Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

I remember the first time I made lemon curd. As it thickened, I asked a friend to taste it. Her reply, “Girl, that is so sour it’d make a pig squeal!” 

First of all, why would you give a pig my lemon curd? And why not just say, “It needs some more sugar, honey.” 

And yet, I think about all the slightly (or not so slightly) insulting ways I hear our nursing staff “coach” new staff. For example, when a new nursing assistant was having trouble absorbing a new skill, the seasoned nursing assistant said, “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”  

I am just gonna’ take a gander here and say that could have been handled with a bit more diplomacy. When I said something privately to the “coach” about being a bit more diplomatic, she actually said, “I don’t think I am insulting. I just tell it how it is!”

Once in my career, a newly hired RN I was grooming to eventually take over a unit manager position let me know she turned in her notice. It seems she volunteered to do a double, and on the evening shift, she could not find a very needed supply that was supposed to be in the emergency box. She called the evening supervisor, who was unbelievably one of the facility’s paid mentors. His reply to her when she asked where she could find the item was, “If you’re too stupid to figure it out, you shouldn’t be working here.” Way to go for motivation and mentoring! 

Why do coaches, preceptors and mentors do this? Who made these inept people mentors in the first place? Did someone go around the building like Oprah and say, “You get to be a mentor, and you get to be a mentor…” What happened to formal training for this extremely weighty position?

The definition of a mentor is an advisor and supporter who shares knowledge and wisdom and is willing to invest time and energy to assist in the mentee’s professional growth. Not one who is going to cannibalize the new staff!

So when we have an occasion to correct someone when in a “coaching” role, either formally or informally, we can make it an art. We say this is a learning opportunity. “Let me show you the right way, and then you do it and show me.” Or, “It looks like we have an opportunity to improve on XYZ. Let’s see what we can do to help you improve on that.” See, no insulting, no scaring someone to the point of quitting, no one running out the door crying, and no making someone feel like they are going to make a pig squeal. (OK, I am having a little trouble letting that one go!).  

Make your mentorship an art. You grow great staff and retain them along the way. Just saying!

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC and 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. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.