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March 2010, Volume 40 Number 3 , p 51 - 52


  • Judy Crotty MSN, RN


REFLECT ON your clinical experiences in nursing school. What do you remember about the staff nurses? Were they helpful, supportive, and encouraging? How did they help you learn to be the nurse you are today?As a staff nurse, you may have opportunities to work with nursing students and influence the next generation of nurses. You'll be viewed as an expert and a role model. This article addresses basic tools you can use when you interact with students, such as respect, dialogue, and experience.Regardless of age, gender, and personality type, all nursing students are adults. Malcolm Knowles, a renowned educator and researcher, found that teaching adults is different from teaching children. He named the process andragogy: the "art and science of helping adults learn."1 Respect for learners is one of its principles. Speaking to learners respectfully and treating them with collegiality forms the basis for an effective learning situation.Nursing has had the unfortunate reputation for "eating our young"; in other words, being unkind or destructive to new nurses or nursing students. This "unkindness" can take many forms, including belittling, unwarranted criticizing, and blaming. Some behaviors interpreted by students as unkind or disrespectful are eye rolling, heavy sighing, and using a dismissive or impatient tone of voice.This practice, often called incivility or horizontal violence, has been researched in nursing for 2 decades. Many theories about why it occurs have been formulated. One theory is that nurses, being mostly female, are oppressed. Believing they're powerless against their oppressors, they strike out at one another out of frustration.2Other theories include grief burnout or compassion burnout, which occurs when nurses have extended themselves for patients to the point of emotional exhaustion.3 When dealing with coworkers or students, they may express this exhaustion as verbal abuse.Past role models can also lead some nurses to treat students disrespectfully—nurses

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