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Three Guidelines for Mentoring New Graduate Nurses

No role in the hospital is more essential for providing high quality care than nurses. That makes getting new nurses up to speed to provide care more important than ever. Newly hired nurses, whether they are fresh out of college training programs or veteran clinicians, need to be fully competent and engaged in all patient care processes soon after they are hired, to ensure that hospitals can continue to meet quality and patient experience objectives. The hospital culture typical in American healthcare calls for high performers who have the skills and confidence to work well in diverse environments, manage complex technologies and medical equipment, as well as deliver high-touch patient care. Bringing new nurses up to speed in this dynamic care environment is a challenge to be sure, but it is imperative as Value-Based Purchasing and pay-for-performance programs become the standard across government and commercial payers, respectively.

The Importance of Preceptors

One of the best ways a hospital can prepare new nurses for the rigors of their job is by offering an advanced onboarding process that is anchored by a nurse preceptorship program. These kinds of programs are custom designed to quickly and thoroughly assess knowledge, attitudes, and skills; develop and teach targeted competencies; and help the new recruit assimilate into the social fabric of the organization. Because nursing and teaching roles require very different skillsets, advanced preceptorships include a formal framework in which the preceptors themselves go through training so that they are fully prepared to translate their extensive bedside experience into an organized, yet easy-to-follow learning experience.

Advice for Mentoring a First-Time Nurse

HealthStream partner NurseGrid is an organization that is working to change healthcare from the inside out, by creating technologies that support staff on the frontline of healthcare. Their recent blog post, “How to Mentor a First-Time Nurse,” focused on the balancing act required to be a successful nursing mentor, neither providing too much assistance or too little in the effort to grow new nurses into clinical professionals who can make the bold decisions sometimes necessary to provide great, supportive patient care. Their advice for mentoring new nurses came down to three important principles:

  • Let Them Find Their Way
    Provide the supervision necessary to ensure patient safety is never at risk, but avoid excessive hand-holding. RNs need to be able to think for themselves. Within reason, give the new nurse space to figure things out. Encourage understanding of why certain decisions are the right ones to make and the purpose behind actions. If trainees get overwhelmed help them understand that, too, is inherent to the profession.
  • Praise Their Accomplishments, Large and Small
    Making a right decision should always be recognized. Novice nurses can develop the right work habits if they are given proper encouragement. If trainees fail to receive any positive feedback, they may develop negative impressions of the profession, which could have an impact on their remaining in it long-term.
  • Use a Sink-or-Swim Approach
    Having a new nurse’s future in your hands in an opportunity and a responsibility. You can do everything you can to turn someone with potential into a great clinician or you can prevent the wrong candidate from investing even more time into a profession for which he or she is not well-suited. If this trainee needs your advice, especially to get through a difficult experience, make sure you give it as often and as thoroughly as possible. You owe it to patients and to your profession to do your best.

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