As of the latest statistics the average age of a nurse is 41 years old and more than 50% surveyed has decided nursing as their second career (Jones, 2016). Hired nurses are of a much later age group and is noted that these nurses bring more energy, more focus, and more mentorship to the practice (Saunders, H., & Vehviläinen-Julkunen, K., 2016). What second career nurses exhibit has been demonstrated to improve patient outcomes (Johnson, Butler, Harootunian, Wilson, & Linan, (2016).
Younger nurses hired need a mentorship programs to enhance their knowledge and skills. These programs also equip them with tools to survive their first year of nursing. One tool that I use at the bedside with newer nurses is the tool of gaining a connection. Having a connection aids in the growth of trust with the patient and knowledge within the new nurse or nursing student.
One unfortunate patient event aided my demonstration of the connection within our patient population. As a cardiac nurse, I helped Mr. J. S. heal after an unfortunate snakebite. This created a series of medical issues for Mr. J. S. and concerns for his wife. I mentored a new student who was afraid of snakes but not afraid of the medical management that ensued in Mr. J.S.'s care. He was intubated, on several drips, he was "touch and go" for several days., prior to my receiving him as a patient. Once we were able to start weaning the medications to keep his blood pressure at an acceptable level, stop giving antivenom, and wean him from the ventilator he started to come around slowly and also recognize his loved ones that surrounded him for days. Again, this was my time to connect and mentor. As a mentor, I attempted to gain a connection with my new student.
One night I started my shift and I just opened up the conversation of how Mr. J. S. came across the snake at first. Did he like snakes? Did he go around snakes often? His wife of 13 years started to tell me the story even as I was giving him nightly medications down his feeding tube. She said: "He loves snakes and other reptiles. He always wanted to keep a few. The family and the kids said no. So, he actually goes out fishing and attempts to connect with one from time to time. He has no intention to keep, just admire. He learned so much from his dad that was his connection to nature. He wanted to somehow carry that tradition to his next adventure."
His wife mentioned this with tears in her eyes, knowing that her husband may not be doing well and slowly dying. Others may fear snakes, even reading about them but me I am different. I wished to connect. Her not knowing that I enjoy several reptiles myself.
I opened up the conversation further.
"Nursing is not my first career. Biology is my first career. I love turtles. I studied several classes of turtles and with this knowledge and experience gained a fascination for other reptiles including snakes. Some of the fellow nurses may consider me weird but like in most cases I am fascinated. "
With snakebites especially if the snake is caught, it needs to be brought with the patient. I have had other snake bite patients and we would store the snake on the counter inside the patient's room. I would be the only one of the staff fascinated enough to admire what was in the jar. Of course, the subject was already dead but venom can still carry on with contact.
So, knowledge is power in this case because I noticed the type of snake and how dangerous this creature is to this patient. His wife and I spoke over several hours interim of myself taking care of my other patients. She seemed at the end of the conversation connected and relieved in some small way. She gave me a warm smile at the end of our conversation and said she needed to go home to take a nap. We said our goodbyes and she went home...but with a small connection somehow.
The next morning, she had arrived early. Mr. J. S. was extubated and off two of the medications keeping his blood pressure at a stable level. When she entered his room he started the conversation by saying "hello honey and how long have I been here". She looked at me in tears and this time with a strong grateful smile. I couldn't have been more pleased. Again ... a connection.
Nursing is not just patient care it is also about making a connection. It is hard to receive trust from our patients but if one can achieve a connection the trust will come and build as the relationship continues.
Johnson, W. G., Butler, R., Harootunian, G., Wilson, B., & Linan, M. (2016). Registered
Nurses: The Curious Case of a Persistent Shortage. Journal of Nursing Scholarship,
48(4), 387-396. DOI: 10.1111/jnu.12218
Jones, S. J. (2016). Establishing a Nurse Mentor Program to Improve Nurse Satisfaction
and Intent to Stay. Doctor of Nursing Practice Capstone Projects. 15.
Encompass: A Digital Archive of EKU's Creativity, Scholarship and History Capstone Project
Saunders, H., & Vehviläinen‐Julkunen, K. (2016). Nurses' Evidence‐Based Practice
Beliefs and the Role of Evidence‐Based Practice Mentors at University Hospitals in
Finland. Worldviews on Evidence‐Based Nursing, 12 (21), 1-10. DOI: