Master vs. Apprentice
It has come to my recent attention that there is a large deficit in mentoring new graduate nurses as they enter the workforce. The development of healthy working relationships for new graduate nurses is something that is overlooked. Everyone had to have that first day on the unit or in the office when they felt scared and vulnerable. I ask you now to reflect back on your first day and how you were treated. Were you nervous, scared or overwhelmed? If there was at least one person who helped you and guided you throughout your first couple of weeks this would have left you with a sense of confidence with your new roles and responsibilities as a nurse. On the contrary, if there was one individual who put you down and gossiped about the “incompetent new grad” this could have been a shattering blow to your confidence and sense of professionalism in the work environment. The impact of healthy working relationships to new graduate nurses is an aspect that needs to be improved in order for new graduates to remain in the profession.
A study done in The Journal of Advanced Nursing indicated that 57% of new graduates were leaving the profession after only 2 years due to poor working relationships. In a recent article from The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, the psychological well-being of the new nurse was compromised by different expectations from preceptors, a balance between effort and rewards and low support received from peers. What is of great concern to me is that with all these studies done, there had been minimal effort to challenge these issues. Are we not taught from the beginning to work as a team and look out for each other?
In the reading I have done related to this topic, there have been some suggested solutions to these issues. The main one that I would like to see implemented within our health care system is a universal mentorship program. The word universal is a key component in this sentence as this is what will allow all mentors to have the same expectations of their new grads. This will also allow for the new graduates to have a set of standards by which they can be better prepared prior to entering the workforce. The Canadian Nurses Association has produced a helpful document entitled “Excellence in Professional Practice: A Guide to Preceptorship and Mentoring” that highlights many important components around integrating new graduates. I think that training sessions for all nurses on staff, while based on the elements from this document, would be very beneficial in increasing knowledge and improving behaviors of practicing nurses. We (as nurses) practice relationship building daily with our patients but, when it comes to our own, we disregard our teachings. We need to stop “eating our young” and start supporting them. After all, they are the future of our health care system.