Formal Mentoring for Novice Academic Nurse Administrators

Formal Mentoring for Novice Academic Nurse Administrators

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, only 2.1% of deans and directors are 45 years of age or younger. Further, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a large percentage of senior nursing faculty members and Academic Nurse Administrators (ANAs) will retire over the next decade, and half are likely to retire by 2020. While experienced ANAs are retiring or resigning, formal mentoring for incoming Novice Academic Nurse Administrators (NANAs) remains relatively absent. Few nurses or nursing faculty fully grasp the complex responsibilities of this position. Typically, ANAs preside over the perpetual cycle of nursing student admission, academic progression, student attrition, and graduations. The specific roles and legal responsibilities of ANAs are outlined by each state in their state nurse practice act. Most programs are offered in community colleges or universities.

Regardless of the location or type of nursing educational program, ANAs are responsible for the majority of decisions made regarding the legal operations of these programs. Ultimately, ANAs are critical to the delivery, operations, and sustainability of nursing education and ultimately to the perseverance of the nursing profession. Unfortunately, formal nursing educational programs seldom address the daunting operational challenges that ANAs—and particularly NANAs—face when attempting to meet the expectations of this role transition. Consequently, vacancies loom across the nation, creating an urgent need for retention through formal mentoring.

Significant Challenges for ANAs

Experienced and novice ANAs are responsible for their nursing program’s state approval through accreditation. This lengthy endeavor requires at least one year of advanced preparation. State accreditation for pre-licensure nursing programs includes a program self-study and program evaluation, generally under severe time constraints. Accreditation topics under review include a total program evaluation plan, sufficiency of resources, appropriate administration, nursing faculty, nursing content experts, curriculum assessment, adequate clinical facilities, demonstration of student engagement, and a self-study summary. Additional responsibilities include monitoring the program’s National Council of Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing (NCLEX-RN) pass rates, sustaining student enrollment, maintaining nursing faculty stability, retaining program accreditation, and remaining fiscally sound despite varying degrees of institutional rigidity. Seasoned ANAs recognize that the terminal goal for each nurse graduate is to successfully pass the NCLEX-RN exam and thus earn state registered nursing licensure.

For ANAs, policymaking occurs continuously. Issues are brought to administration and faculty for exploration of the necessity to make or change policies to ensure that educational and nursing practice standards are current, and to change policies when they are not. Changes are also generated by requirements of affiliating health care agencies, university, college, and statewide policy recommendations that require extensive institutional buy-in and support. Many ANAs exert great efforts to receive institutional and faculty support in the operations of their nursing programs. A 2014 study in Nursing Education Perspectives found that among 242 ANAs, factors associated with job dissatisfaction included a lack of institutional support, mentorship, recognition, and respect. Furthermore, over a decade ago, it was reported that aging, bullying, and stress correlated with increased vacancies among all ANAs. In a current online survey of nursing faculty from 12 of the 15 highest-ranked universities, 22.5% reported not having a mentor, most (61.2%) found mentors on their own, and only 16.3% had formally assigned mentors. Overall, studies have revealed that the most helpful role transition experiences came from mentoring (53.5%), while (30.2%) came from work experiences, strongly indicating the need for formal mentoring.

Formal Mentoring Praxis

In Integrated Theory & Knowledge Development in Nursing, authors Peggy Chinn and Maeona Kramer define praxis as the integration of knowing: empirical, ethical, aesthetic, personal, and emancipatory concepts. In formal mentoring, experienced ANA mentors will apply their integration of knowing through mentorship of NANAs with the following conceptual guidelines:

  • Empirical: Use of a practical and pragmatic approach to mentoring
  • Ethical: Addresses the legal issues affecting nursing education
  • Aesthetic: Sharing of creative artistic diagrams, charts, and visual aids
  • Personal: Storytelling of lessons learned as an experienced ANA
  • Emancipatory: Supporting the independence and growth of the mentee
Critical Social Theory (CST) and NANA Mentoring

Critical social theorists aim to aid in the process of progressive social change by identifying not only what is, but also identifying the existing (explicit and implicit) ideals of any given situation and analyzing the gap between what is and what might and ought to be. In Advances in Nursing Science, P.E. Stevens identified six tenets of CST. Three of the six tenets of CST have important underpinnings to the praxis of leadership mentoring for NANAs. The first tenet examines the academic institutions’ social, political, and economic influence on the development of a formal NANAs mentoring program. The second seeks to reduce invisible oppressive institutional rigidity found in an academic environment while the third seeks to provide formal mentoring that emancipates and liberates the NANAs leadership potential.

Strategy and Implementation

Following the attendance of a formal mentoring workshop, ANAs would be assigned to mentor NANAs for one year. The three tenets of CST would serve as guides for the ANAs mentoring endeavors. Informed by CST and the praxis (integration of knowing), ANAs will share knowledge beyond empirics to more aesthetic, ethical, personal, and emancipatory patterns. The ANA mentor and NANA mentee would agree upon a formal mentoring schedule of two-hour weekly meetings to address specific nursing program director related topics, such as:

  • Faculty to Director Role Transition
  • Compliance with the State Nurse Practice Act
  • Program Directors Manuals/Handbooks
  • Maintaining State Program Accreditation
  • Writing of Policies and Procedures
  • Seeking Institutional Support
  • Handbooks (Student & Faculty)
  • Ethical and Legal Issues
  • Essential Documentation
  • Hiring and Orientation of New Staff and faculty
  • Collegiality Among Stakeholders
  • New Student Orientations
  • New Student Admissions
  • Academic Progression
  • Student Advisement
  • Student Attrition/Retention
  • Student Essential Behaviors
  • NANAs Scholarly Expectations
  • Grant Writing
  • Promotions, Tenure
  • Director & Faculty Professional Development

This formal mentoring program design aims to report positive post survey responses in job satisfaction and retention among NANAs. It is intended to create scholarly academic dialogue to explore the implementation of this mentoring model for NANAs. Future research and discussion will focus on the qualitative experiences of the ANAs mentors’ roles and NANAs mentees as participants. The provision of the CST as a framework for the praxis of formal mentoring guides ANAs in their mentoring endeavors. The success of a praxis leadership mentoring model can facilitate enhanced role transition and increased retention among NANAs.

Becoming a Mentee: Tips on How to Establish a Mentee-Mentor Relationship

Becoming a Mentee: Tips on How to Establish a Mentee-Mentor Relationship

Experts agree that mentoring is vital to your professional and personal development as a nurse. Good mentoring can lead to getting into—and through—nursing school, getting a great job, and getting into graduate school. However, as a minority nursing student or nurse, you may have little experience being a mentee and have many questions. Questions like: How do you approach a person you would like to have as a mentor? Do you only need one mentor? How do you know if you have a good mentor? Some minority nursing students and nurses have had mentors of the same culture or ethnicity as you and you may feel uncomfortable asking a nurse, instructor, or professor from an ethnicity or culture different from yours to be your mentor. The following tips may help you find a mentor and set the foundation for a rewarding mentee-mentor experience.

How do I know if I need a mentor?

All of us need a mentor. A mentor is an experienced person that advises you as you work to accomplish a goal or guides you through your education or career. As a nurse, there are many benefits to having a mentor. One benefit of having a nurse mentor is having someone who is impartial and can listen to you and give you direction. When your mentor shares their knowledge and experiences with you, you gain knowledge and insight. Thus, you can make choices, decide to gather more information, or even seek the advice of another mentor. Another benefit of having a mentor is often they will extend their network to you to help you. Many nurse mentors are willing to introduce you to other nurses that may be of assistance to you. For example, your mentor is a cardiology nurse and you are interested in going back to school to become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP). If your mentor knows one, they may often put you in touch with the AGNP because they cannot answer the types of questions you have about becoming one.

Many nursing students and nurses have more than one nurse mentor. You can have an all-round mentor, an education mentor, and one that is career specific, one that is research specific, and one that is a mentor in your practice specialty. You can have as many mentors as you need. It is better to find a mentor early in your nursing education or soon after you graduate because mentors are excellent recommendation writers for jobs or school because your mentor has listened to you talk about your aspirations and goals and can write about what they know about you.

The person I would like as my mentor is of an ethnicity or culture different from mine. Can that work?

Absolutely! In nursing, it can be very hard to find a mentor that is of your ethnicity or culture. It is perfectly fine to ask what has been their experience mentoring a person from a background different from theirs, what they learned, and what the challenges were. Keep in mind that you are deciding if this nurse will be a good mentor for you so ask what you need to know so you can make an informed decision.

How do I approach someone I would like to have as a mentor?

Before you approach your prospective mentor, think about or write down why you would like to have them as your mentor. It does not have to be elaborate. It could be that you aspire to be like them and you want to get their advice. It could be that you are interested in the type of nursing practice or research they do, and you want to shadow or work with them. Whatever your reason is, make sure you can concretely express it. Your potential mentor wants to know how they can help you. Remember, mentors are agreeing to share their time with you and they do not want to waste your time either.

Next, you should contact them by sending an email or calling them. When you contact them, you should let them know what you want and why. After an email response or call, you should ask to meet with them to begin the mentor-mentee relationship. This meeting can be over the phone if meeting face-to-face is not possible. This meeting is important for the two of you to get to know each other.

They have agreed to be my mentor! How do I prepare for our first meeting?

There are three goals for your first meeting. One is to have your mentor get to know you; the second is for you to get to know your mentor; and the third is to define your mentee-mentor relationship. In some cases, where a deadline or project is involved, a timeline may be necessary—and that is your fourth goal. There is no way for you to know everything about your mentor and for them to know you in one meeting. The important topics should include: where you are from, why you chose nursing, your goals and aspirations, and why you believe your mentor can help you. You should ask those same questions and add a question about why they choose their nursing career path, and their current goals and aspirations. Having this conversation is an excellent way for you and your mentor to connect and begin to build the foundation of a good mentee-mentor relationship.

Defining the mentee-mentor relationship should be the focal point of the first meeting because it establishes the foundation of your interactions. It defines what you want from the relationship and leads to the discussion on how to make your mentee-mentor relationship work for you both. There are three areas to cover in defining the relationship; the first is deciding whether the mentee-mentor relationship is formal or informal. An informal relationship does not require much work. Usually a verbal agreement to stay in touch with some regularity and the person agreeing to be your mentor is enough for an informal mentee-mentor relationship. A formal mentorship is usually in writing because it usually entails a project or deadline. Mentee-mentor relationships can go from being informal to formal and from formal to informal. Communication between the two of you is essential to navigating that part of the relationship.

Second, you need to decide how often you are going to meet. In informal relationships, this could be as needed or once a month. In a formal relationship, the frequency of meetings is often defined by what the project or deadline is.

Third, you must decide what type of meetings you are going to have and how long will they be. Again, in an informal relationship that may not be necessary as you will not be meeting frequently, and you can set the length of the meeting as it fits you and your mentor’s schedule. In the case of a formal relationship where regular meetings are necessary, the length of the meetings are important so that the appropriate amount of time can be set aside. In a formal mentoring relationship, an agenda or key discussion items are sent to your mentor in advance of the meeting. The agenda helps keeps you both on target.

In the case of most formal relationships, a documented timeline (i.e., a beginning and end) of the relationship or project is established. In establishing a timeline, you incorporate meeting dates, dates when you will send something to your mentor, and the timeframe when you should expect their feedback. When you do this step early in the relationship, it tends to keep everyone on task and on target. Of course, things happen, but it is important that each of you honor your formal agreement and renegotiate timelines as needed.

What do I do if my mentor is not a good fit for me?

Do not worry. Sometimes, the mentee-mentor match up does not work out as planned due to timing, different approaches, communication, and personality, among other things. Being an expert nurse, professor, or nurse researcher may not always mean that they will be a good mentor for you. If after your initial meeting or even after multiple meetings you find that you and your mentor are not a good fit, then the professional way to handle it is to end it. In the case of informal relationships, it is easier since there is no agreement for regular contact. However, it is best to thank your mentor for their time when you end the mentee-mentor relationship. In the case of a formal mentee-mentor relationship, a call, email, or letter is the most professional method to end it. Again, if you have spent time with your mentor, you should thank them for their time and what you state after that should be very professional, honest, and give at least one reason you no longer want to have a mentee-mentor relationship with that person. Keep in mind that if this is a person working in your career field that you do not want to “burn bridges,” so a scathing email or letter is not professional. When in doubt about what you have written, ask another trusted mentor or colleague.

How do I know I have found a good mentor? give us seven key qualities of an effective or good mentor. The seven key qualities are:

  • Ability and willingness to communicate what they know. A good mentor is able to make complex concepts and issues easy (or easier) to understand. A good mentor is open to sharing all the “secrets” of success with you in an effort to help you succeed. You just have to be open to listening and learning.
  • Preparedness. As a mentee, you should have an agenda or at least tell your mentor what you would like to discuss before you meet so that your mentor can be prepared. A prepared mentor has given thought to your questions or topic and is ready to have an efficient and directed conversation with you.
  • Approachability, availability, and the ability to listen. As part of the first meeting, you as the mentee have set up dates and times with your mentor and your mentor should keep those commitments and be ready to listen.
  • Honesty with diplomacy. A good mentor is going to be honest about whatever you are discussing. Being honest with you should be done in a professional and tactful manner, especially if your mentor is giving you feedback or critique.
  • Inquisitiveness. Your mentor may know a lot, but that does not mean they know everything. A good mentor is willing to learn new things about you and new topics. In essence, a good mentor is a lifelong learner.
  • Objectivity and fairness. A good mentor is looking forward to helping you succeed and that is it. There are no favors involved. Most often, your mentor may give you networking suggestions or offer to give you the name of a person who may be able to give additional support or a “foot in the door.” However, an expectation of a job or anything else because of the mentee-mentor relationship is not part of a mentee-mentor relationship. In the case where you and your mentor are working on a project, publication, or other work related items, the way your mentor will be acknowledged should be finalized before the project begins. For example, if you are a nursing student working on a research project you should know if you would be listed on a conference abstract or publication. If you are leading the project, you should ask your mentor how they would like to be recognized on the project.
  • Compassion and genuineness. Essentially, your mentor should be a good person. Being honest, fair, and objective does not equal mean and cold. A good mentor listens when you are having difficulties and is happy when you succeed. A mentee-mentor relationship is not a friendship; you may not be Facebook friends or follow each other on Instagram. However, a good mentee-mentorship relationship comes awful close to a good friendship and over time, who knows?

Taking the first step to establish a mentee-mentor relationship is usually on the mentee. Like any relationship, a good mentee-mentor relationship takes planning and having clear expectations and goals for the relationship. For minority nursing students and nurses, finding the right mentor and having a productive mentee-mentor relationship can be a daunting task when you have not had previous mentee experience and there are very few minority nurses to select as mentors. However, understanding how to establish the mentee-mentor relationship may make it less daunting and even more fruitful to enhancing your nursing career.

Standing Up for the Right to Be Ourselves, Part Two

Standing Up for the Right to Be Ourselves, Part Two

Nine years ago, I was so happy to have my first article published in Minority Nurse. The article was a discussion on whether or not it’s OK to be out at work as a gay person. Looking back at the changes I’ve seen over this time period, I decided to put together a few thoughts.

The county hospital where I work is rolling out some new ­intake questions for our electronic health record system. The impetus is to better serve our LGBTQ patients. A transgender person with residual breast tissue did not know he could still get breast cancer. An MTF person developed prostate cancer. These patients slipped through the cracks because they lived their true self but had body parts susceptible to illness that the caregiver was not aware of. By next month, we hope to have 10% of our patients properly classified using our new Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) questions. As the program rolls out, we will capture more and more of our population so caregivers can better serve them.

As a gay man in my 50s, I have seen great changes in my lifetime on LGBTQ issues. There was a time when just being out was a danger. But we bring some unique perspectives to our job that shouldn’t be overlooked. We know what it’s like to be the underdog. We cherish family because we worked so hard to have our families recognized. Respect for minorities come easily to us because we have suffered discrimination. Fairness in ­treatment under the law was not free for us or other minorities so we always strive to protect our patients’ rights. We know that being gay does not give you AIDS, but we also know what those risk factors are and we are able to educate our patients on the facts without judgement.

Now that we are rolling out a campaign to identify our patients’ unique needs regarding sexual health, reproductive issues, and mental health, we are working to destigmatize these issues in our community. Just asking these questions can be a litmus test of our own feelings. When the program was being explained in an employee meeting, there was pushback. “Our patients will be insulted.” Or, “Our patients won’t understand the terms.”

It occurred to me that we might be projecting our own feelings and, in some cases ignorance, onto our patients. Of course, there are what seem like valid issues when trying to tease this information out of patients in the geriatric clinic. My feeling is that you just throw the questions out there and you get what you get. The elderly are just as much part of the world as the young (and in between).I can’t wait to get some real world experience in asking these questions:

  • What is the sex on your original birth certificate?
  • What is your gender identity?
  • What is your sexual orientation?

Some explanation might be needed with some patients. Sexual identity is not your sexual orientation. Sexual identity cannot be inferred from your birth certificate. We are looking forward to the rollout but with a bit of trepidation ­because we are not used to asking such personal questions. But,if you want to better serve this population, you have to identify them. The FTM person who never got a breast cancer screening because his caregivers never informed him of the risk—that can be preventable with better understanding of our patients. More information is better than less.

I take away two points from the SOGI questions that excite me. The first is that caregivers are going to be more aware of the disparities in health care that can occur with our LGBTQ patients. We are charged with the care of all our patients, not just the ones that fit into neat boxes. Just being aware of the differences makes us stop to weigh implications that might have been missed in the past. The second is that by normalizing this conversation, both patients and caregivers can talk openly about a subject that was once taboo. It’s OK to be gay or lesbian, FTM, MTF, something in between, or nothing at all. We all have health care needs.

Annette Smith, a nurse and coworker with 35 years of experience, has insight into changes in practice like the new SOGI questions: “At the beginning, there is a lot of pushback. The sky is falling, the sky is falling. But after a while, the process becomes normalized and it’s not a big deal anymore. We end up wondering what all the fuss was about!”

There was a time when just talking about sexual orientation was not even ­considered. Now we are required to ask! This destigmatizes the whole subject. To revisit my first question: It should never be a question of whether it’s right or wrong to be out at work. It’s just a question of you being comfortable enough in your own skin to let other people know.

5 Practical Tips to Rock Your Clinical Rotations

5 Practical Tips to Rock Your Clinical Rotations

I recall my first clinical rotation as being one of the most exciting but stressful experiences as a student nurse. I was excited to finally apply the theories that we were taught in class to the ‘real world.’ However, I soon realized I was very unprepared. From the very early start times, extremely long days, and limited support from some faculty and peers as I ventured down this new path ultimately resulted in exhaustion and feeling unprepared. These feelings eventually affected my self-confidence more times than I care to admit. In addition to that, let’s not forget the culture of the units that I would be assigned to for weeks at a time. No one told us that the nurses would scatter when they saw students enter the ward and those that were forced to be with us made it known that they were not pleased with having us ‘tag along.’

Based on my personal experiences, I decided to put together a few key steps that I know would have been beneficial to me when I was a student nurse entering my clinical rotations and hopefully will be a benefit to you today.

Let’s begin…

1. Be Prepared.

  • If you’re able to get some basic information regarding your specific patient or the types of patients on that unit a night or two before your clinical day, take some time to do some research.
  • Look up the diagnosis and medications attributed to these patients.
  • Write this information down in a small notebook that you can keep in your pocket that is easily accessible for you to review.

2. Be Early.

  • It’s a good practice to start this habit now in preparation for the real work world. Treat clinicals like your job!
  • Arrive a minimum of 15 minutes early. Grab some coffee or tea and take this time to review your material. This will also give you a few minutes of alone time with your clinical instructor, which is always a plus.

3. Look the Part.

  • I know that ‘looking good’ is NOT on the list of priorities for someone who is sleep deprived and stressed. However, it’s necessary and will leave a positive lasting impression.
  • Always make sure you are dressed per your school’s policy. If scrubs are provided or purchased, make sure they are always neat and pressed. If you are like me (i.e., not a morning person), pick a day during the week to complete this small task and NOT the night before.
  • Carry a small personal hygiene bag with you always so that you can ‘freshen’ up midday. This will revitalize you, especially if your clinical days are long.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget your necessary equipment: pens, stethoscope, penlight, scissors, etc.

4. Be Professional.

  • ALWAYS address your patient by Mr. and Mrs./Ms. unless they say otherwise, especially with patients who are older than you are. This is not only professional but also respectful.
  • ALWAYS introduce yourself to your patient when you enter their room and let them know that you are a student nurse and will be a part of their care team for the day.
  • Most importantly, SMILE. Patients and staff will appreciate it.

5. Be an Active Participant.

  • It’s OKAY to say ‘I don’t know but I will find the answer for you.’
  • It’s important to ASK for help when needed. As we all know, there is no I in TEAM.
  • I encourage you to ASK questions and ANSWER questions. This shows that you are not only prepared but eager to learn.
  • Whenever possible, volunteer to observe as many procedures as possible. The more you can observe the better!
Are You Mentoring Someone?

Are You Mentoring Someone?

One of my greatest pleasures in life is being a mentor to the next generation of nurses (not all of them, obviously!). I’ve learned over the years that the mentor/mentee relationship should be taken seriously. Mentoring relationships have often grown organically in my career. Though they are informal in nature, they provide a touchstone, an outlet, and a path for success to the mentee.

One thing you have heard in this career is that nurses eat their young. I’m not convinced that this is unique to the profession. Look around you and you’ll see someone in need of a helping hand in their life, and I’ll bet you have something to offer.

Here are 10 ways you can make the most out of your mentoring relationship.

1. Start by taking inventory of yourself.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a nurse? With experience can come bad habits, corner cutting, and sloppiness. You don’t want to pass those on as wisdom. Conversely, I’ve gained deeper insight into the process of nursing, how to work within a system to promote change, how to put patient safety and outcome at the top of my priority list. These are the things I want to share.

2. Model the behavior you want to see.

I hate to say it but anyone can talk the talk. Oddly enough, I found that hand washing is a great silent instructional tool to model the correct behavior. There are plenty of nurses modeling bad behavior, but it only takes one person to do the right thing for it to catch on.

3. Be quick with praise.

The new nurse often works in a vacuum of praise. They are just expected to always be correct. I point out the correct behavior when I see it. That moment of reinforcement will last a lifetime. I’ll bet you can think of a time when someone praised you.

4. Don’t let a bad habit take root. 

Gentle correction like, “You are doing great. I can see why you did it that way, but let me show you the right way… and here’s why.” The trick is to give constructive criticism in a way that works to change behavior without humiliating the receiver. One humiliation can sour a relationship. I never give correction in front of other people. I just don’t do it. Gentle correction in private is the way to go.

5. Be willing to learn.

Medicine requires a lifelong commitment to learning—and not just doing CE’s to renew your license every few years. Every day I find some new facet of my practice where I don’t know something. How does this medicine work? What is the natural course of this disease? What is the meaning of this lab value? Modeling to my mentee that I’m a learner encourages him/her to be a learner as well.

6. Be comfortable enough to share your mistakes.

We’ve all made them. I let my bad experience be a learning tool for my mentees.

7. Show the wonder of medicine.

Enthusiasm, excitement…these things can die if not frequently watered and fed. We have so much pressure on us as nurses that we can forget to see that caring for another human is a wonderful experience. The human body is an awesome machine for carrying around our mind. Even in great states of stress or disability, it can surprise us with its tenacity. It can also surprise us with its fragility.

8. Invest time in your mentee.

Time is all we have on this good earth. It’s my most valuable gift and when it comes to mentoring, I give it freely. Someday, one of these young nurses is going to be caring for me, and I want the compassion that I have for my patients and my craft to be reflected in the next generation of nurses.

9. Have fun.

If you aren’t laughing, you aren’t alive. Caring for the sick and injured at the bedside is tough cookies. Having a ready joke, seeing humor in difficulty, smiling…these are valuable coping tools that I use daily.

10. Finally, be compassionate.

It’s our most valuable asset. Having compassion for our fellow humans sharing this journey of life helps give us meaning. Compassion leads to love, and kindness, a desire to understand the plight of others, to intercede in tough circumstances, to be a good servant to mankind. That’s what we should want to pass on to the next nurse.

Don’t let a mentoring opportunity pass you by. You’ll find, like I did, that being a mentor is fun, rewarding, and a two-way street. I get 10 times as much as I give.

You Will Never Know How Far You Can Fly Until You Spread Your Wings

You Will Never Know How Far You Can Fly Until You Spread Your Wings

I have been a nurse for 30 years and have worked in various areas of nursing: Oncology, Gyn-Oncology, Home Health, TeleHealth, Legal Nurse Consulting, Teaching, and Endoscopy. During nursing school and as a new nurse I thought that I could only work in a hospital as a floor nurse or in a nursing home. As I gained experience and began to grow, I found that there were many other areas that needed to be explored. Nursing is a constantly changing field and in order to grow, you must move and spread your wings. You should never stop learning. Nursing is a rewarding career and if you always remember why you became a nurse (other than for the money), it will help the bad days appear better. If you ever get to the point that you feel stagnate, don’t give up, GET MOVING!! Some ways to help you grow is to go back to school and advance your education, change your specialty, and gain new knowledge and experience.

Too many times nurses are quick to give up after a few years in practice, but with anything that you want to perfect it takes time, commitment, and patience. There is no rule that states that you have to stay in a certain area for years. Oftentimes, nurses stay in the same area and they become frustrated and burned out. This can have an untoward effect on the care that is delivered to patients and affects the morale of the nurse and the unit. These are the nurses that are angry and complain, but they are afraid to change. Often these are the same nurses that are selected to be preceptors for new nurses. This is not a healthy environment for the new nurse, because this can cause them to question if they want to stay in the nursing field.

So as nurses, we need to explore other options to work, without giving up on the career we worked so hard for. One positive change that needs to be implemented in nursing school is for instructors to inform students that there are multiple fields available to them. There are several non-traditional areas to choose, such as doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics, school clinics, insurance companies, and you can even work with attorneys, where they rely on you for your health care background.

If I had never realized that I could work in other areas, without giving up nursing, I probably would not have been a nurse as long as I have. Even at this point in my career, I am still seeking and searching for new learning opportunities. I want to expand my knowledge and experience, and I would encourage other nurses to remember to spread your wings so that you can grow.