Brace Yourself, New Graduate Season Has Begun – 5 Tips for Helping the New Grad Nurse Succeed

New grads everywhere!

With the right orientation and proper training, almost any nurse can be successful.

Every professional labor organization, from garbage collectors to investment analysts, train the next generation to flourish.  Not only are we a profession of highly-attuned and nurturing caregivers, we are also a business.  So, if we are in the business of quality patient care, we need to take a vested interest in the next generation of nurses entering the profession.  Failing to “grow our own”, so to speak, is short-sighted and ultimately puts our profession and patient population at risk.

Nursing is not a solo game.  It is a team sport.  Even with a full orientation, it takes a new graduate nurse at least a year to get comfortable on the job.  There are a plethora of skills that aren’t covered in nursing school.  Teaching our new graduate nurses time management, task proficiency, and advanced planning strategies are just a few of the qualities that create a successful and well-trained nurse.  Depending on hospital policy and the assigned unit, new grad orientation can be quite an in-depth and lengthy endeavor.  Below is a list of tips to assist the seasoned nurse in mentoring the next generation of nurses:

  1. Do as you say.

The deputy nurse is always watching.  When you tell them to write everything down and then spend shift report systematically liking baby pictures on your facebook feed, your pupil will notice.  Receiving mixed messages during orientation may prompt the new grad to develop bad habits, rationalizing that once they’re on their own, they can slack a little bit too.  Remember that this is a time in their career when all senses are on high-alert in an effort to learn as much as possible.  If their nursing sage is gossiping about a co-worker or cutting corners on assessments, they will take note and either follow suit or place less importance on your further instruction.

2. Encourage questions.

Most nurse veterans want an understudy with the right attitude.  Someone who is passionate about their chosen field, who is a team player, and above all, is willing to learn.  Open up a dialogue by asking the junior nurse if they have any questions.  Never admonish them for being inquisitive.  Learning is an active process and without vital curiosity, the new grad nurse may end up waiting too long to ask a simple question.  Imagine getting to year 2 of your ICU career having failed to pose a fundamental question and, out of embarrassment, wondering if it’s ok to ask, “Does PRN mean Per Rectal Now?”.

3. Share your story.

Are you a cog in the wheel?  Nope.  And your nurse apprentice shouldn’t feel that way either.  Let them know about your passion for nursing.  Too often, nurses cite burnout as the reason for leaving the profession.  If your new grad nurse doesn’t have a sense of purpose yet, let them borrow yours.  If it fits, sweet!  If not, they will at least admire your fervor and be on the look out for their own.

4. Recognize their shortcomings.

Let’s say you work at a cheap hospital.  The orientation is nominal and your deputy nurse is pressured to come off orientation as fast as they can.  This creates fear which can exacerbate an already trepidatious new grad nurse.  Recall your own intro into nursing.  I know I was petrified, not only by the new set of responsibilities, but by recently learning that I didn’t know diddly.  Always be attuned to the nurse’s shortcomings and address them as soon as possible.  Orientation should progress at the unique pace of the learner to avoid patient safety issues and the tendency to complete tasks rather than understand the bigger picture.  Remember, if they’re not scared, that’s a big problem!

5. Double report.

At the end of the day, your surrogate nurse will wrap up shift report and thank god they get to finally go home.  Not just yet!  The new grad nurse must perform ‘double report’.  That means sitting down (yay!) with you to reflect on the shift.  This is a great time to ask questions, clarify answers, and review what has been learned.  This will help to solidify knowledge and reinforce behaviors.  The new grad nurse has spent the day spinning in circles and possibly retaining very little aside from scary flashbacks of gross open wounds and screaming families.  Double report is essential to focus on what went wrong and what went right.

Remember that to grow our profession, we must give back.  Help the new grad feel comfortable asking for help.  They are probably just trying to keep their head above water so throw them a lifeline.  You’ll feel gratified watching the growth and development of your co-worker as they make strides toward proficiency.  You may even get a return on your investment when the crap hits the fan in the future and you find yourself asking them for help!

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