Every now and then an article or discussion surfaces about the different ages of nurses currently represented in the profession. One recent discussion focused on the different levels of basic education according to nurse’s age and how these education levels influence practice and patient care.
On a social media site, a discussion was started by a relatively new nurse. This nurse was having difficulty understanding why so many “older” nurses spend so much time at the bedside and minimal time documenting or planning patient care. The “older” nurses were a bit taken aback by the comment and felt the need to defend their patient care approaches.
One nurse identified herself as being in the profession for 30 years. This nurse has seen a variety of “fads” related to care delivery such as primary nursing, case method, and case management and has weathered the rocky implementation of computerized clinical documentation.
As this seasoned nurse explained the value of having nurses with experience helps others understand the transitions to new or re-worked patient care approaches. Many of the newer nurses are only familiar or have experience with what is considered the “latest” when providing patient care. The newer nurses may not understand how the decision was made to use the “latest” approach or even how to apply the approach to a patient care issue.
The years of experience represented in this discussion spanned from 1 year to over 35 years. The nurse with the least amount of experience asked all who were participating to please excuse her inability to even understand everything that was being discussed because much of the content was new or barely reviewed while in nursing school. This younger nurse explained that once basic nursing information was provided during classroom theory, the entire goal of attending classes was to learn how to pass the NCLEX-RN examination.
This nurse continued by saying that she felt particularly limited in her nursing knowledge and purchased and downloaded complete manuals of nursing practice to have available on her smartphone while at work. She added that other new nurses also feel unprepared to provide patient care at the level of expertise as other seasoned nurses and was intimidated to ask for help.
This caused quite a few of the seasoned nurses to express sadness. And one nurse was upset to learn about being viewed as unapproachable by newer nurses. Another seasoned nurse stated that the non-verbal communication demonstrated that the newer nurses felt superior in their knowledge base and did not want to learn anything that a seasoned nurse might want to share.
The nurse with the most recent experience claimed that the aloof behavior was merely a front to cover up for severe feelings of inadequacy. By this time everyone participating in the discussion had an “ah-ha” moment and realized that the newer nurses may feel ill-prepared and intimidated by nurses with more experience and education.
The seasoned nurses admitted to keeping their distance from the newer nurses who didn’t demonstrate a desire to learn or participate in bedside care issues because time was being spent on care plan creation and documentation. But as the younger nurse explained, most of the newer nurses gravitate to that which they feel the most prepared – which at times, is working with the computer and documenting.
Participating in this online discussion was an eye-opener for many of the nurses. The seasoned nurses admitted to being quick to judge the new nurses’ nonverbal behavior as being aloof and the younger nurses realized that personal feelings of inadequacy was getting in the way of their learning to provide quality patient care.
Even though there are many articles and opinion pieces written about the generations represented in healthcare organizations, this small group had an opportunity to discuss these differences in a non-threatening environment and walk away with a new understanding and appreciation for each other. Hopefully additional issues within the profession can be discussed in a similar way. Until then, embrace the day!