Mother Bear Is Here! The Art of Protecting New Nurses

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The bond between a mother bear and her cub is very strong. Mother bears are the quintessential role models for loving and protecting offspring. When a mother bear detects a threat to her cubs, what does she do? She gets “bat sh** crazy” on them! A mother bear will sacrifice her life to save her cubs.

When a cub cries, this indicates the cub is cold, wet, or needs food so the mother bear feeds, warms, or moves the cub to dry land.

When the cub yells, this indicates the cub is separated from her, so the mother bear grunts and returns to her cubs.

When the cub screams, this indicates the cub is in danger so the mother bear charges and will attack!

The most dangerous place to be is between a mother bear and her cubs.

And that’s exactly what we need to do with our new nurses. We need to protect them like a mother bear protects her cubs.

[easy-tweet tweet=”We need to protect our new nurses like a mother bear protects her cubs.”]

Did you know?

Did you know that 25-33% of all new nurses quit annually (Booth, 2011) and that half of all graduating nurses are afraid that they will become the target of workplace bullying (Kaplan, 2014)?

Annie was very nervous about her first job as a new nurse and was awake for most of the night, worrying about her first day.  She didn’t know who her preceptor was so upon arrival to the unit, so she stopped at the nurses’ station.  When the unit secretary looked up, she told the secretary her name and that she was new to the unit.  The unit secretary looked on the schedule, found her name and hollered for Cynthia who was to be her preceptor.  The student was excited and hopeful but when Cynthia looked up at her from the desk, she sighed and gave a look of disgust.  She motioned for the new nurse to come to where she was sitting.  Cynthia then told Annie, “Hey. I didn’t want to be a preceptor but they told me that I had to if I wanted to get a raise this year.  So, you’re stuck with me.  Try to stay out of my way and make sure you don’t kill anyone on MY shift!”  Everyone around her laughed.

Needless to say, Annie had every right to be afraid.

Who is the mother bear?

QUESTION:  Who is the Mother Bear?

ANSWER: The preceptors

Research conducted through the Vermont Nursing Partnerships resulted in a rich body of evidence supporting the integration of new nurses through the relationship they have with their preceptor and colleagues (Boyer, 2002). The preceptor assumes many roles as they help to transition a new graduate nurse into professional practice.   Roles such as protector, educator, socializer, evaluator and role model provide a framework in which the preceptor can use as a model for coaching.

Preceptors, therefore, need to become the mother (or papa) bears for new nurses.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Preceptors need to become the mother (or papa) bear to new nurses!”]

10 ways to mother bear your new nurses:

  • Call new nurses BEFORE they start. Welcome them to the unit and let them know you’re excited to be their preceptor
  • Acts as advocate for the novice and protects from adverse behaviors of others
  • Establish good rapport so they feel comfortable coming to you with issues
  • Introduce them to other disciplines and specialties
  • Stand nearby during shift report to make sure they don’t get attacked by the next shift nurse
  • Stop any gossip about the new nurse immediately
  • Offer frequent positive reinforcement
  • Watch out for them at all times
  • Protect them from difficult patients and family members
  • Protect from MD/NP aggression

And guess what? The official PRECEPTOR isn’t the only mother bear on the unit. All staff should step into the mother bear role when around the cubs.

Did you know that black bear mothers stay with their cubs for 16-17 months? The family bond remains strong right up to the moment the cub leaves to start her own family. So remember that even after the precepted orientation is over, the preceptor should continue to protect new nurses so that they can grow up to be the strong, competent, and compassionate nurses we know they can be!

Are you struggling with workplace bullying? Find great tips to address coworker bullying in my book “Do No Harm Applies To Nurses Too!”

Thanks so much for reading!

Take care. Be kind. Stay connected

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