Back when I was a nurse-manager, new graduates who'd been working in the unit a week or two would occasionally come to me in tears. Typically, they'd been assigned to a preceptor who expected them to already be highly skilled and hit the floor running.
From experience, I could understand both sides. The new graduate, thrilled to finally be practicing, had been talking excitedly about her "book learning." The experienced nurse, recognizing that the novice's skills needed considerable polishing, resented the know-it-all attitude and wondered where she'll find time to fill the gaps. A sharp word here, a dark look there [horizontal ellipsis] and before you know it, the young nurse felt completely deflated.
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After soothing the discouraged new nurse, I'd talk with the preceptor. And then I'd wonder: Why do relationships between new graduates and experienced nurses have to be so negative?
When I attended the National Student Nurses' Association meeting in Nashville this year, I got a charge out of the excitement and enthusiasm for our profession that bubbled over among the students. They'll have energy to spare when they enter the workplace. Why not soak it up and make it your own?
If you're a seasoned nurse, hard work and the battle with burnout may have dampened your enthusiasm for nursing. Some days you may wonder why you ever became a nurse in the first place. But you can recharge your own career by showing a new nurse the ropes.
You can learn a lot mentoring a novice. Someone who's had his nose in the books might help you improve your computer skills or share new information about evidence-based practice that you haven't heard about yet. But best of all, he can help rejuvenate your nursing spirit.
Enter the relationship with an open mind. Prepare to share your clinical pearls and plan what you'll get from the experience. Tell your new colleague your expectations and ask about his. Explain that you respect the relationship and that what goes on between the two of you won't go any further. Welcome his queries and assure him that there are no stupid questions. Then prepare yourself for learning, challenges, and fun as his idealism washes over you.
Like many other professions, nursing has a history of eating its young. It's time to change the menu. Instead of chewing up idealistic new nurses, let's nurture them. By feeding their ideals and absorbing their enthusiasm, we have as much to gain as they do.
Cheryl L. Mee
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