Nurse Mentor Offers Five Tips for New Graduate Nurses


By Joan Fox Rose, MA, RN, contributor

Mentoring is an important aspect of nursing practice, when new graduate nurses have the chance to work with experienced colleagues who can guide them through informal training sessions. It is also a chance for veteran nurses to pay it forward and share what they’ve learned, according to Lana Borden, RN, BSN, CIPH, CPN, a critical care pediatric nurse at the Kansas City Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Nurse mentor Lana Borden, RN, BSN, CIPH, CPN, advises new grad RNs to ask questions and rely on co-workers.

“I work full-time in the ED and make it a point to help orient new graduates and experienced nurses new to our department,” she said. An occasional low patient census provides time to engage in discussions about patient care issues; teaching is also possible while gathering equipment and supplies, Borden pointed out.

This experienced mentor and future nurse educator offers a few basic tips for new nurses to help them get acclimated to the realities of clinical practice:

1.    Don’t be intimidated or take things personally

Nurses new to the job can feel intimidated by experienced nurses because they may think their co-workers know everything, Borden explained.  “It’s a good idea to get to know your co-workers and resist tuning out in your own world during shifts. In our often high-stress environments, we can sometimes become critical of one another instead of recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses. It’s human to misjudge others at times, but we all work more effectively as a team.”

2.    When you don’t know, ask

The amount of information you have to learn and try to retain in nursing school can be an overwhelming experience. “It was a scary knowing I was being launched into the nursing world and might not remember everything I was supposed to,” Borden said. She suggests that nurses who are new on the job should view their team members as on-site learning resources, and become aware of how to find the information they need.

“Many new graduates may feel pressured to know the ins and outs of every diagnosis and procedure--an unreasonable expectation. Nursing is intellectually challenging and we all need to ask questions from time to time. I wish I had those insights when I became a graduate nurse.”

3.    Find your personal fit and a healthy balance

New graduate nurses will need to find a field of nursing that’s a good fit for them personally, but that may not occur right after graduation, said Borden. It usually takes some time and work experience.

You may not have a lot of choice about your shifts at first, but over time should try to find a schedule that supports your internal clock and lifestyle. Regardless of when you work, find a time and place where you can process your thoughts and feelings.  Doing this will help you to find ways to achieve balance in your personal and professional life. “I spend 30 minutes each morning talking with God through prayer and Bible reading,” she said. “That’s been a good way for me to gain insights about how to achieve balance in my life and career.”

4.    Know when you need extra support from a mentor

Several years ago Borden recalled applying for a home health care job and was informed by the manager she was too new and inexperienced and would fail; other nurses on the job had from 15 to 30 years of experience. Although she wanted to prove the manager wrong, she was aware she had a lot to learn and needed a good mentor to be successful.

“I worked with Carol, an older nurse who seemed to have a tough exterior, but I found her to be honest, patient and kind,” she said. “I hope to be the kind of nurse mentor for others that Carol was for me.”

5.    Continually seek opportunities to advance your nursing career

New grad RNs need to become aware of what’s going on at work and make it a habit to seek advancement opportunities that meet their professional goals, Borden advised. “Among my goals is to learn something new every shift by reviewing one nursing topic or skill I am not familiar with. A positive attitude and the ability to interact well with others are assets when working to grow as a nurse.”

Advance your nursing career with permanent, per diem or travel nursing jobs on New grad RNS can apply to travel after a few months of experience.

© 2016. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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