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Can experienced nurses learn from newly qualified colleagues?

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10 January, 2013

Last week David Cameron announced that newly qualified nurses acting as “care makers” will go into hospitals and care homes to help promote nursing values. The voluntary role builds on the success of the “games makers” at last year’s London Olympics, who volunteered to make sure the games ran smoothly.

They will act as role models and ambassadors for the professional values set out in the new nursing strategy, Compassion in Nursing, which was published at the end of last year.

The story produced a large number of negative responses on our website which raised the issue of whether experienced nurses learn from junior staff?

Readers' comments (54)

  • We can all learn off each other, whether we've been nursing for decades or are new to the profession. Students regularly bring stuff from the classroom onto placement with them. Learning is a two way street.

    I saw the negative responses on the previous story, the attitudes in them hark back to the attitudes of nurses in days gone by, where everyone was expected to know their place. I found them quite bemusing to read, some of those who were so dismissive of these NQ nurses must be an absolute barrel of laughs to work with.

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  • one learns all day and every day of one's life and from every human encounter and different experiences. nurses learn from each other both new and old. newly qualified nurses bring the latest knowledge and techniques from their training as well as new ways of thinking. older nurses bring knowledge, tried and tested skills and experience. Learning from all other staff, colleagues, patients and relatives also takes place.

    However, here two different issues are being mixed: (1) whether older nurses can learn from junior staff and the answer is obviously yes they can; (2) the introduction of 'care makers' which many feel is not the most appropriate way of introducing new or different values to the work place. It can also be perceived as offensive or belittling as most experienced nurses, many of whom have long years of practice, already possess all the attributes considered to be those which make an excellent nursing professional.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 10-Jan-2013 7:35 pm

    well said. I missed the point of the hierarchical structure as i have never really conformed to it but agree now that you've mentioned it.

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  • Florence

    We are all learning. The day I feel Im not learning something is a day when I know I haven't opened my mind, eyes, ears and heart to what life has to offer.
    Im privilged to work with some very knowledgable, enthusiastic and caring newly qualified nurses.
    Im privilged to be a Preceptor. The Nurse who is my preceptee has helped me look at my practice and our clinical area with fresh eyes.
    Any well functioning team will have a good mix of experienced and newly qualified staff. We need to look at the attributes each member brings.

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  • Of course we can all learn from each other however !

    A small anecdot !

    I am a senior and very experienced A&E nurse. I was working in Triage with a realivly newly qualified collegue undergoing an orientation. All assesments undertaken by this nurse had to be approved and signed off by me.

    One patient seen by this nurse was complaing of severe bi lateral leg pain. Her assessment of this patient failed to credit any ungency to his condition. She had failed to notice the patient had no pedal or popliteal pulses (and was unaware of how to palpate the Posterior Tibial Artery) failed to note his legs were white and the his toes had no capillary refill.

    The nurse had no idea what a saddle embolis was or that unless ungently treated this patient could lose both legs !

    Whilst I am willing to discuss/debate issues with NQN THEY must realise that having just qualified signals the beginning of the learning process ---- not the end !

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jan-2013 4:38 am

    thank goodness for the sake of the patients there is a safety valve of an experienced nurse as yourself checking and signing off. such cases may well, and do, escape attention. I hope this system of checking happens everywhere, but I fear it does not.
    there should be consistency in nursing standards right across the country in order to avoid such disasters as could have occurred with this patient, and in a hospital where he had entrusted himself to care.

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  • anon 4.38 - have any of your more experienced nurses (yourself included) or doctors ever missed anything or misdiagnosed a patient?

    we all learn from each other.

    not all nurses need to have the 6c or the 4e pointed out to them, we already do an excellent job.

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  • The day you don't learn from junior or senior colleagues is the day to give up and spend more time in the garden.

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  • Matilda McCrrimmon

    I am always willing to learn in any way,from anyone who can enhance my practise ,however I feel that newly qualified nurses have enough responsibility and enough new learning to be made to feel that it is a major part of their role. Voluntary role? In their own unpaid time? In the area they work ? i don't see many having the time or inclination. Unless due to cuts they do not get jobs.

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  • Yes But

    Anonymous | 11-Jan-2013 4:38 am

    Good post. I think that post pretty-much covers it all.

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jan-2013 10:33 am

    gardens can also teach you a lot, especially those who open minded

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jan-2013 10:33 am

    gardens can also teach you a lot, especially those who are open minded

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  • Yes But - why do you think that was a good post? do you know why this NQs experience was singled out? As the later post asked have you every missed anything or misdiagnosed a patient yourself?

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  • I haven't got a garden, is that a euphanism (think I've spelt that wrong) for retiring?

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  • anon 4.38

    I guess everyone concerned should be grateful that there was an experienced nurse on duty.

    All too often nowadays nurses (newbies and oldies) are sent to work in areas they are not familiar with, have little knowledge of, have no support available and are generally left to get on with it as best they can in the knowledge that they will be the only person blamed when something goes wrong.

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jan-2013 12:00 pm

    not at all and no offence intended. it was just an innocent comment in response to yours as gardens are very rich and rewarding learning environments to those prepared to open their minds to them but then the same applies to any environment in our rich world even the NHS and even eventually retirement!

    going off at a tangent, gardens have been found invaluable for teaching young children all sorts of skills and personal values, for therapy for people with mental health problems, and of course for the elderly they speak for themselves. maybe it is something which should be encouraged far more. growing vegies and fruit might help the economy too, or at least family or institutional budgets.

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  • michael stone

    I was discussing what he has published about CPR decision making with a Palliative Medicine Consultant for a few weeks before the Hols, and his first post-hols e-mail explained that he is going to retire soon, and he plans to take a long holiday before he retires, so this rather interesting exchange has ended.

    But I asked him, about something he said in that ‘I’m retiring soon e-mail’, and he replied with this (relevant to this NT discussion):

    ‘When I switched to palliative care many years ago I did so to the annoyance of my trainers who told me there was little to learn from palliative care. Thirty five years on I am still learning which either means there was a lot more to palliative care, or I am a very slow learner.

    I’ll let others decide which.......’

    And the Civil Servant in the discussion group chipped in with:

    ‘If you show me someone who claims to know everything there is to know about end of life care from everyone's perspective, I will show you someone labouring under a delusion.’

    One point about ‘learning new things’, is that often someone from a different discipline will ‘look at the problem differently’ – that can provide ‘another way in’, and further understanding can be imparted by people whose perspective differs from yours, so it isn’t simply a matter of ‘expertise’.

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  • "... so it isn’t simply a matter of ‘expertise’."
    M Stone

    I would imagine experts would even claim it was!

    (rest of the quote in the post above - last para).

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  • from Anonymous | 11-Jan-2013 12:40 pm

    comment above should have read

    'I would imagine experts would not even claim it was!'

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  • Ellen Watters

    I am an experienced nurse and have worked in a variety of areas from trauma theatre to oncology. #

    I recently became a first aider for St Andrews ambulance and this made me realise that I still have much to learn. For all my years of nursing I now realise that those 'first on the scene' can make a huge difference to the outcome of a casualty. It's important to be open minded and accept that we never ever know it all.


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