Students: Creating an environment for learning

Dianne Dyer President of CARNA
Dianne Dyer President of CARNA

I have been thinking a lot about the BLOG entry February 1, 2013 Students: Our Future by Dianne Dyer President of CARNA (College & Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.  Dianne spoke of “concerns about the current level of support for the education of our students in various clinical settings.”

This subject is near and dear to my heart as well.  I have been a Registered Nurse for 27 years and I am also the proud Mother of a third year Nursing Student.  I have been a preceptor of Nursing Students and find the experience both rewarding and at times stressful.  Let me explain……..I love seeing Nursing through the eyes of a student.  They are excited and eager to learn.  They ask me questions that cause me to stop and think and personally I like the challenge.  It is great to learn together and share in the success of a new skill learned.  On the other hand…..sometimes the workload does not provide an environment for learning and the stress of one more thing… just that… STRESS and one more thing.  Not my students problem!!! Unfortunately it does become mine.

My daughter reminded me that Nurses take an Oath, the “Nightingale Pledge“- one sentence stuck out for me” I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession”

Let me remind you that this is not just a “young nurses” problem.  We all remember the time in our careers when we decided to step out and try something new.  Stepping onto a new unit, with a new set of policies, cliques of friendships, and although you had been an RN for however many years…….you were the NEW one……wondering if anyone would help you out or more importantly ask you to join them for coffee……..

So how can we improve the environment for learning?

If I could design the perfect learning environment it would look something like this, and please feel free to add to my list with your suggestions in the comment section below:

  • Every “unit” would be a teaching unit
  • Students would be welcomed and encouraged to come to our unit
  • It would be a job expectation to be a preceptor, a clear definition of this role would be laid out and the training would be provided. A pin or some sign of recognition for completion of the course would be given.
  • Patient assignments would be done in such a way that the students get the best experience possible.  If you did not have a student that particular day, you would buddied up with a Nurse who did and you would ALL work collaboratively to complete the work of your shift.
  • Nurses would discuss the skills their student need practice with. The team would then seek out those skills to help facilitate learning.
  • Students are inclusive of the team. They are included in report, there is a sharing of information.
  • Students would be introduced to the allied health care team, and in doing so learn the importance of their individual roles in the overall care of our patients.
  • Patients would be told at the beginning of their stay that this is a teaching unit and although tasks at time may be completed more slowly or with a student being supervised.  The best Nursing care would be provided at all times.
  • Students would be encouraged to ask questions, and provide feedback…….a safe learning environment.
  • There would be a Nursing Instructor on-site and available at all times to their students.
  • Students would be invited to share in break times.
  • Specific in servicing would be provided on site with new and interesting information being shared amongst the team.  Students would be encouraged to present.
  • Students would be encouraged to evaluate their experience on each unit, providing suggestions on how it could be improved.
  • Financial incentives for preceptors who take on his valuable role.

The most important thing of all…….. remember how you felt that first day on a new unit……..

“I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession”

How about you?

Yours in Nursing,

Heather and my daughter Avy

………..who always provides me with a different way to look at the world…..”Love you lots!”

2 thoughts on “Students: Creating an environment for learning

  1. What a wonderful article. I work on a teaching unit. Have worked on teaching units all of my career. I have been a Registered Nurse for 38 years, and have certainly seen many changes, some good and some bad, over those years. The comment I most appreciate is “remember how you felt the first day on your unit”. As a new RN in the mid 70s, I was considered a novice, and treated as such. I was given the opportunity to learn and be mentored by experienced nurses in a specialized area of nursing. I was not “thrown to the wolves” after a few weeks of orientation. In todays world of balancing books, chronic short staffing and absence of front line nursing managers on the units, that mentoring, nurturing environment is disappearing. We have wonderful classroom orientation for our new nurses. But sometimes, there is so much information crammed in to a relatively short period that nurses absorb little of what they are taught. They receive their buddy shifts as outlined by their collective agreements. They can request additional buddy shifts, but sometimes they feel that by doing so they are saying they are not quite up to par. After a couple of months of working on a specialized unit, they are no longer looked at or treated as novices. They are expected to be able to practise in the same capacity as Registered Nurses who have been working in the area for several years. What a great injustice we are doing to our new nurses. I hope every RN reads your article and stops and remembers what it felt like to be the new person. And I hope every administrator reads your article. We need leadership just as much as we need management. I am proud to be a nurse, and I have never regretted my choice. It does sadden me to see young nurses regret their choice when they have only just begun. As senior nurses we have to take some responsibility for that.

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