It’s nearly that time of year when we get our influx of new grads coming into the ward. Pretty exciting stuff!! It’s been about 10 years since I was a grad (time flies!) but I still remember that first day on the ward after my supernumerary shifts, my own patients, no one to countersign what I was doing, I was scared sh*tless!! Lucky for me, the support that was available for us grads doing our grad year in this particular hospital was amazing. I had a fantastic educator who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.
Whether it’s been 10 years or a few months since you’ve done your grad year, you are all the nurses the new grads will be looking to for support in their transition. Nurses have a reputation for ‘eating their young’, which I am wondering if this is more an urban myth then reality because in all my practice, I have never witnessed this. We do need to change this reputation though. Because even though this may not be happening, this is what some grads might think is going to happen, and how anxious would that make someone feel! I remember thinking when I started working as a nurse that I would always be allocated the ‘hard and difficult’ patients because I was the ‘newbie’ and needed to be ‘tested’. This was not the case at all, if anything it was the opposite! And this is what we need to be telling and showing our new grads.
So how do we support our new grads? Sometimes just asking ‘are you going ok?’ is enough. Or ‘give me a yell if you need a hand’, so that they know you are there and they aren’t going to get snowballed under with things. It’s also about education. It’s taking the time out to show them or explain to them things that they are unsure of. Sometimes nurses on the ward need to take up part of that educators role, because the graduate educator can’t be there all the time and education is so important during this time of transition. So if it is their first time putting in an IDC on a ‘real’ patient, then ask them if they want you there for support and to help them (there’s nothing worse then putting on those sterile gloves and then realizing you have forgotten to put something on your sterile field, we all know that feeling!). We care for our patients, we also need to care for each other.
Another thing (which I feel as nurses we do pretty much all the time anyway) is to introduce yourself. It’s something small, but what a difference it makes. If you’re in the tea room and you see a random face and think, I wonder if this is a new grad…then just ask them. They are probably freaking out on the inside wondering who you are! I know from when I was a grad and being a bit on the shy side, at each new rotation I found it difficult getting to know people and then as soon as you did, it was onto the next rotation.
One thing I have found talking to some of our grads, is that they are exhausted. You ask them what they are doing after the shift and most of the time they will say sleeping. Everyday they are learning new things, meeting new people and coping with a demanding and at times relentless workload. It takes its toll. But we can help by just supporting them and letting them know we are there to help them if they need it. They don’t need to do it alone.
The Victorian Government has a pretty good document on Graduate Nurse Program Guidelines which you can find here. It’s a little bit outdated (2003) but a lot of the stuff is still really relevant today. I also found a great article about the transition of new grads and their experiences which is linked here.
Time to get back to work and supporting those new grads, and as you do, take a little trip down memory lane to your own grad year…