Regis Professor Recruiting New Nurses with Learning Disabilities for Research Project re: Transition into Practice

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by Michelle Colleran Cook, MS, RN, Assistant Professor, Regis College

Ask any nurse what it was like to move from the role of a student to that of a new nurse and I bet you’ll get an earful.

stressed womanNew nurses begin their careers excited, enthusiastic, and idealistic.  Expecting to be received as knowledgeable newcomers, prepared to make a difference in the lives of their patients, studies have shown they are quickly disillusioned.  The amount of information a new nurse must process causes the transition period to be overwhelming and extremely stressful.

Now, imagine transitioning as a new nurse with a learning disability.

For years I have had nursing students with learning disabilities and have learned as much from them, as hopefully they have from me.  Students with learning disabilities are cautious practitioners.  They check and re-check their work to ensure accuracy and are very good at communicating with other members of the health care team. How I have wished all students did that!

But what happens to them when they graduate and begin to practice?  Transition is tough.  The need to be accepted as a capable peer is key for a successful transition.  Are the creative strategies they developed as students helping them now that they are new nurses?

As more learning-disabled nurses enter the workforce, institutions will need to prepare for this increasing demographic.  It costs a lot for a health care organization to orient a new nurse. At a time when institutions are seeing a decline in reimbursement, few organizations can afford to loose this valuable human resource.

stressed out rnThese are just a few reasons why I am interested in this group of nurses who are often hidden among us.  The tenacity and hard work they have displayed to complete their nursing program, coupled with the sensitivity they bring to their patients by being “different”, is impressive.

If you are a new nurse with a learning disability or if you know someone who is, please email me for more information:

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5 Responses to Regis Professor Recruiting New Nurses with Learning Disabilities for Research Project re: Transition into Practice

  1. GL says:

    I was a nurse with learning disabilities and never knew I had learning disabilities until years later. I went through school and college and couldn’t focus on the textbooks. I took excellent notes and remembered what the professors said. I just figured, well, the other students were smarter than I was.
    When I started working, 29 years ago, orientation was 8 weeks, this was in a big hospital in NYC. I had a hard time getting organized. I had an excellent preceptor who showed me how to get organized very easy via a list format and columns on one sheet of paper. After that, it was very easy.
    Otherwise I have to say, work was easier than school 🙂 Maybe it was because of the learning disabilities because I was a “visual learner.” I learned quickly on the job because of being a “visual learner.”
    Im not sure how it works now, I haven’t been active in the profession, but I think there should be preceptors that are trained to be just that- preceptors, to be able to identify the strengths and the weaknesses of each of the new nurses and help them in that area. It would would be a plus in the staff retention area and make the transition much easier.

    • Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

      I agree, GL. I’m glad you had such a positive preceptor experience! What made it work so well?

      I’m getting ready to do a full day workshop for a group of preceptors at a large teaching hospital on giving and receiving constructive feedback. When done kindly and helpfully, even when hard, these kinds of conversations can make a world of difference.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am eager to read the results of this study. I shared your call for participants on and will share this blog post as well. Good luck!! Donna Maheady

  3. Excellent Study – I would think that this can also give nurse educators insight regarding nurses with learning disabilities and how their nursing education was … Do these new nurses feel that they received reasonable accommodations during their education ?
    Looking forward to reading this Study
    Pat McCauley

What are your thoughts?