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How can I create a healthy environment for nursing students?

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It can be difficult on busy units to ensure nursing students do not feel like they are an imposition and a hindrance to the nurses, nurse managers, and charge nurses. Here are some best practices to consider to set expectations for both nurses and students, and should help provide a supportive atmosphere for the nursing students:

  • Establish a relationship and expectations: A good relationship with the manager or charge nurse on the unit helps establish a good student experience.
  • Educate the students: Provide a list of tips to the students outlining important information to help them have a great nursing experience. Inform them to try to avoid change of shift for data collection, to feel free to ask the charge nurse for help if their nurse is too busy (rather than asking other nurses.)
  • Educate all staff members: Remind staff to demonstrate that the new nursing students and grads are not walking into the same world that current nurses found when they started.
  • Hold an annual roundtable: Include managers from the hospital and instructors that have clinical rotations. With nurses scattered throughout the hospital, an event that brings all parties together for the purpose of validating, connecting, and imparting the values of that institution is prudent.
  • Revise the curriculum: Education must address the culture and social construct of nursing. There should not be any "surprises" when the new nurses hit the floor. An in-depth understanding of horizontal hostility will enable students not only to handle difficult situations but also to be catalysts for change.
  • Debrief, debrief, debrief: Make this a priority every day, not just at the end of the student's experience. Debriefing should occur at every level— with the nurse, the manager, and the instructor.

Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, RC, MN

(September 2009)