By Joyce Riddle, RN-CPN, BSN
One day, as I was relaxing during some quiet time, it dawned on me that I was a seasoned nurse with the ability to influence some of my younger or less-experienced co-workers. I have worked as an RN for the same organization for 23 years, and I had something to offer them.
Too often, older nurses are seen as being a bit crotchety, negative or uncaring to some of the younger nurses or newbies. That has to change; why make people feel uncomfortable?
Years ago, as a new nurse, I went through an orientation to the unit. Once competent with some skills, I became the team leader for my patients. If I had questions, I knew I could ask my charge nurse, but I never had a mentor or felt there was one particular nurse to whom I could always turn. I knew I wanted to become that go-to person for my younger counterparts. I enjoyed teaching and helping new employees master skills and tasks.
I am a spiritual person with Christian beliefs. This is part of what makes me who I am. On my commute to work, I get motivated for the day by listening to Christian music. I understand others may not share similar beliefs, but I think everyone needs to find what fulfills them and practice it daily before work, whether it is exercising, reading or just spending time alone.
Make it a point to bring your best to work each day. After all, that is what we are getting paid to do. Once at work, acknowledge everyone with a smile, eye contact or a simple "hello." I've seen how acts of inclusion or kindness filter down to others. On occasion, unfamiliar colleagues may come by my unit and I smile at them, furthering the process of encouragement to others. Kindness can be contagious.
My mantra or focus is to encourage young nurses so they will establish themselves at our facility and become great, seasoned nurses. I have watched some start out as new graduate nurses and then continue their education and grow professionally. I have seen many nurses come and go, but others stay and continue with their education. I support my co-workers who decide to go this route.
For the longest time, I talked myself out of obtaining my certification in pediatric nursing. Once I chose to pursue it, I immediately wondered why I waited so long. Now I routinely ask my co-workers, "When are you going to do it?" Supporting them and encouraging their growth adds more satisfaction to my daily work. It will be gratifying when all my immediate co-workers obtain and maintain their CPNs.
We all have different strengths we can bring to work. Some nurses have a soft touch. Others have a friendly smile or a knack for speaking kind words. All of these can be examples of conduct for the young nurse.
Remember, just like young children who watch and mimic their parents, the newbies are watching our responses toward one another and our patients. Positive expressions are necessary for their growth.
Before speaking or doing something, I ask myself, "Is this going to encourage or discourage?" I want to know I am encouraging someone to be a better nurse. I will not gossip or make any unkind comments toward my co-workers for the newbie to hear. The younger nurses will not overhear derogatory comments from this veteran.
Every day, I tell myself with pride, "I am a seasoned nurse." I will embrace that I am a little older and more experienced, and will welcome opportunities to use that experience. I hope my seasoned co-workers will join me to make our jobs productive by helping our younger nurses. We all have something to contribute to foster hope and encouragement.