Preparing to support the New Grads of 2021 – your role as a teacher in nursing.
Mental Health Nurse Kerry Derbidge shares her reflections on being a mentor and teacher to new graduate nurses.
The call came from a former nursing colleague and career mentor, now responsible for overseeing education where undergraduate students were on mental health clinical placement. “I can’t believe you didn’t teach them about toast gloves!” Sent to help out with breakfast supervision in the open ward meals area, a student had hesitated to undertake the toast-making duties assigned, and when challenged, had asked “Which gloves do I wear to make toast?”
Who should have taught her this? Short of adding ‘Identification of Toast Gloves’ as a learning outcome to the mental health unit of the Bachelor of Nursing, other strategies in the education setting include increasing student preparation for what a ‘day in the ward’ might look like in settings other than medical/surgical placements, and reminders about assertive communication when faced with a new task. This too – reassuring students that there are ‘no stupid questions’ when you are learning.
But what of the clinical placement setting? A year later, that student became a Registered Nurse (RN), gaining a job in the same location where this unusual learning experience took place. Rather than being made to feel silly at the time, she was assisted by future colleagues who were willing to respond to the query without judgement or ridicule, teaching her what she didn’t know.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) Code of conduct for nurses (2018) requires all nurses to participate in the teaching and supervision of nursing students and other nurses, through “oversight and feedback.” Principle 5.1a of the Code includes the direction that “nurses must… seek to develop the skills, attitudes and practices of an effective teacher and/or supervisor”, with additional instruction given about how an RN will participate in achieving high standards across the profession through teaching, supervision and assessment of both students and colleagues.
In a few short months, the Nursing Class of 2020 will finish their studies, sit their exams, finish their clinical placements (COVID willing), and become Registered Nurses. Their learning, however, is not coming to an end – it is just changing location. Their learning will continue as they enter the workforce – it will be up to YOU, in your context of nursing practice, to mentor and teach these new RN’s. The NMBA Code (2018) says you must “reflect on the ability, competence and learning needs of each… nurse” that you teach or supervise, which may be a very daunting responsibility for those nurses who have yet to develop these skills.
Are you ready to undertake this role? Will you commit to ‘upskilling’ if your personal reflection reveals the need to improve your capacity as a teacher and mentor? Here are a few suggestions:
- Many organisations have in-house professional development pathways that support the enhancement of skills in this area, so checking with your employer is a start.
- There are plenty of free readings and online professional development activities like Tips for nurse mentors (Ausmed, 2016), so every nurse can become a more effective supervisor with a small investment of time.
- In addition, excellent research articles such as Strategies new graduate registered nurses require to care and advocate for themselves: A literature review (Mellor, Gregoric & Gillham, 2017), are available that may give you tools to recommend in your teaching.
If you have a passion for mentoring New Grads and want to get serious about nursing education, there are a range of postgraduate qualifications available for registered nurses which will enhance your effectiveness in this role. For example, a Master of Nursing (Clinical Teaching Specialisation) can enhance your knowledge and understanding of communication, teaching methods for working with adult learners, leadership and organisation skills, and ways of using good scholarship to build your effectiveness as a teacher. This will support your growth as a mentor in the clinical setting, and ensure the effectiveness of the teaching you provide to new nurses. In addition, postgraduate qualifications can open up new employment opportunities for those who develop a passion for clinical teaching.
A 2020 article titled The (not so) great escape: Why new nurses are leaving the profession examined how bullying, injury and other risks can lead to the loss of new recruits within two years of qualification. It also identified the chasm between what is expected of a student nurse, and the reality of what is expected from a new graduate RN, as a contributor to the loss of new nurses. This ‘gap’ between what the Nursing Class of 2020 know now, and what the New Grads of 2021 will need to know then, can be bridged with help from YOU, the effective teacher and supervisor.
Just don’t forget to teach them about Toast Gloves.
This post was sponsored by Avondale University College.