Recently a nurse confided in me, recalling her first days as a nurse. Becky found herself frazzled. She was new to the job, in the midst of a learning curve, and was having trouble keeping her head above water. She walked by one of the more experienced nurses who asked how she was doing. Becky responded that she “was drowning.” At that, the nurse fired back, “Well, you’d better learn how to swim.” That abandonment stuck with Becky all her days as a nurse.
You’d better learn how to swim??? Really?
How a Mentoring Culture Transforms a Bullying Culture
Sadly, this is the dynamic new nurses face as they start out fresh and hopeful, ready to make a difference in the world. Just as quickly as they swing though the ER doors, they are often greeted with hostility, sarcasm, competition and contempt. While nurse bullying doesn’t exist in every healthcare atmosphere, it’s common enough that it requires addressing in nursing programs, which indicates that it’s a problem out of control. A shocking 60% of beginner nurses end up quitting their jobs in the first 6 months simply due to co-worker bad behavior.
Our beginning days may be far behind us, or perhaps we were the unlucky ones who never experienced an environment where bullying was not an issue. No less important, bullying versus mentoring cultures illustrate two opposite ends of the same learning spectrum, but each environment yields a vastly different result.
How Bullying Cultures and Mentoring Cultures Differ
In a bullying dynamic, the newest nurses are thrown into rocky waters, left to grapple and fight for air while the other veterans stand idly by to watch them drown. New nurses are given the toughest work to see if they’ve got the chops, and the seasoned nurses say things like “Didn’t they teach you that in nursing school?” New nurses are often chided for bringing in new methods, or taking on work with an enthusiastic approach, as the seasoned nurses snicker, “Oh they’ll learn,” while they roll their eyes in judgement.
A mentoring culture looks very different. New nurses are guided and coached through a learning curve, given more gradual challenges as they grow so they can apply skills and knowledge appropriately, make less mistakes, and as a result, have the confidence to make independent decisions in the future. No question is a stupid question, and experienced nurses know their wisdom and guidance make a difference as they reinforce and nurture their team members.
How to Move Towards a Mentoring Culture
Begin today to move towards a mentoring culture. I challenge you to uplift, support and be truly helpful to your coworkers. Treat them as if you’re 100% behind their success. Show encouragement, empathy, and patience. Protect new nurses from bullies, and at the end of the day, remember to reflect on what it was like to be new and “on trial.”
Creating a Mentoring Culture Starts with You!
If we are mentoring, there’s no room left for bullying. Transforming an unhealthy, dysfunctional workplace with each one of us doing our part. Nurture those desperately looking to you for your guidance and wisdom.
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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations who want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day. If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website www.reneethompsonspeaks.com.