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Nurses as teachers?

Registered Nurse Code of Conduct

Principle 5 - “Nurses commit to teaching, supervising and assessing students and other nurses in order to develop the nursing workforce across all contexts of practice.”

How many nurses, who have been tasked with a student to teach at any point (some almost every day really) actually know how to do this teaching and assessing? How many nurses are given any support, training, guidance or processes for working with students? When a student is placed under your supervision, aside from knowing everything they do is your responsibility, do you know what it is you expect from them? What they expect from you? How to go about whatever it is that is needed for them? How do you manage teaching, supervising, assessing and all your usual workload with your patients?

Nurses are rarely taught to teach without actively seeking out such information and training for themselves. Universities and training organisations rarely provide consistent and comprehensive guidance as to what the rules are for their students or what is required of you as a nurse to help their students over the line. And healthcare facilities sometimes have preceptor training or similar, but in my observed experience and based on research, this is often at the bottom of the pile after a plethora of clinical skills training, and is never mandatory - this training is for those who seek it out because they want to be able to work more effectively with students.

I believe this is where we let down our nursing students, and our healthcare system, where nurses make up the vast majority of staff. Nursing attrition is as high as 57% in the first two years. This is compounded by the lack of experienced RN’s, an aging workforce, and increased demand for nurses. This all impacts negatively on the overall nursing culture, job satisfaction and patient outcomes. This can then in turn lead to further attrition of nurses due to stress, burnout and dissatisfaction, and so the cycle continues. This issue also costs money in training, recruitment and other associated costs with staff turnover, and those financial implication also impacts staffing levels and patient care outcomes due to reduced funding in these areas - another vicious cycle.

I truly believe that investing in our nurses ability to effectively work with and teach student nurses in the clinical space will help better prepare our student nurses for the workforce while retaining existing nurses. Students will feel more welcome and supported, and have better experiences on placements. Nurses will feel less stressed at working with students as they will be prepared and have systems and support. Many facilities have student nurses year round. They do not get a break from them any more than they get a break from patients. So why are we not preparing nurses to work with students the same as we prepare them to work with patients?

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