AURORA, Colo. – June 5, 2012 – There is a saying in the nursing profession that “nurses eat their young” – referring to a certain way veteran nurses are said to treat colleagues (and sometimes, new nursing graduates). Often called horizontal bullying, it can take many forms: verbal insults, a condescending attitude, unwarranted criticism, gossiping or spreading rumors or withholding information in a way that sets someone up to fail.
This kind of bullying occurs in all professions and industries, but it’s especially troubling when it occurs among nurses.
A nurse is someone who has devoted his or her life to caring for other people’s physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional health. Nurses not only take care of their patients, but also take care of their co-workers.
“Nursing is like a club and all nurses want to be recognized as being an accepted member,” says Joy Green-Hadden, DNP, APRN, assistant dean for graduate studies at American Sentinel University. “When a nurse is bullied, one may wonder why they spent all those years studying and question whether it is time to get out of nursing, even at a time when we are facing a nursing shortage.”
Nurse Leadership Skills Set a New Tone
Dr. Green-Hadden notes that the majority of nurses do not bully on the job. She added that good nurse leadership skills can help avoid this behavior and set the proper tone in hospitals and health-related organizations.
Nurse mentoring is vital to promote the role and scope of the nursing profession and to advance improvements in the U.S. health care system. The Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Report on the Future of Nursing highlights the crucial role that nurse mentoring plays in meeting the increased demands for patient care created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Nurse leadership training emphasizes the importance of collaboration and stresses that each member of the team contributes to the success of patient care,” says Dr. Green-Hadden. “Nurses who see other nurses bullying should be clear and transparent about mentoring and become role models.”
Dr. Green-Hadden says that mentoring is effective and promotes learning and it allows the mentor to examine his or her own nursing practice while serving as a role model. It is a benefit to the mentor and mentee and promotes collaboration, organization and learning for all involved. She encourages all nurses to become a mentor to younger nurses and offers the following tips.
Be Supportive by Becoming a Mentor
A nurse’s warmth and encouragement should extend to all her colleagues. However, new nurses, as well as those from an international background and those adjusting to a new specialty area, can especially benefit from support.
Dr. Green-Hadden notes that if nurses take time to stop and really listen to these newer nurses, they may be able to share their expertise and knowledge in a way that will make a positive impact on their professional development – and enhance their ability to provide high quality nursing care.
One way to do this is by becoming a mentor to a younger or less experienced nurse.
Formal mentoring programs may not be right for everyone, but if your hospital has one, consider getting involved. Not only will your participation benefit your career by showcasing your leadership skills, but Green-Hadden says that it has the potential to help your hospital and your patients as well.
Hospitals report that they often lose new nurses during the first two years of employment and mentoring programs have been shown to increase employee retention. This in turn helps reduce patient safety issues that are associated with high turnover and insufficient staffing rates, etc.
The Informal Approach to Mentoring
Dr. Green-Hadden reminds nurses that even if their hospitals don’t have a formal mentoring program, there are many opportunities to share knowledge and useful insights.
She encourages nurses to remember that when they make time to offer support and friendship to a less-experienced nurse, they’re helping to promote a competent nursing practice by influencing the quality of care that a nurse is able to provide.
Think of it this way: nurses can probably remember a time when they were chatting with a friend or colleague and suddenly experienced a “light bulb moment” – an instance of sudden clarity, where they saw a solution to a problem or an option they hadn’t previously considered.
Conversations and relationships have the ability to provide inspiration and stimulate thinking, often by chance. And this is the idea behind informal mentoring – it just happens, when the time is right, with no formal program or meetings to attend. It’s just two people with enough compatibility to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
Informal mentoring honors the human side of the workplace and it holds sacred the ideal that people can bring out the best in each other.
When nurses seize upon every opportunity to act as an informal mentor, they can provide coaching, advice and an empathetic ear to someone who needs a sounding board – all in an unstructured, casual manner.
Most importantly, Dr. Green-Hadden says that mentoring empowers nurses with clinical information, organizational skills and confidence. It allows mentees to benefit from a positive role model, social interaction and a sense of importance and belonging.
“It’s more of a mindset on their part than a scheduled activity. And it’s a great way to advance the nursing practice at their hospital and throughout the profession,” adds Dr. Green-Hadden.
For nurses who have been considering advancing their education, now is a good time to develop new skills and empower themselves with knowledge through a CCNE-accredited online BSN or RN to MSN degree.
American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of affordable online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in areas like case management, informatics, and infection prevention and control.
About American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited online degree programs in nursing, informatics, MBA Health Care, DNP Executive Leadership and DNP Educational Leadership. Its affordable, flexible bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission for the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). The Accrediting Commission of DETC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.