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.
New 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.
These 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: firstname.lastname@example.org