Older Student Nurse Treated Differently By Instructors

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I'm a student nurse and am in the last semester of nursing school. I'm a lot older than most students where I go to school; often over a decade and a half and its been eye-opening experience seeing how the younger generation are learning today. I work very hard to achieve my grades and when I'm in clinical, simulation lab, and skills lab (where I need the most help in obtaining experience).

    I find my instructors want me to help the other students who are freezing during procedures, not being able to do proper and through focused assessments, or even helping them explain to the patient about devices in their prescribed care; like chest tubes, incentive spirometers, etc. I have to also add that I have over 18 years experience in corporate business so my business acumen is professional, dedicated, and always prepared.

    With that being said, I'm not getting the growth from my level that one would expect which is building my weaknesses so when I go into preceptorship and then a job as a new RN grad, I'm not eaten up on how some of my skills are (which some are kinda so-so). I'm frustrated because I work really hard and have to help others with their weaknesses but when it comes to my growth the teachers don't even help me achieve improvements. I've communicated this on several occasions and it never changes. It's very frustrating.

    Has anyone experienced this? Do you have any guidance?



    Dear Frustrated,

    Congrats on being in last semester!

    It's not uncommon for instructors to ask students who are competent to help a fellow student in the classroom or in a return demonstration situation. That's because it helps the instructor keep the class on track and get through on time. It also helps the student who is selected to help, because explaining to someone else hardwires the learning for the "teacher". It's the old "Watch one, do one, teach one".

    Since you're in last semester, it sounds like this is happening not in the classroom but in the clinical setting, which throws a different spin on it. Is your clinical instructor stretched too thin, and relying on you, her best student, to fill in? When you are asked to do this, I take it you are saying "Yes"? At the point of being asked, have you considered saying "I'm sorry, I'm not able to right now, because my patient is being discharged and I want to learn how to do a discharge". This puts your learning needs first.

    Likewise, you have to speak up clearly when you need help. This will continue to be important when you work as a new grad. You say this is age-related, and it could be, in that the younger generation is transparent about their learning needs, while some of the older generation value appearing competent over asking for help.

    Practice asking for help, especially when you are performing a procedure for the first or second time. "I've already been checked off inserting a Foley, and I'd like to review it with you one more time to make sure I'm doing it correctly". You will get the support you need.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth
    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Aug 1
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    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,574; Likes: 4,733
    Nursing Professional Development Specialist; from CA , US
    Specialty: Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho

    4 Comments

  3. by   NRSKarenRN
    Excellent advice
    "Practice asking for help, especially when you are performing a procedure for the first or second time. "I've already been checked off inserting a Foley, and I'd like to review it with you one more time to make sure I'm doing it correctly". You will get the support you need."
  4. by   Serhilda
    "The younger generation is transparent about their learning needs, while some of the older generation value appearing competent over asking for help." Spot on. This is the environment to learn in, so speak up when necessary like everyone else. You're not being pulled aside to help another student out because you're older, but likely because you appear or are more competent in that skill. If you don't want to help or don't see any benefit in teaching someone else a skill, say so.
  5. by   beischja
    It sounds like your clinical instructor is stretched too thin working with the less prepared learners to devote much time to someone who is not struggling. Learn from your teaching moments, you are building an important asset, a lot of nursing is about teaching our patients. Try partnering with the RNs on the floor and let them know what experiences you are seeking, someone might be very happy to have a capable and interested assistant to help them provide patient care. The majority of learning in nursing is done on the job. Once hired you should be paired with a mentor whose sole job should be to help you learn. That is where you will be able to fill in the gaps in your learning, and you will learn things you didn't know you needed to know! When you are on your own your ability to come to the aid of your coworkers will be invaluable.
  6. by   Lemon Bars
    If your experience is anything like my BSN program, you will not get nearly enough clinical skills practice during the program to make you feel confident. Over my entire 2.5 year program, I only inserted two Foleys and started five peripheral IVs. I never inserted an NG tube, never did anything with a wound vac or chest drain. It's frustrating but probably common, judging from my personal experience.

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