Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I have a couple of friends who are nursing instructors for nursing schools at various community colleges. They have a good rapport with the staff, let us review their exams to see if they're too easy/too hard, and have us precept their nursing students when they're on the unit. They seem to have a universal complaint: These students are not prepared, not motivated, just learn for the moment, then forget everything.

I've tried to attribute this to the generation gap. We're "old nurses". We've been doing this 15-30 years plus. We're a different generation. We didn't grow up with MTV, IPODS, texting. We don't have a 30-second attention span. When we studied, we studied, not just learned things the night before for the test, then forgot all about it.

But then, you go into a deeper motivation. Focused, motivated students usually aim high. Higher than nursing school. They go on to medical school, law school, business school. They become lawyers, investment bankers and diplomats. There is a certain breed that goes to nursing school because they have a "calling" to help others. The rest enter because it's a "stable" "recession-proof" profession, or because they know there is a shortage and they think it's an easy way to make a living (as if!!).

You read the statistics that the average age of nurses in the U.S. is 47. You read that the majority of nurses that will graduate this year will not be in the profession in 5 years. You hear that most new nurses aim for advanced practice, anesthesia or management. And if you're a nurse with any amount of experience under your belt, you realize that you need YEARS to grow into your shoes before you can even realize yourself into an advanced practice position, no matter how much schooling you have. Hell, it still scares me how many people I didn't kill in my first few years as a nurse.

So, how do you teach a new crop of nurses? How do you take into account the difference in learning styles while driving in the fact that you are RESPONSIBLE for a human life? How do you instill common sense in people who don't have any? I hear over and over again that the instructors don't want to fail everybody, but that they are AFRAID to pass the majority without dumbing down the group. These are the health care workers of tomorrow. They will be taking care of us. This is a valid point.

Sometimes they get lucky. I've met a few nursing students who were intelligent, responsible, motivated. I worked with them while they were being preceptored, and I have the privilege of working with them now. Their potential is endless. But their light was shining from the beginning. It was wonderful to watch them grow. Too bad it's one out of fifty.

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