Learning by doing

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Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC
Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

OK, so here is something I totally don't understand. It has to do with how a lot of nursing staff think about new hires. (Probably Chapter 2 in my imaginary book, “Eating their young / a nurse's guide to orienting and mentoring.”)

Why is it that nursing staff expect new nurses and nursing assistants to be experts on day one? And if they're not completely competent experts, experienced staff aren't exactly patient with that new staff member. I've heard it all, everything from, “They graduated school so they should know,” to, “What were they thinking when they hired that one!” 

For those who think like that, I have an analogy or two for you. I remember when I first got my driver's license. I graduated the driving school program, someone thought I had the minimal skills to pass the driver's test, BUT that did not mean that I was an experienced expert driver.

I actually can still hear my dad warning everyone in the neighborhood that I had gotten my license! I think it went something like, “Run for your lives, get off the streets!” or something like that. But with mentoring and experience, I got really good at driving.

I avoid the emergency room at all costs in July. Why? Because that is when all the new medical residents are let loose on unsuspecting patients. But they too will learn as they do and eventually will become competent physicians.

Let's face it: Parents are in no way experts when we have our kids. We learn as we do and if we are lucky, we become good parents. But no one ever expects a parent to be a child-rearing expert the day the baby pops out, right? You're expected to screw up a bit. (Trust me, I'm still learning how to be a good parent!)

As you “do,” you gain a deeper understanding, gain wisdom and gain skills. Why do we resist mentoring others in this field and passing on our wisdom instead of insisting the newbie tough it out while we treat her like a leper and then act surprised when she quits? ( … And then we do the whole thing over and over and over again?)

Meanwhile, you're overworked and stressed because you're understaffed and your overtime is through the roof. And all you had to do was to mentor your own and create a strong competent staff that has your back.

I just got back from the AHCA Quality Award Program Senior Examiner training. All team leaders are given at least one new examiner to take his or her wing and mentor through the process. It is our hope that the new examiner is mentored well, enjoys the teaming, learns the process and wants to come back the next year.

Can you imagine if we took the “eat your young” attitude and said, “Hey, these new examiners watched all the training webinars, read the training materials, and had three days of onsite training so they need to review these applications all on their own. If they fail, that's their fault!” Besides, that being the opposite of quality, not one new examiner would ever come back and that means more work for the “experienced.” 

So give your new staff time to learn as they do. Don't expect perfection from day one and if you're smart, pass on your wisdom. That is the heart of mentorship: guiding someone to learn as they do. You'll gain as much as they do!

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.

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The Real Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.

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