Leading and Teaching new graduate nurses when you still feel like one yourself.

Nurses General Nursing

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Specializes in Medical Surgical Oncology.

Leading and Teaching new graduate nurses when you still feel like one yourself. 

If you had talked to me the day after I passed NCLEX, and said "Just imagine 2 and a half years from now, You'll be supervising a unit full of new graduate nurses.” I would have called you crazy.  When I set out on my journey to become a registered nurse, I did not have any specific aspirations, I wanted to become a nurse, help sick people, and come home to my family every night knowing I did good work and call it a day.  I never thought I'd find myself precepting new graduate nurses less than a year after finishing my new graduate orientation, becoming a charge nurse shortly after that, and then supervising a unit of mostly new nurses less than 2 years post-NCLEX! 

               The opportunities that presented themselves to me came mostly out of necessity.  I worked on a unit that had a sudden high turnover after some leadership changes in the hospital.  I found myself growing from the keep-to-himself nurse to the help-the-new-grad nurse. I knew what it was like to be a new grad and need help... because I was one.  I precepted my first new graduate nurse just one year after becoming a nurse.  Today, I am a full-time charge nurse and Unit supervisor for a Medical Oncology unit where 80% of my nurses have less than 2 years of experience. 

               It was scary at first, we had 2 supervisors resign within 3 weeks of each other, leaving a void that I thought would be filled by the few nurses on our unit who had 10+ years of experience.  But somehow, and honestly I'm not even sure how it happened, I found myself as the one most people on the unit thought would be the best fit for the job.   I told them I would give it a try, honestly expecting myself to fail, leading to someone else having to step up, but apparently, it came naturally to me.  The thought of being a Charge nurse every day was terrifying, but I took to it and got pretty good at it, to the point where my manager offered me the full-time position very quickly.  I lean on my experienced nurses every day when I need guidance.  Leading them but mostly guiding the new graduates and encouraging them by reminding them how I was just in their shoes 2 years ago. 


Has anyone else had similar experiences?

Is this becoming more common in a post-COVID world with a higher amount of nurse burnout and turnover?

Do you work with a supervisor or nurse leader with limited experience?

I'm not a nurse yet, but working on it. I'm also almost 50, so I've got some years of life and work experience under my belt. My stories may or may not pertain, but maybe there will be some takeaways from my ramblings. 

I teach a few things, like Reiki, Hunter Safety Education, and a bit of firearms, so there are varying degrees of pressure and nerves. When I decided to start teaching, I doubted myself and thought, "I'm no teacher, my mom the teacher of 45+ years is!" Then one day I took a class with a massage therapist mentor of mine. During a Swedish Myofascial class, he started by saying, "Who am I to be teaching you?!" He continued with speaking of doubt, then adding, "I decided if I didn't start teaching now I never would." I take that with me every class I teach or those I take under my wing.

Mentors are becoming a rare thing; quality mentors difficult to find good matches with new "sponges". Years ago while supervising a veterinary hospital I met a young lady, just turned 18, and proved me wrong about youth and dedication. I taught her how to take radiographs of various animals, anesthetized and awake, pre and post surgery, with and without gas anesthesia attached, etc. Years later I was honored twice when she thanked me in person for teaching her and then years after in a post when she was leaving veterinary medicine stating how important my teaching meant to her, building her confidence. and how she passed it on. That last part is very important to not thin out the well and dilute experiences before all seasoned mentors are lost. 

I've had "nervous nellies" on the range, first time with firearms, that when they realized the fear of the unknown was the only thing holding them back, and how it built their confidence in general and how great they felt overcoming insecurities, made it all seem worth it. 

And last story, I'm a new Chief Instructor taking over for a 93yo military veteran who's been teaching Hunter ED for 63 years. No pressure! For each time I look like a beat dog after a class that doesn't go as planned, he calls me on it and tells me, "Not every class or thing in life goes as planned. You work with it, learn, and go at it again," with an added shoulder shrug like "what can ya do?". 

The best time to do anything is when we think we aren't ready; when we step out of our comfort zone, THAT is when we grow. Point of my stories is medicine is a practice. Teaching is a practice. Mentorship is a practice. Even experts have to practice! If your heart is in the right place, and you have people actively wanting to learn and work WITH you, you've earned their respect and your leadership, and most of all act justly and truthfully, then you've succeeded. Failure is success as well, so long as you learn from it. Keep on keepin' on! 

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