3 Strategies for Working with a New Nurse

Working with a new nurse? While those of us who have been in nursing for some time know that we need new nurses to replenish the profession, sometimes it can be tricky to navigate the relationship with a new nurse graduate. 

NP blog September postNew nurses may be slower than we are. They may ask a lot of questions. And let’s be honest… a brand new nurse, fresh out of nursing school, may not have the confidence it takes to interact with the personality types sometimes found in healthcare.

Now that is a new nurse. But what about a new Nurse Practitioner? Now that can open a whole other can of worms which may be very different than working with a new nurse graduate.

The Nurse Practitioner may not feel comfortable with the new responsibility. They are trying to navigate the relationships with their provider colleagues. And while they spent a heck of a lot of time in graduate school, let’s be real here- they too may worry that they do not know it all when they step into that new role.

Wait a minute… that sounds a lot like a brand new nurse! Maybe the two are more similar than we think. So whatever type of ‘new’ nurse we are talking about- a new position, specialty, unit, department, role- being new is tough! And we, as the more experienced colleague in the specific situation, need to show up ready and excited to work with this brand new nurse.

Here Are 3 Strategies for Working with A New Nurse

  1. Put Yourself in Their Shoes. Now I know this one can sound a bit obvious and cliche. However, really stop to think about what this means. How long ago was it that you were ‘new’? If it was many, many years then you might have a harder time empathizing with the new nurse. Think about how they might feel: scared, worried, unsure of themselves. Think about how they might act: timid, nervous, or even over confident and showy to make up for the fact that they do not know it all. It is very important that you realize they may be experiencing a whole host of thoughts, feelings, and emotions… many of them which may be unpleasant or frightening. It may be a good idea to sit down with them and have a discussion. Ask them about how they are feeling. Talk to them about their concerns. Share any examples of how you felt similarly when you first started nursing. Let them know that they are not alone and what they are experiencing is perfectly normal.
  2. Be Present and Patient. A nurse that is new in any role in nursing will have questions. And probably- a LOT of them! So, this may try your patience as you think to yourself, “I cannot take another question today. My mind is exhausted!” They are simply trying to do the best job that they can and learn everything possible from you. So pause, breathe, and be as patient as you can. Answer questions and give examples. Ask them about their learning style and see if you can match your teaching to their needs. Provide opportunities for them to do things on their own with your guidance. Observe, listen, and learn from what they are saying/not saying and doing/not doing. The more present you are with the new nurse, the smoother their entry into nursing will be.
  3. Role Model Behaviors You Want to See. The new nurse is looking up to you. If they see that you are unhappy, critical, and sarcastic at work then they are going to get the feeling that this is not a welcoming environment. Again, if you do not take breaks and eat meals while at work, then they are going to think that this is ‘normal’ behavior and do the same to try to fit in. A new nurse is like a sponge. They are soaking up EVERYthing around them. We, as more experienced nurses, have a GREAT opportunity when working with the newer nurse. We can show them how wonderful nursing is- how many opportunities there are in this profession. If you want a nurse on your team who is confident, happy to be at work, great with the patients, and a team player- then that is how you have to be to show them that these are the types of nurses that work in your workplace!

Do you have any tips for working with new nurses? What have you done to mentor less experienced nurses than yourself? Be sure to tweet me @ElizabethScala on Twitter to tell me about your experiences with new nurses!

Elizabeth Scala

Keynote speaker and bestselling author, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurse’s Week ‘Art of Nursing’ program, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and a playful pit bull.