Mentoring new nurses, whether they are new grads or have recently achieved an advanced practice status, is something we all have to learn to do to help solve the nursing shortage. Studies show that 20% of first year nurses will leave the profession within a year. We have to stop the bleeding. Mentoring is not preceptoring. It’s about providing support and nurturing; not instructions for a procedure or task.
Ask ten nurses to take a seat at a long table and provide each of them with an orange, a syringe, a vial of sterile water, non-sterile gloves, an alcohol prep pad and a band aid. Then instruct them to demonstrate how they would teach a patient how to give an IM injection using these materials.
Arrange to video tape each person, and have them do their demonstrations simultaneously. Review the video and almost certainly you will have ten different approaches to this task.
Then ask them to demonstrate this to the rest of the group one at a time. If you compare the two tapes of each person, you will probably see slight differences based on what they have learned from the other nurses - a product of mentoring in nursing. Some may add something and others may subtract something. Most of them will probably rate this as a highly stressful experience.
As nurses, we are taught to educate patients. This is not the stressful task. Nurses are highly competitive individuals who are collectively known to eat their young. Being asked to demonstrate skills in front of peers is stressful. And yet, each of the ten nurses would have learned something from technique to demonstrating confidence.
It takes at least a year for a new nurse to gain confidence and to feel comfortable in his/her role as a practicing nurse. We’ve all been there. As students, we had one or maybe two patients at a time. Then, one day we graduated and the next day we had four to six patients, and the staff was no longer friendly or helpful.
Nursing is one of the most physically and emotionally challenging professions. If nurses don’t continually replenish themselves, they have literally nothing left to give. Nurturing another nurse along with their own assignment can put a tremendous strain on anyone. However, if as a whole, the unit takes on the task of nurturing the new nurse, it can make a big difference in whether s/he stays or leaves. Sharing the task of nurturing spreads the burden and no one is any more taxed than the rest.
This is, of course, much easier said than done. However, it is something that nurses need to learn to do if working conditions are to improve and the nursing shortage is to be addressed.
Some facilities are making headlines and headway with long term orientation programs for new grads and nurses returning to the field. These programs last anywhere from six months to one year. The staff development or nursing education department takes on the primary responsibility for mentoring the nurses and provides leadership and direction to the unit’s staff to follow through and provide feedback.
Where these programs are not available, nurse leaders, educators and managers need to begin the task of mentoring their staff members on how to nurture new nurses.
Each of us will perform a task in a slightly different manner. Some are better teachers and some are better at performing tasks and procedures. That doesn’t make us any more or less of a nurse. The letters after our names mean we have some level of specialized education, but we are all nurses.
We need to break down the barriers and use our skills together to provide quality care and outcomes for the patients. Mentoring in nursing allows us to become stronger and better at what we do and how we do it.