Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Some nurses still eating their young

First of all, somehow, in just two months, I’ve managed to precept an adult health NP student for more than 135 hours! It was her first semester, and it reminded me so much of how things were five years ago when I did my first adult health rotation!

I attended graduate school at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU). The military’s own graduate-level university, USU has both medical and nursing programs. USU Graduate School of Nursing offers a doctoral program as well as master’s degrees for family nurse practitioner, anesthesia and perioperative clinical nurse specialist.

Within the first few days, six of us gravitated toward each other and we were just as tight when we graduated two years later. We studied together, laughed together—sometimes cried together—and, in our free time, got our families together. We were an incredible support group for each other, and we all stay in contact today. Four of us are still on active duty, one has left the Air Force to start medical school and one, fulfilling a lifelong dream, is is providing health care in India.

I remember those first few days, thinking I knew so much, then walking into clinical, terrified, trying to just remember my own name. Now, five years later, it was a great experience to support another NP through those first scary patient interactions. First, we would talk about the questions to ask and the assessment to do, and then I would turn her loose. She quickly took to the whole process and I watched her confidence grow as she formulated her own style in the exam room. Simply talking through disease processes and looking up current research has done much to reinvigorate my own practice. I look forward to spending more time together over the next year as she works through her program.

Contrast that with another experience I’ve had recently. I conducted a medical legal review for a pending case against another practitioner. I won’t go into details, but it was interesting to read the case files and to read the detailed notes made by the specialist reviewer. She even went so far as to conduct a literature review of the standard of care that was in evidence 10 years ago when the initial incident occurred! My frustration? Another NP reviwer, in seeking to build a case against the person in question, used research that wasn’t even published 10 years ago. It frustrated me that, as nurses, we sometimes still have the “eat our young” mentality.

I wonder if there is any way to remove that from our collective culture. Maybe in precepting a new generation of practitioners, we can take away this outdated belief that we have to step on each other to get ahead. I think there are enough opportunities in this world for all of us to succeed without using our peers as stepping stones!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

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