I am a Clinical Nurse Educator. Most people outside of healthcare hear that and assume I am some kind of teacher for nurses. Fair enough: at times I am. But I don’t teach in a school. I teach in a clinical setting: I work for a hospital. I am not focused on training people to become a nurse. By the time I meet someone in my role they are already a nurse. They know how to care for and assess patients. They don’t need me to critique their practice. I help them understand their job role when they first start a job and then support them in learning any changes their role may experience after that. Sounds so much easier than it really is.
Want to hear what I spend most of my time doing? Talking to people. I talk to managers so that they can give me updates on changes in the wards. I talk to staff members to find out what’s going well or badly in their job. I talk to C-suite (CEO, CFO, CMO, etc.) executives to tell them what staff and managers need educational support with and ask them for money. After I’ve used that money, I keep meeting with everyone to explain how the money was spent and quantify that all the work I’ve done made an impact.
Somewhere in between meetings and the conversations, I get time to plan sessions for training. Other times I find specialists to provide training that I cannot: it’s not about me being the teacher all the time. It’s about knowing my staff and giving them what they need. It takes planning and research and taking chances. There aren’t nice and easy templates for what I do. It involves a lot of figure-it-out-as-you-go and requires adaptability and resilience. In all honesty, I probably spend a grand total of 10 days per year in a classroom teaching.
But the feedback I get from staff (nurses and managers) constantly? That I am not available enough for them and they don’t know what I do. They expect that I am there for their personal disposal at all times. And that I teach and teach constantly. Some managers even think my job should be to act as some kind of Catholic nun that catches you doing your job wrong and brings you to them for punishment. I can tell them over and over what I am doing to their face, in newsletters and on posters, but it never seems to be enough.
What don’t they see? In all the talking, people are telling me the things they are frustrated with, don’t understand, and what isn’t going well in their jobs. And if they are talking to me about it, it’s because they don’t know how to make it better. It is my job to help them make it better. I am a nurse: the hospital staff are now my patients.
I spend countless hours gathering information so that I can get to the root of our problems. When I identify the problem, I find a way to fix it and I work with staff to help them fix it. And, after training is complete, I trend the problem to see if it gets fixed or if we need to do more training or change our training. But there is never just one problem. And multiple wards I work with. And only one of me.
What don’t they see? My sleepless nights. My panic attacks in traffic. My hours in the office on weekends and overnight (less distraction that way). Me venting frustrations in kickboxing class. Or crying in yoga. I keep that from them because they are already stressed. They don’t need to worry about me. They see me when I have answers, when I can be supportive. The person they expect me to be. Need me to be.
Sometimes my schedule just doesn’t align with theirs.