When You are the Newby

  1. Being new on any job can be daunting. But when you are put in charge of multiple staff members from multiple cultures, it can be either a blessing or a nightmare, depending on your approach.

    When You are the Newby

    I've never been an A.D.O.N. before up until 2 and a half years ago, let alone work in a Convent. One of my duties for my job requirement is to be the Staff Developer for both the Nursing, and non-Nursing staff. Hmm.

    "What exactly does that entail?" I asked the H.R. Director.

    "It means that not only would you do the staff education, but New Employee Orientation as well."

    "Oh." I could just see myself cloned in my mind, madly dashing the halls, super-imposed with images of me standing up in a classroom lecturing, with a deluge of questions being hurled at me in various languages, and/or just plain silence.

    "Of course, you will also be supporting your Director."

    "Of course."

    My first month on the job was one of discovery and contrast. I decided that if I were to get to know the staff, I would need to take the time to meet with them and speak with them individually. We started with the Break Room. At lunch I would wander down, ask to sit with them and eat. They seemed a bit startled, but politely nodded consent. Once I introduced myself and began to ask them light-hearted questions and shared some things about myself with cordiality, the ice began to melt. Over time, I learned their stories and difficulties. If I was able to offer and outside resource, I would.

    Example: One of the Housekeeping staff was moving at a pace that was slower than usual, and she seemed a bit downcast.

    "Madia," (not her real name)I asked, "Are you feeling alright?"

    She just stared at the floor, moving her mop slowly. She began in broken English,

    "My landlord not fix air condition. I so tired from heat."

    It was 94 degrees outside, no breezes either.

    Madia's income supports her family in Ethiopia. She couldn't afford a portable air conditioner. I was appalled at her landlord's lack of response to her need. Did he think that just because she is from a country nearer to the equator, that she could just roll with it?!

    Madia had lived in Minnesota for years.

    Honestly there are some days that make a nurse just want to shake her head....

    "Let me see if I can help, that is, if it's okay with you, Madia?" She looked at me hopefully.

    "Yes, please."

    Off to my office.

    After some online digging, I found a website and some phone numbers for her to call regarding Residents Rights in Minnesota, and some inexpensive fans she could purchase from Sears. We also had a mini-lesson on hydration and how it affects the body, particularly in her line of work so increased hydration is a must! She was very thankful and told her peers about our encounter. In her eyes, I honored her so she honored me. After that, at lunch time, they would often welcome me at their table.

    I marveled at some of the colorful food dishes that the Housekeeping staff would bring in. They were from South Africa so I was fascinated by the smells and colors of the various dishes.

    I reminded myself of the change I could see. At first, they were hesitant to come to classes. I hated complaining to their supervisors about mandatory attendance missed, but we had compliancy to worry about, in addition to being sure that everyone understands what they are doing for safety reasons.

    During the State required monthly training, for those not on a computer, we would meet in one large room and do our lessons. but we also took time at the end of the class to talk, or vent. I would make sure they had treats and water. But, even that was a lesson for yours truly, as I learned that this particular group did a lot of fasting and could only eat certain things. Guess who started reading labels? Still, we rolled with it and it was fun. Suddenly class attendance had grown and once they knew that I would take the time to re-word a phrase or a word such as: "Disclosure" or "Compliancy", they got it. I never let any of them fail.

    I might toss out a question to the group and if I got a blank look, or saw an expression that looked as though they wanted to answer, but just weren't sure if they had the correct one, they would hear me say: "This is learning. It's okay to try and it's okay if you say that you don't know." Their faces would brighten and an audible exhale would be heard. We moved on. I loved working with them because they showed a genuine desire to understand. It warmed my heart.

    Yes, sometimes it took longer to explain something due to the language barriers, but then acting a concept out, role playing, makes it fun and easier for all. You have to be flexible and you have to love people. At the end of the session, they know "What is said in this room, stays in this room." And, it has. Unless it is something that must be reported, such as someone wanting to hurt themselves or someone else, it stays in this room. They know that.

    Over the years both the Nursing staff and non-Nursing have learned that they can approach me in my office or in the hall, and know that I will stop and take the time to listen to them. They are much more open about speaking in class now. I made a deal with them: Normally the annual training is broken down into one presented subject a month. I would present two subjects. So, instead of having to finish in December, the same year, they would be done by August.

    It was great because with the holidays and special Feast Days and events in the fall and winter months, the Kitchen and Housekeeping staff could focus on their duties without the added stress of scrambling to attend mandatory training. Since then, the non-Nursing staff had done very well in staying current.

    The Nursing staff is another story.

    Sometimes it's a challenge when they get behind. I would have to alert the Director of Nursing and send out 1:1 communications via text messaging that they need to catch up. At first, some of the C.N.A.s couldn't understand why being "a bit behind" wasn't okay.

    "Because," I began, "If State audits our training records and sees that you have not completed the State requirements, not only can we be fined and penalized, but they can fine and penalize for every staff member who has not completed it within the time frame. That can add up to thousands of dollars. Do you really want that??" Indeed not, they would not betray the Sisters whom they love. When they get the picture, they assure me that they will "get on it this weekend." They usually do. I chase down the ones that don't.

    On the other hand, some staff are behind because they aren't comfortable n the computer. That's when we do some 1;1. As I stated earlier, I don't let anyone fail. No, I don't give the answers. I may re-word the question for them so they can process it better. We work together. We get it done. The point is, that when you take on a position that involves exposure to multiple disciplines as well as multiple cultures, you get creative and you learn to make yourself not only available but approachable. This is how trust is built. Help them get to know you, so that you may get to know them.

    You won't regret it.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    About Have Nurse, ASN, LPN, RN Pro

    Cynthia is a Registered Nurse, Dept. Head, and veteran of our armed forces. She loves the Lord, People, the Edwardian/Victorian era and dark chocolate!

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