How should I handle a young, salary-obsessed nurse?

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Ask the nursing expert
Ask the nursing expert
Q: I recently hired a 20-something-year-old nurse, one year out of nursing school, who communicates with her colleagues only about how much money there is to earn in nursing. Her colleagues say she is not interested in becoming a better nurse. I want to have a discussion with her about the rewards of nursing being other than financial. What do you advise for this situation?

A: Start by reviewing her resume, if you haven't already, to get a better idea of her career background. This will probably take more than one discussion.

Whenever I ask an applicant or new nurse why they chose nursing as a career, I nearly always get a response of “I want to help people.” That response tells me nothing, except they are telling me what they think I want to hear.

Ask about what her goals are in nursing, and why. You will learn about the amount of thought she put into her career choice. It's also possible she has struggled financially in the past. Ask about what she has learned in nursing so far and what types of situations help her to feel that she is making a difference. Share that although nurses now can earn more income than ever before, it is very hard work to earn it.

Get her thinking about her responses so that superficial answers won't work. At the end of your discussion, give her some more situations to think about, such as how you can help her, as the head of the nursing department, to reach her goals. Ask her about what she feels are her strengths and weaknesses so far, and again, what areas you can help her with. Set up a follow-up meeting.

Of course, there are some nurses out there who really are only motivated by the money. That is not necessarily a  sign that they will be bad nurses, but it does mean they should be monitored so that you know if their motivation leads to undesirable practices.
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