The Patronizing Hat

My manager approached me recently and asked if I would consider being a preceptor. My first reaction was, “YIKES! Really? Me? But I’m still new to this whole nursing thing myself.” But after thinking it through, I reminded myself, “You have been nursing for fours years now, you really aren’t that new any more.”

I knew that I eventually wanted to be a preceptor and mentor new graduates coming into the nursing profession. I wanted to be that one nurse who could inspire the next generation, the ‘go-to’ nurse that everyone felt comfortable talking to and asking questions… I guess I just didn’t picture it happening so soon!

Evidently, I did agree to be a preceptor, as I thought it would be a good learning opportunity not only for my student, but for me as well.

My student was fantastic! He was an eager and quick learner and our personalities matched perfectly. We established good communication right off the bat and would consistently try to be on the same page. We were open with each other in terms of our teaching and learning styles. My student would express his satisfaction (or dissatisfaction!) as to how I was teaching, so I could change my technique to accommodate his learning. Closer to the end of the preceptorship period, I started to give my student more room to grow and become independent. I was trying to teach him what it would be like once he graduated and didn’t have me there as a safety net. I began to have higher expectations of him since he was doing so well, and would give him increasingly challenging tasks to complete.

There was one instance where I quickly recognized how easy it is to put on the “patronizing hat”. I have heard so many stories from new graduates where seasoned nurses have “eaten their young” and instead of lifting them up and teaching them, the senior nurse kept them low to the ground, making them feel incompetent or inferior. Unfortunately, I had, in one instance, become one of those nurses. I had given my student a hard assignment, which he completed for the most part independently, but had missed a couple of things. I started to patronize him stating, “You should know this” and “it’s obvious what you are doing wrong.” At that moment, I felt powerful because I knew the answers and he didn’t; I had the knowledge and he didn’t; I was senior and he was junior. And just like that, I had become one of those nurses whom I had vowed never to be like, because I know what it feels like to not have the answers, not have the knowledge, and be junior.

I was so thankful that I recognized what I was doing, and I was able to quickly stop my thought process and apologize to my student. I saw that I was jeopardizing the learning environment by putting him on the spot with other nurses watching and judging, and that I was treating him disrespectfully in an uncalled for manner.

It is so surprising to me that having been a part of Nursing The Future for the past several years, and studying about horizontal violence (even having experiencing it myself!), that I got caught up in it, too. However, I think BECAUSE of these factors, I could easily recognize my actions and correct them appropriately before it got out of hand or disrupted my student’s learning.

As nurses, I believe we need to consistently reevaluate our practice, not only focusing on how to conduct our patient care, but also on our teaching technique; throughout our practice, we especially need to be weary of the horizontal violence that can so easily creep up on us.

Lindsey White
RN, BScN

Lindsey with a thank-you card from her student at the end of his preceptorship :)

 

 

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2 Responses to “The Patronizing Hat”

  1. Jenna says:

    I love this Lindsey! You’re patronizing hat made me laugh pretty hard.

    Thank you for sharing this story, and for recognizing the thought process in your head during that situation. So many others do not take the time to notice that what they are doing is harmful to the learning of students/new grads. If everyone could take time to step back and think about how they impact other nurses, I’m sure a lot of us have had this kind of moment and not even realized it.

  2. Jason says:

    Lindsey, you were one of the best teachers that I have had in my long and illustrious lifetime. The fact that you can reflect back on this incident shows that you have the insight of an amazing nurse! I really valued your tutelage, and look forward to being a peer of yours shortly (1 Feb!!!)

    J

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