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Five things your mentor never told you


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If you’re lucky, your mentor will be both a source of information and inspiration. But even the best nurses sometimes leave out what you really wish you’d known on your first months on the job.

Here, a reminder that sometimes the lessons we learn can come much, much later.

1) You won’t know when you are in the “Good Ol’ Days”

I remember the perfect lunch breaks. But I didn’t know they were perfect when I was in the midst of them. My favorite people were there and we had an hour to tell stories and laugh and laugh and laugh. The lunch hour flew by; it was never enough.

Then our hour breaks got cut down to 45 minutes. One nurse moved away to another state, one moved a few hours away, a couple transferred to different shifts so they took their breaks at different times, and well, it just became a different environment altogether. But I never knew we were in the midst of the good ol’ days until, well, they were gone.

2) It never gets easier, just more complicated.

You think when you are off of orientation, you are officially a grown-up RN. You have succeeded. You know it all. And then you realize, the more you know, the more you are expected to know, and just when you know what you know AND what you are expected to know…they change the equipment, the policy, the computer system, the patient care, the physical layout of the department, and it goes on and on.

3) You’ll never stop crying.

Either from laughing or from the realization that you are one sick and crazy person to voluntarily come to work to deal with the routine, daily shenanigans of working in a hospital. Sometimes you actually cry because you are frustrated or sad or just having a bad day…but I find most my tears come from being on the brink of occupational insanity.

4) Life isn’t fair.

You will watch young people get sick and die and evil and mean people come back from a cardiac arrest totally intact. You will watch nice nurses get beat up on by cantankerous physicians, you will see completely incompetent nurses get promoted, you will experience the squeaky wheel getting the grease.

5) One day, you will be the mentor.

I still remember the day that I looked around and realized that I had the most experience in the department at that time. Not that I had the most experience in the department, I only had it at that given time. That means everyone is going to look to me when the code brown hits the fan. I started to panic, at first a little, then a whole lot. But I just took a deep breath and remembered, that I was taught pretty darn well by my mentor; even though he forgot to tell me a few things.

Rebekah Child
Rebekah Child attended the University of Southern California for her bachelor's in nursing and decided to brave the academic waters and return for her master's in nursing education, graduating in 2003 from Mount St. Mary's. Rebekah has also taught nursing clinical and theory at numerous Southern California nursing schools and has been an emergency nurse since 2002. She is currently one of the clinical educators for an emergency department in Southern California and a student (again!) in the doctoral program at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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