The relationship between veteran nurses and new nurses at any facility is integral to quality patient care and a healthy workplace. There are always opportunities for both experienced and less experienced nurses to benefit from each other's knowledge and experiences. However, it requires mutual understanding to make this relationship thrive.
Veteran nurses have skills and wisdom that they can impart to younger generations of nurses. But ideally, the relationship between veterans and new nurses is symbiotic — veteran nurses show new nurses the ropes while new nurses share their perspective and insights as recent graduates. Both parties bring important skills to the table that ultimately provide a well-rounded and effective treatment experience for patients.
While this is great in theory, occasionally there's often a disconnect between veteran and new nurses. Several factors may contribute to this divide: lack of communication, pride, frustration, or an unwillingness to try new things or learn from others, for instance.
Word of wisdom from a veteran nurse
Veteran nurse Felicia Sadler, BSN, MJ, RN, CPHQ, LSSBB, Vice President of Quality for Relias, weighed in on the challenges that lie ahead for all nurses, no matter their age and experience level, and the need for unity.
“Nurses are continuously on the front lines and are keenly aware of the importance of providing safe care,” she said. “At the same time, healthcare organizations across the country are struggling to find enough nurses to fill open positions in order to care for their patient populations. With the existing workforce crisis, it is imperative that all key stakeholders from the boardroom to the bedside come together to find real and meaningful solutions in order to care for our nurses and the communities we serve.”
Veteran nurses like Sadler have a few important tips that new nurses, and those with just a few years of experience under their belts, can keep in mind:
Be coachable — Change within the profession is constant. Embracing change and being responsive to feedback will pave the way for greater success. Resisting change can be detrimental to your career and the growth of your skills.
Take advantage of every opportunity — Treat every experience, good or bad, as a learning opportunity that can ultimately make you a better nurse. Be a sponge and never stop learning.
Listen to your patients — You will spend more time with patients than anyone else in the hospital. Listen to them and their families so that you can be a stronger advocate for your patients.
Prioritize your well-being — Don’t just advocate and care for your patients, do the same for yourself. Nursing is an incredibly demanding profession. If you don’t practice prioritizing your well-being early on in your career, then it will be even more difficult to do so in the future. A happy, healthy nurse can provide the emotional and physical care patients need.
New nurses' point of view
While veteran nurses have much to offer the new generation of nurses, new nurses offer a fresh perspective and are faced with new challenges that may not have existed when veteran nurses were first entering the field.
When Nurse.com Ambassador Emily Burford, BSN, RN, who has been a nurse for a year and a half, was asked what she wishes veteran nurses knew about the challenges of becoming a nurse today, she reflected on the pandemic’s disruptive effect on nurse staffing and her appreciation for experienced nurses.
“As a new nurse, I eagerly entered the workforce with new professional and technical skills I acquired in school,” said Burford. “However, the aftermath of the pandemic led to the departure of many experienced nurses from the bedside, causing an alarming increase in nursing shortages. As such, new nurses like me found ourselves navigating unfamiliar territory with less guidance than anticipated. The morsels of advice and feedback we receive from senior nurses, who have already walked this path, are cherished by us. As new nurses, we strive to bridge the gaps in our knowledge and skills.”
Burford’s insights illustrate how important it is to foster positive relationships between veteran and new nurses. To promote understanding, veteran nurses should consider the following important points about new nurses:
New nurses know they need veteran nurses — School can only prepare a young nurse so much. New nurses rely heavily on the guidance of veteran nurses who can show patience and empathy as they teach and as new nurses grasp concepts, grapple with the loss of a patient for the first time, and learn how to work as part of a professional nursing team.
COVID-19 still affects new nurses — Nursing education, along with just about every facet of life, took a hit during the pandemic. Social distancing and the unknowns about the infection resulted in school closures and reliance on online education. Clinical rotations were also affected by the overwhelming patient loads, among other factors. Although time has passed, new nurses today still feel the impact and may need more guidance than the generation before them.
Veteran nurses can be intimidating — New nurses can feel intimidated by their more experienced colleagues, which can make them uncomfortable asking questions or soliciting advice. They need veteran nurses to show they're approachable and are happy to answer questions, instead of showing frustration or impatience.
New nurses want to be heard — Obviously, veteran nurses have insights and perspectives that only time and experience can shape. Nevertheless, new nurses want to contribute their ideas and solutions without the fear of being dismissed because of their limited experience.
The healthcare industry relies on the collective efforts of both seasoned and new nurses. By fostering open lines of communication between these two groups, they can effectively tackle the numerous challenges they face and provide optimal care for their patients. This collaboration not only helps them achieve their goals but also facilitates the exchange of valuable knowledge and experiences.
Whether you’re actively seeking a new role or assessing your next steps, explore Nurse.com’s job marketplace to help match your experience and skills to the best-fitting role.