have much time left to rescue the health care industry from the its eventual demise. Word is now getting out about how nurses and nursing students are treated. Bad news travels so much faster than good news.

If you don’t ensure that nursing school is a safe, effective and remarkable environment to cultivate, socialize and encourage the best and brightest minds to enter the nursing profession, history will hate you.

It’s no longer the 20th Century. Mass communication is giving way to mass connection. Nurses, and nursing students, are growing networks, establishing on-line presences and constructing novel ways to distribute ideas around the world. It’s becoming harder to conceal long-silenced wrong-doing in institutions.

Think about what I’m telling you. I love our profession, but I’m disappointed in how some people in this industry can treat each other. Nursing school is a large part of the problems we now face. You are at the center of something that could be remarkable. Please don’t rip out your place in history.

It’s your choice: continue an archaic cycle of abuse or create a remarkable future for the health care of every child, woman and man on the planet.


Phil Baumann, RN BSN (whatever that means)

Stumble It!


  1. I am so glad that I found this website. I am taking an accelerated nursing course, and it is rough enough without being emotionally abused. I an a victim of being emotionally abused by an instructor in front of the whole class. In my opinion of accelerated courses should be stopped, the class do not offer enough hands on practice. We have only had one injection practice. The class was given needles sizes etc… different than what the manuals were saying etc… Just before Pharm exam, all the students were so confused about injections.

    There is one instructro that does not answer emails. There was a complaint made, however the director came to the class and chewed us all out over it. I was in injection class and I had just finished highlighting a couple of things that were just discussed in class. The supervior singled me out, and said, “we are ready when you are” Now, I thought, I am an adult do not treat me like a child.

    She then explained the nonresponsive email instructor has this medical condtion etc, she told the whole class the medical problems of that instructor. Is that not contrary to medical HIPPA rights?

    You know when there is information not to be told, I wanted to plug my ears.

    Yesterday, during the Pharm II exam, the same instructor-the director-was so mean and hateful. I just read in my Mental Health readings, that people who are abused when they are young will abuse others as they are older. I think this may be the case, because this director of the nursin program is on the verge of abusing anyone, and we all can tell that she is looking to fail one of us if not all of us.

    Just right before the Pharm exam she also made the harsh comment that she got a telephone from someone inquiring about the accelerated online nursing course, and she told the whole class-with a harsh attitude, “no, I am not having the online accellerated course anymore, this is the LAST ONE!!! Now, just 15 min prorio to the exam, I was calm and ready to take the exam, and then she come in the room like a bull, and snorts, and everything. This was so wrong. But, do we dare say anything? NO, of course not.

    The time she chewed us out in class-when she expelled the instructors medical condition, ( too much informaiton, know what I mean?) she told us that the prior online accelerated online nursing class, EVERYONE FAILED except one.

    My gosh, I am wondering if I should have checked the pass/fail rate of the online accellerated nursing course before I committed. Maybe if other classes have failed, I would have thought this course to be a set-up for failure. Right?

    I can only do my best, and avoid buriser when I see her coming. Nobody says anything to her, that is how bad it is. Yes, I know that taking care of a patient in the hospital is very serious, and I love to take care of people. And I am going to be a good nurse too!! It is just the demeanor of some of the instructors that are hampering students to do their best.

    She has a smart answer for everything. We are adults, and we are being abused. I am a nontraditional student who just wants to be an LPN for now, and I would like to be treated with some respect. She is very humiliating, and that is abuse behavior. I feel that there is too much maladaptive bahavior manners of her.

    Do I make a compaint? NO WAY!!!
    One last final complaint. The clinical instructors let it out that she grades our care plans while she is intoxicated. ????????

    Do we dare say anything? NO of course not. Just keep your mouth shut and get through it.

    Tonight, I have an exam on 5 chapters-online, and these exams are rough. The material we have to read and remember is to the point of impossible, and there are 4 classes like this, this shortened semester.

    So, just a great uplifting response from someone would be helpful.

    thanks for your time and understanding.

  2. This letter took guts, and it is very timely. I could not agree with you more. Its time for nursing to change the way its taught, conducted, and thought about. Thank you for speaking what is on many of our minds

  3. I wish I could give you a standing ovation. Great post, just great. I hope that we can start more positive dialogue with struggling professors or programs to help them get to the standard of excellence that is possible

  4. KUDOS my friend.
    I too had an 'interesting' nursing school experience. And as we all can agree hindsight truly is 20/20. I sometimes wonder how we nurses get through it to find out that nursing school = nursing world is not true at all. In fact the are almost 2 opposite ends of the pole.
    Great thoughts.

  5. I would have to echo the sentifments of nurses eating their young, and I have never understood that. I have been a nursing instructor in the past and the one thing I just loved was the enthusiasm and the fresh approach they bring to the profession, why would I want to dim that? I really like Kens response….nurses aren't compensated for their expertise….years of training doesn't really mean a thing in the financial world….so when some nurses are successful in climbing the financial ladder they are very protective of it…..Another thing I have never understood is how doctors feel they can berate nurses…I have worked with a few of them and have called them to task….it's insulting, degrading and extremely disrespectful….

    Great post

  6. I think that you can attribute much of the lateral violence you see in the Nursing profession to a few factors: First, consider the chronically subjugated position of the nurse. Regardless the level of clinical expertise/experience or educational level achieved, nurses are “beneath” their physician counterparts. Nurses are often the subject of chastising and tongue-lashing – or worse, simply ignored and marginalized by physicians. The result is a repeating of this behavior in the only direction that they can, laterally and down.

    Secondly, nurses who have fought so hard to achieve the level of skill and experience are rarely financially rewarded for it. Nursing pay scales are very flat in most institutions. Consequently, senior nurses may “guard” their status by berating others and questioning their judgment (often to other colleagues and physicians (who may, in turn, treat that nurse as less competent perpetuating the situation)).

    I think the last major reason is, as you described, the seriousness of our task. When you have a variation in the level of focused professionalism, those who feel they are most representative of the ideal might mistreat others. Perhaps those who do not share their same style of care giving, work in a subacute or non-clinical role, do not possess a certain level of education or attend enough conferences, etc.

    How do we change this behavior….as you suggested, we must consider, as one of our most important roles, being an ambassador for the profession in all we do. We each have to be the solution instead of the problem.

  7. An Open Letter to (Some) Nursing Education Faculty : phil baumann /*rn*/…

    Phil details a little-discussed problem in the nursing profession – the attitude of nursing instructors in contributing to the nursing shortage….

  8. What a fantastic post. Nurses start eating their young in nursing school–with heavy-handed, sadistic, and unstable instructors. It's time for change. I also put the blame on the education institutions themselves–where is the incentive to be an instructor, when their are new grads out there making what instructors are. The whole thing is a cluster.

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