Like all parts of life, there will be times on placement that you experience personality clashes. These can be tricky to navigate as a student because you are trying to make a good impression and be eager to learn.
Unfortunately, sometimes there are buddy nurses you will be allocated to who meet your enthusiasm with resistance and take a bit of time to warm up. You must manage this carefully because you may be allocated to this buddy for a few weeks and your placement will be much more enjoyable (and significantly less stressful) if you are able to build a trusting relationship with your buddy nurses. Remember it is a requirement of registration that nurses must teach and supervise students, so it is not asking too much of them to be your buddy for a shift.
I’ve been lucky to have some incredible buddy nurses who involved me in the team and embraced the opportunity to teach. Thankfully, the buddies who are less enthusiastic about having a student are much less common. I’ve still tried to make the most of those shifts – if anything, they’ve taught me what not to do when I’m a nurse and supervising students!
Here are some helpful tips for navigating these complicated personality clashes:
1. Find the nurses who like having students
Give yourself a few days on any ward and you will quickly learn who to go to with questions. I’ve found if I have a question that might seem silly (although there is no such thing as a silly question) that graduate nurses can be a good resource. They are the closest thing to a student so are usually pretty happy to help.
Within a couple of shifts, you will be able to recognise which nurses enjoy having students and which ones are the best teachers. If you can, try to be paired with them at the beginning of the shift.
2. Pick your battles
This comes down to safety, if you feel a nurse is nit-picking your technique just go with the flow. Understand why they do things a different way and approach the interaction with an open mind and be open to learning. If the nurse is instructing you to do something that is not safe or you feel could harm a patient – that is when to speak up, in a professional way of course.
3. Be open to learning new ways
This follows on from picking your battles. Remember that most of the time, if a nurse is doing something a particular way, there is probably a reason. Approach the interaction with an open mind you might just learn some helpful tips.
4. Advocate for yourself
Remember, you are on placement to learn and practice skills. Occasionally you might feel like you are being treated as an extra pair of hands. A classic example is your buddy telling you to go and help the other nurses by showering their patients after you’ve helped your own, meaning you miss out on delivering the care you had planned for your own patient load.
Nursing is about teamwork and there is absolutely a place for helping each other but if you consistently aren’t being involved in learning opportunities, consider speaking up. Try having a conversation with your buddy or clinical educator. Setting goals and voicing them at the start of each shift will help here (e.g. I would like to practice taking bloods today, I would like to change a complex dressing).
5. Be kind to your buddy nurses
Buddy nurses often don’t have a lot of teaching experience and you have to remember they chose to be a nurse, not a teacher. Not everyone is a natural teacher so it might take you a few shifts of working together to get into the groove and find a routine.
Also, keep in mind that having a student doesn’t mean the buddy has any less work to do – they don’t get any concession in workload when they have a student and still need to care for a full patient load. They are trying their best.
6. Always thank your buddy at the end of the shift
It is basic manners. Always take a minute to thank the buddy for taking you under their wing at the end of a shift. Even if you’ve had a hard shift and not clicked straight away, you could end up being paired together again tomorrow and you catch a lot more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. A smile and a sincere thank you will go a long way.
Hayley Pollock MACN is a final year Bachelor of Nursing student from Melbourne and an Australian College of Nursing (ACN) Emerging Nurse Leader (ENL). Hayley reflects on her experiences of clinical placement and time as an undergraduate nursing student, sharing her lessons learnt, as she prepares to commence her graduate year. You can read all of her NurseClick articles here.