Joyce: As a nurse with nearly 30 years of experience in the field, it is always refreshing and inspiring to see new graduates from nursing school enter the profession. Their energy, passion and commitment are palpable. Sometimes, so is their anxiety, as they dive into the real world of nursing, with its many challenges and opportunities.
Margaret: As a nursing student about to graduate, it is an exciting and daunting adventure to enter the work world. According to Patricia Benner, the development of the practicing nurse parallels the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition.
A brand-new student nurse falls under the category of "novice." Throughout the student nurse's carefully observed clinical practice, he or she eventually reaches the "advanced beginner" stage, with the ability to perform safe and acceptable care.
About the same time the student nurse is able to celebrate the milestone of becoming a advanced beginner, a different set of inevitable phases suddenly develop. These phases are encompassed by a term known as "reality shock."
Joyce: After 30 years, it is difficult to remember the jarring experiences that marked an entry into nursing. Today's nursing students are entering a more complex field, with higher levels of professional accountability, more necessity of understanding and using computerized technologies.
Today's young nurses have more facility with technology than nurses graduating years ago. Yet, the heart of nursing remains the same; all of this must be balanced with the caring work of helping others in need in a very human way.
Margaret: While the theory of reality shock hints that the graduate will feel dispirited at some point, Benner's idea that the nurse continually gains wisdom may offer inspiration to the new nurse graduate.
The new nurse has already achieved the milestone of becoming an advanced beginner. Although an advanced beginner is countless clinical experiences away from becoming an expert nurse, this cannot discredit the fact that one tough obstacle has already been overcome. This accomplishment that needs to be remembered by the new nurse in the depths of reality shock, as it shows that he/she will be able to move onto more successes.
Anticipation of reality shock, and the knowledge that one will move out of the advanced beginner stage and into competency, proficiency and expertise, will ease the bumpiness experienced early in a nurse's career.
For this nearly graduated nursing student, remembering the life lessons from nursing school should prove to be invaluable. These lessons, imparted by teachers, fellow students and experience, include:
• Practice care of the caregiver.
• Practice positive self-talk.
• Support your colleagues.
• Practice and master organizational skills.
• Ask for help.
• Lose the desire for perfection.
• When there is too much to do, do the next thing.
Joyce: Many young people today speak of wanting to serve. It is deeply satisfying to see them choose nursing as a career path.
Not many professions offer such encounters with others at times when human contact, support, care and teaching can truly save or change a life.
Not many offer such a fascinating and dynamic arena for understanding human physiology and the many technological advances we see.
Not many offer the flexibility and variety of choices and directions that nurses offer.
Seeing young and new nurses enter the profession makes this 30-year nurse smile.
Congratulations to all new nursing graduates, and happy Nurses' Week to all nurses!
Joyce Dombrouski is a registered nurse and chief nursing officer at St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center. Margaret Sommers is a graduating nursing student from the Montana State University College of Nursing.