If at First You Don’t Succeed….
by VickyRN Asst. Admin
This article candidly describes my struggles as a novice nurse educator and discusses how developing the resilient quality of hardiness is key to success as a nurse educator.
- 9 Published May 22, '11
Hardiness is an essential trait that one must develop to survive and thrive as a nurse educator. Some might call this "growing a thick skin," but it is much more than that. The quality of hardiness offers a stabilizing positive resistance to buffer the negative effects of multiple demands and trying circumstances that are inherent in the nurse educator role. A notable example of hardiness is the stately alpine fir, which flourishes under the harshest environmental conditions, withstanding temperatures of –50f and below.
As a novice nursing instructor with very little teaching experience, I vividly remember feeling totally overwhelmed, discouraged, and exhausted. During my first semester as faculty in a small adn program, I was spending at least 70 hours per week frantically creating lectures from scratch, trying to effectively present the material during half day blocks of assigned classroom time, conducting clinicals on two different units, creating tests and study guides, and grading seemingly endless mountains of assignments and care plans. My predecessor had left me only scraps of notes from the lectures she had taught and I had no mentor. I thought I was doing well if I stayed two weeks ahead of the students with the lecture content. I learned to teach in the real-life laboratory of the classroom through the "school of hard knocks," with little guidance, direction, or feedback from faculty peers.
During my second semester, the challenges only intensified. I was assigned a clinical group on a medical floor notorious for its poisonous atmosphere, where the nurses were bitter, rude, and demeaning. This clinical proved to be a disastrous experience for both the students and myself. By the end of this semester, I felt like my budding career as a nurse educator was over and I was ready to throw in the towel. Only at the insistence of the director of the adn program did I decide to stay. Now, eight years later, I am so glad I stuck it out after these ordeals so early in my career. Tried and tested, nursing education has proven to be my niche.
What, then, is hardiness and how does a nurse educator develop this essential trait? Hardiness has been defined as a "mindset exhibited by an individual that makes him or her resistant to the negative impacts of stressful circumstances and events" (mosby's dictionary of complementary and alternative medicine, 2005, para 1). Three key behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes that are associated with hardiness are control, challenge, and commitment.
Control is the behaviorial response of being proactive and influential when facing adversity, rather than being reactive and feeling helpless. The proactive person takes control in a situation by anticipating problems and then strategizing ways to help prevent or solve these problems, rather than merely waiting for something to happen.
Challenge is the belief that change, rather than stability, is a normal part of life. "to live is to grow and to grow is to change." rather than viewing change as a crisis or threat, change should be embraced as an opportunity for personal growth. To successfully confront change, we must develop effective coping strategies and problem solving skills. The resilient nurse educator should never entertain a victim attitude. Instead, every experience, no matter how negative or painful, provides us with valuable opportunities for learning what works and what doesn't work. We become better educators as we embrace change and learn from our mistakes.
Commitment is an attitude of responsibility, purpose, and dedication that results in active involvement rather than passive withdrawal. Instead of the "duck and run" attitude, we can choose to stand firm and become a positive effector of change in the academic environment.
The quality of hardiness is essential for success in a profession that often throws us more blows than kisses. So if you are facing adverse circumstances as a nurse educator, please don't give up. Develop the inner strengths of control, challenge, and commitment to help weather life's storms and transition successfully to the other side. There will certainly be challenges on the journey, but the rewards in the end make all the challenges worthwhile.Last edit by Joe V on Feb 3, '13
VickyRN is a certified nurse educator (NLN) and certified gerontology nurse (ANCC). Her research interests include: the special health and social needs of the vulnerable older adult population; registered nurse staffing and resident outcomes in intermediate care nursing facilities; and, innovations in avoiding institutionalization of frail elderly clients by providing long-term care services and supports in the community. She is faculty in a large baccalaureate nursing program in North Carolina.
VickyRN joined Mar '01 - from 'Under the shadow of His wings...'. VickyRN has '16' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds'. Posts: 12,043 Likes: 6,413; Learn more about VickyRN by visiting their allnursesPage
1May 22, '11 by zephyr9Thanks for a great article, and it's uplifting because you stuck it out and it was to the good.
I am a student, and the qualities you highlight are things I practice as a parent (with varying degrees of skill), and which I hope will serve me in navigating the challenges and uncertainties of becoming a nurse.2May 23, '11 by LTCangelThanks for this article VickyRN! I want to be a Nursing Instructor. I have my BSN and am about halfway through my MSN-ed. I have applied for several positions just to get my foot in the door even as a Clinical Instructor. They all want experience, which I don't have because I can't get a chance. I just applied again to a local school with an ADN program who want a Clinical Instructor and the job post states only a BSN is required. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hope to one day develop that hardiness I need to be the best Teacher I can be! I know it won't be easy at first but it really is all I've wanted for several years now. Your post makes me feel excited and hopeful that I CAN and WILL do it one day! Thank you again, Lisa.2May 23, '11 by Ms.Dre22Wow! I love how you mentioned: "Control is the behaviorial response of being proactive and influential when facing adversity, rather than being reactive and feeling helpless." This is such deep concept that is beyond true. I just love how you put that in words. I am so going to put that on my motivation board...dont worry I will be sure to cite you! LOL.
Andrea1May 24, '11 by VickyRN Asst. AdminQuote from Ms.Dre22Thank you, Ms.Dree. So glad this was helpful to you. This has been my philosophy throughout life. There is a big difference between thoughtfully responding to a situation and merely reacting to the situation. I try to do the former, as this enables me to retain a measure of control.Wow! I love how you mentioned: "Control is the behaviorial response of being proactive and influential when facing adversity, rather than being reactive and feeling helpless." This is such deep concept that is beyond true. I just love how you put that in words. I am so going to put that on my motivation board...dont worry I will be sure to cite you! LOL.
Andrea3May 28, '11 by ksrn4321Vickie, your experiences as a novice educator are reflective of many of us. I recall feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and all alone during my first year. My evenings were spent creating ppts and lectures that were interesting but thought provoking. The second year was better. I tweaked my lectures, updated some of my ppts and had more time to be reflective of my current practice as an educator. I journal every lecture - what worked, what didn't, what I want to change, etc. I also journal clinical experiences using a similar format. I am now in my 6th year of teaching and working on my doctorate. I believe I am an effective role model for my students - learning never, ever stops. The work you do as an educator and here as a blogger do make a difference. It's truly amazing because it has a ripple effect. You directly effect the student who effects the patient and other nurses. One can almost visualize the concentric circles moving out from your actions. Congratulations on perservering and thank you for sharing.1Jun 10, '11 by RNCMSNMs. Vicky;
Thank you for writing such an inspiring article.
I graduated with my MSN/ed 3 years ago and for a brief period worked as a unit based educator that did not turn out well for me. Subsequently, I have shied away from pursuing my passion for teaching. My greatest joy in the last 3 years has been the opportunity to interact with nursing students during their clinicals. I am just now seriously looking for that educator position in an academic setting AND I have just enrolled in a PhD program! whoop, whoop!1Jun 10, '11 by isthatso?Thank you for the post. I am a new nurse and I hope to be a nurse educator some day. I used to tutor anatomy and physiology in college and I discovered how much I love to teach. After reading your post, I understand that there are difficulties in this field but it will all be worth it.