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How can a new nurse educator who has practiced in psychiatry gain hands on med/surg skills without taking a med/surg job?


Dear Donna,

I graduated in December 2013 with a master’s degree in nursing education and soon will begin teaching nursing assistant students. After gaining some teaching experience, I hope to transition to teaching fundamentals to PN/RN students. As I have been working in psychiatry for many years, I don’t really have those med/surg skills, and I feel like I need to become comfortable with med/surg clinical skills before I attempt to teach it. The problem is I have no desire to work in med/surg as a staff nurse. I looked into a nurse refresher program as an opportunity for me to refresh those skills, but am not eligible because I have not been out of practice for five years. The program in my area offered an option to take theory only for active nurses who want refreshing, but I feel I also need the “hands-on” portion.

Wants to Teach

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Wants to Teach,

You have a few options. I would recommend you check with more than one refresher course in your area. You should be able to obtain a list of all accredited refresher courses in your area through your state board of nursing (, your state chapter of the American Nurses Association ( whether or not you are a member. Also, try your state chapter of the American Hospital Association. You can find them by doing an Internet search for “your state hospital association.” You also can find courses by doing an Internet search for “RN refresher courses in your state, city or county.”

Almost everything in life is negotiable. So the out of clinical practice requirement certainly is open to interpretation and can be challenged. Exceptions to the rules are made every day in every area of life. The fact you have worked in psych and have not had an opportunity to do the basic med/surg skills you want to hone is valid and legitimate reason for negotiation. Advocate for yourself to get what you want and need. You would do it for your patients. Now do it for yourself.

If all else fails, see if you can find a clinically competent med-surg type nurse you can hire to work with privately and then help you find some opportunities to practice even if only on simulation dummies. This would be the only other option if you don’t take a refresher course or don’t want to take a job in this type of setting. Some good friends and family members might even be willing to let you “practice” on them. As nursing students we practiced on each other all the time.

Today there are many great instructional videos online. They are great learning tools you may use to your advantage as you look to refresh certain skills.

Best wishes,

By | 2014-07-04T00:00:00-04:00 July 4th, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing Careers and Jobs|0 Comments

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