Graduate Nurses and the Experienced Nurses They Work With – Do’s and Don’ts

Graduate Nurses

You’ve just graduated from nursing school and have begun your first job. You are so excited! You can’t wait to apply all the knowledge you’ve worked so hard to gain and share it with your fellow nurses. Then bam! Reality shock. They don’t want to listen to what you have to say. You don’t understand. Why don’t the experienced nurses you work with want to learn all the latest nursing information you have to share? You don’t care, you say. Stop! Change your thinking or risk driving a wedge between you and your coworkers that will be difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

Here are two ways to be successful in your first nursing position.

1. Don’t be a know it all

Not everyone will want to learn what you have to teach. Many of the nurses you work with consider experience far more important than what is learned from a book or in school. If you constantly lecture to them, you will be seen as condescending or showing off. It’s better not to teach unless asked. Bide your time. As you establish yourself as a competent nurse, you will be respected. Then your knowledge will be recognized and valued.

2. Do let the experienced nurses teach you

They may not have all the latest knowledge you do, but the seasoned nurses you work with have practical experience you don’t have. This is invaluable and cannot be found in textbooks. Listening and taking in what they have to share will help you forge good relationships with them. They will be more willing to hear what you have to tell them if you show appreciation for what they know.

If you follow these suggestions when you start your first nursing job, you will find it much easier to get along with the nurses you work with. Those relationships will be critical to your success and happiness in your job. Together, with their experience and the latest knowledge you have learned in school, you and your fellow nurses can provide the highest quality nursing care to your patients. After all, isn’t that what nursing is all about?

Experienced Nurses,

“Oh, no, here comes the new nurse who just graduated from nursing school. Full of energy and enthusiasm. Thinks she/he knows everything and can’t wait to share it with anyone who will listen. Soon she/he will realize that what is learned from textbooks is not the same as the real world of nursing.”

If you’ve ever said or thought those words, you’re not alone. Nurses who have been practicing for years know that graduate nurses (GNs) often don’t realize how much they have to learn. It takes a lot of time and patience for experienced nurses to teach GNs. And orienting GNs isn’t easy. They don’t always want to listen. But can they talk! They want to tell the nurse with years of experience the “right” way of doing nursing procedures. Sometimes the GNs’ behavior seems outright obnoxious.

Here are two ways to help GNs make the transition from students to practicing nurses.

1. Don’t feel threatened

See this as an opportunity to teach and learn. Teach what you know and learn the most up to date nursing information. Let graduate nurses know that you value their knowledge and want to hear what they have to say. Just not all the time. Help them see when it is appropriate to introduce new ideas and when it is not. Show them how to share information without offending the rest of the nurses. Share your nursing background and expertise. Emphasize how you can help each other.

2. Do role model assertive communication and conflict resolution

If GNs do something wrong or offend nursing staff, let the GNs know. If a nurse comes to you to talk about one of the GNs, suggest this nurse talk directly with that GN. There are many benefits to this approach. The GNs will learn what not to do and hopefully, not do it again. You will be forming good relationships. And best of all, you will stay out of the deadly triangle. Back stabbing never helps anyone.

Why should you make it easier for GNs? Maybe no one made it easier on you when you started out in nursing. All the more reason to help the GNs. Eventually, they will become your peers. The GNs can either help you or hurt you during critical times as you deliver quality patient care. Wouldn’t you rather work with nurses who know what you know than nurses who do not have the advantage of your experience?

Nancy Banfield Johnson,RN, MSN, ANP, the Nurse Mentor, offers speeches and workshops to teach nurses clinical knowledge and managerial skills to balance life and work, enhance productivity and to develop and achieve professionally. Her down-to-earth approach is highly motivational as she gives practical, creative solutions to help you solve problems in your nursing practice. Nancy helps organizations recruit and retain nurses by improving their work environment and increasing collaboration among nurses and with other health care professionals.

Nancy’s blog covers clinical problems and career issues for graduate and experienced nurses peppered with stories from her 35 year nursing career.

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