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The trials of nurses

Apr 10,2018
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[KIM HOE-RYONG]
Many nurses have come out as victims of “burning,” the harassment and bullying of juniors by seniors.

Hardly anyone, though, admits to burning their juniors. I met with a 29-year-old woman who worked as a nurse for five years before quitting recently, and a 26-year-old woman who has been a nurse for the past four years.

According to the 29-year-old, after reviewing a new nurse’s note, she threw it away and said, “I’d rather quit than work with you.” When a new nurse made a mistake, the 26-year-old persistently scolded her, tapping on her computer monitor with a pen.

When their experiences were published, readers strongly criticized the two confessors. The two nurses were condemned for posing as victims when they were actually bullies.

As readers pointed out, their actions were horrible, and the two knew it. The former nurse apologized to the nurse she had harassed and left the hospital last year.

She received psychotherapy treatment eight times. The current nurse said, “I became a nurse to care for other people, but I was hating them. I felt a sense of shame.”

But their regrets can’t undo the damage burning does. The senior nurses said they were hurt, but the pain and suffering of the new nurses cannot be compared to this.

Treating burning as a personal issue between seniors and juniors is not right. This culture is widespread in major hospitals across the country. New nurses receive apprenticeship from their seniors, and seniors are strict, as nurses’ jobs deal with life or death. When strictness leads to verbal and physical harassment and assault, that is burning.

The nurses that I had met while investigating the story said that burning was caused by a shortage of employees and their excessive workload. Song Myung-hwan, director of policy at the Korean Nurses Association, said that burning is due to structural issues at hospitals, and claimed that hospitals should not pursue profits by expanding facilities and equipment without increasing medical staff. The clue to resolving the chronic evil of burning can be found here.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced a plan to improve the working environment for nurses on March 20. The nurses working in the field say that the plan should not just be a recommendation, as hospitals won’t change without strong legal measures.


JoongAng Ilbo, April 9, Page 29

*The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

CHO HAN-DAE