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Students want to be "friends"

Posted

So, my students say they don't care about my personality and that I'm abrupt with them. Here's the issue - if a student is going to try and question me and tell me I'm wrong, then sure I may be abrupt. I'm the instructor, they are the student. They say they think I'm knowledgeable and present the material well. So, why do students think I have to be buddy buddy with them? Any suggestions?

Whispera, MSN, RN

Specializes in psych, addictions, hospice, education.

Students do tend to question us, but if they didn't I'd worry about them and think they weren't thinking about what they're learning. Sure, sometimes they're confrontive in their manner of doing it, but that's something we have to deal with. If they are abrupt with you and you're abrupt back at them, you're likely to find they're abrupt back at you again. It's a no-win situation.

I don't think any of them want to be our friends. They just want us to be at LEAST competent, calm, fair, and consistent. It's also very helpful if we present a topic in an interesting way!

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

I aim for pleasant and polite, but socially reserved ... which still allows for an appropriate social separation, but doesn't come across as rude or abrupt. I believe that social "grace and consideration" is possible without compromising professional boundaries.

You can respect the student's feelings and show that you care about them without being their best friend. In other words, Smile and be firmly professional at the same time. It works.

AOx1

Specializes in ER, ICU, Education. Has 15 years experience.

Ensuring your communication isn't abrupt is very different from being friends. A friendship with a student while they are still a student is an overstepping of boundaries. For example, I don't feel it's appropriate to attend social events outside of school with a student. By comparison, you can speak in a direct but not abrupt manner and still maintain your professional boundaries.

If the more than one student is telling you that your manner is abrupt, you may want to reconsider how you come across to them. Just because we are in a position of authority doesn't mean we can't be kind, supportive, and polite, while still maintaining our authority. I remember many of my instructors didn't practice the compassion, holistic care, and communication skills they preached. I am determined to do things differently as an instructor.

I am grateful when my students are willing to take the risk to discuss things with me. It shows a maturity on their part (instead of just gossiping about you behind your back) and a desire to improve relationships.

If a student questions something, I require them to bring proof from several sources (for example, if they question a test item). We can't know it all, and at times they may be right. We should WANT them to ask questions, it shows they are taking initiative and interest in their learning.

Students need encouragement, just as we all do.

BigBadInstructor

Specializes in Med-Surg. Has 37 years experience.

Sometimes its hard to see yourself from another person's perspective, especially a student. But be glad that they are willing to give you feedback. I would take it from that point of view. I tell all my faculty that when guiding students, do it from a positive feedback point of view. And I tell students, that faculty will be giving feedback, and they need to look at it as positive. We are asking them to change behavior, and sometimes long time, comfortable behavior. Its hard work. So the reverse is true also. I would rather have a student come and talk with me, than file a grievance for how I communicate with them. Been there, done that.

Never be buddy, buddy with students, never pays off. We are there to do a job, and sometimes that job means that the student will be failed out. Always be professional, positive, inspirational, nice, but never take them into your "heart." This is a hard one for faculty to learn, but learn we must.

Good luck!

VickyRN, MSN, DNP, RN

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds. Has 16 years experience.

Being "friends" with students is not in our job descriptions as nurse educators. We are there to mentor our students and teach them the science of nursing and model the art of nursing.

In fact, becoming too chummy with students is dangerous professionally as this will cause conflicts of interest and appearances of favoritism.

On the other hand, positive interpersonal skills in dealing with students - especially the immature or challenging students - are a must. We should be therapeutic, yet authoritative and professional.

suni, BSN, RN

Specializes in med surg. Has 15 years experience.

I see this with the nursing instructors at our facility. Students call them by their first name and they go to break and lunch together, even go out for meals after clinical.

This is a dangerous road, you are all correct, instructors are educators and should be treated with some degree of professionalism . Many of the instructors are young and have not been out of school that long themselves but I really have an issue with this. I think it is more difficult to get respect, sort of like being a friend to your teenager instead of a parent, just my opinion

meluhn

Specializes in acute rehab, med surg, LTC, peds, home c. Has 16 years experience.

As a new instructor I am struggling with this. It feels wierd to me to have to tell a student to put their cell phone away at clinical after just having a nice little chat with them. I do it but it is very awkward. I don't offer my personal information but my students tell me about their lives. It is hard for me to avoid these conversations especially in clinical when we all only have a few tables to sit at when we are charting. I don't go to lunch with them or see them outside of school but they do seek my advice and share things with me.

At my school the students do call the instructors by their 1st names. I too found this odd but coming in midway through the semester I didn't want to rock the boat, especially since I am the same age or slightly older than many of my students.

We are starting a new semester soon, Does anyone think I should tell my new students to call me Mrs. ____? It is a vocational school LPN program and I am not a "Prof." or a "DR" (yet), just a BSN.

Whispera, MSN, RN

Specializes in psych, addictions, hospice, education.

Where I taught for a decade, all instructors were called by their first names, always. I don't know the reason, but that's the way it was.

I think if you set up the rules at the beginning, you can feel better enforcing them (cellphones, etc.). You SHOULD set up the rules anyway and put them in writing so they can't say they didn't know.

I do eat lunch with my students, and always have. It's a way to get to know what's on their minds and how they're doing. I'm the psych instructor though, so that might make a difference. It's never been a problem. At the end of the semester we go out for lunch together too, to celebrate.

I'm rather strict in class and expect the rules to be followed, and there are lots of consequences for acting out or lack of responsibility. That being said, I see myself as a facilitator of my students' learning...more of a partner than a boss. It's kind of like Orem's theory. I help them do what they need to do for themselves until they can do it without me.

Edited by Whispera

meluhn

Specializes in acute rehab, med surg, LTC, peds, home c. Has 16 years experience.

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I do eat lunch with my students, and always have. It's a way to get to know what's on their minds and how they're doing. I'm the psych instructor though, so that might make a difference. It's never been a problem. At the end of the semester we go out for lunch together too, to celebrate.

The problem with that is that I need to evaluate them based on their performance, and if I like or dislike them, it might affect the grade I am giving them. I try to be very objective when I am grading. I try to keep a little distance so that I can be impartial but it is so hard.

Whispera, MSN, RN

Specializes in psych, addictions, hospice, education.

I guess I just don't think in terms of liking or not liking them when I need to evaluate. It's irrelevant to me. They have tasks to accomplish appropriately. They have checklists to complete. They have objective tests to pass. They also self-evaluate each day of clinical and at the end of the semester.

BigBadInstructor

Specializes in Med-Surg. Has 37 years experience.

Remember as faculty we are advisors, and not counselors. Our faculty was told this by on-site visitors from our Board of Nursing. This really does help faculty when students start talking or asking help with their personal lives. Send students with counseling problems to your counselors. It's very hard not to be "friends, buddy buddy" with your students, but having just one student file a grievance against you, when you thought you were friends, will do the trick. Remember they are not your friends, they are your students, and should be treated as such. They will turn on you very fast. So always be professional, be nice, but never, ever friends. I don't think it really matters what you have students call you, as long as you are comfortable with it. I never eat with my students, because I feel they need the time away from faculty to be themselves. But again, that is up to you. Remember to treat all of your students the same when it comes to grading, and evaluating. What you would do for one, you must do for all. Sometimes this helps to remember when you think you want to reward one student but not another. Remember all students talk with each other. Be careful, they are not your friends.

Good luck

AOx1

Specializes in ER, ICU, Education. Has 15 years experience.

It is, indeed, one of the hardest things to find balance in, especially as a new faculty member. My philosophy is somewhat like that of a distant relative, lol. I very much care about all my students, wish the best for them, and am somwehat peripherally involved in their lives (I will congratulate them on their new job, etc).

But I wouldn't discuss with them (either disclose or listen to their disclosure of) anything I wouldn't want broadcast on the evening news. I once had a professor who discussed her sex life (!) and her marital issues with students. We were embarassed, had zero respect for her, and wished she would have paid for a counselor vs telling us these things.

When I first started I made the mistake of wanting to be "liked"- did I mention that this was a BIG mistake, lol. It took a week or two for me to figure out this was a bad plan. It's much easier to establish boundaries at the start of any relationship- it helps set the tone for mutual respect, expected behavior, etc.

I now have found the balance between caring and impartiality (at least I think so!). A good thing, I've found, is to look for a mentor that "gets it right" and model his or her example. I'm always looking for ways to improve.

meluhn

Specializes in acute rehab, med surg, LTC, peds, home c. Has 16 years experience.

It is, indeed, one of the hardest things to find balance in, especially as a new faculty member. My philosophy is somewhat like that of a distant relative, lol. I very much care about all my students, wish the best for them, and am somwehat peripherally involved in their lives (I will congratulate them on their new job, etc).

Live to learn,

Thats a good analogy, a distant relative. I like it.

HazeKomp, BSN, RN

Specializes in L&D.

...I see myself as a facilitator of my students' learning...more of a partner than a boss. It's kind of like Orem's theory. I help them do what they need to do for themselves until they can do it without me.

:yeah: I like the word facilitator, along with educator. I do not have an adversarial relationship with my students. They know I am there to help them learn and succeed. I ask questions, I push them, I point out their strengths and weaknesses. I insist that they "stretch" and grow, improving as the semester progresses.

I had an instructor that point-blank told me I would never make it in nursing. That was 35 years ago. That semester was SO long with her! Thank goodness for two other instructors that were supportive and encouraging!

Haze

HazeKomp, BSN, RN

Specializes in L&D.

I do eat lunch with my students, and always have. It's a way to get to know what's on their minds and how they're doing. ... It's never been a problem.

My very first semester teaching, we did 10 hour shifts. Rather than leaving the floor for my own lunch, leaving students unsupervised, we all went to lunch together. The first 30" of lunch was for eating, relaxing, gossip, phone calls, and "letting their hair down"... The next 30" was a clinical conference (think old "Team Conference" from the '80's) where two students presented a nursing-related topic to their peers. It was GREAT! They had to pick their own topics. It was fun to see who picked what. It was very revealing about the students how they presented their conferences. Some read notes from a piece of scratch paper. Others made "Science Fair" boards for visual aids. Some made their own handouts while others just copied some "goodies" from internet resources. It was very educational to see who "went the extra mile" and who "got by" with minimal effort.

My second semester we were only there x 6 hours, so no mealtime. I missed that.

My third semester starts in two weeks. I will be doing 8 hours with the Fundamentals students... so, we'll see how THAT goes.

(yes, I am still a beginner at this clinical faculty thing! hehehe.)

Haze

showbizrn

Specializes in Behavioral Health, Show Biz.

:nurse:

I teach my students,

"Nursing is a kind, compassionate, and considerate profession."

Meaning,

the above qualities must be

FIRST

reflected in my behavior

towards the students

AND

the students' behavior towards

the patients, families, staff members

AND THEIR PEERS."

Nothing "buddy-buddy" about it.

If a student questions my info,

I request their perspective

with references.

No "I am the instructor and you are the student" business.

That's a given.

:twocents:

If I may respond - I'm a student (and hopefully in clinicals this Fall!:)). From reading your posts, I see you have a very precise style of giving good information with a minimum amount of words. Excellent quality in an instructor for a student trying to digest so much info in a short time. However, if the students complaining to you are younger, they may be products of our school systems that value self esteem - and they are used to being somewhat coddled and viewed as part of a team. Not their fault, but they sure have a disadvantage in college when they encounter instructors with your precise style! In addition, obtaining a nursing degree is very stressful because we have so much competition. A student's plea to "be friends" may possibly be translated as "be friendly".

Yes, it's your job to teach, and not be friends. Buddy buddy instructors dial down stress levels, but direct instructors challenge thinking. A truly golden instructor carries both qualities of friendliness coupled with no nonsense teaching.

Nursing students are stressed as we maneuver in a competitive program. If a student questions you in an abrupt, challenging way, they are probably ready to melt in a puddle of nerves! Direct information delivered with a smile (or kind eye!) should help!

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