The Experienced Nurse in Role Transition

experienced nurseWith the growth of the Nursing Profession and the development of many expanded roles, nurses of the 21st Century make frequent career moves. Some experienced nurses find themselves in lateral transfers by the administration within the same organization they serve while others take new positions in either the same organization or a completely new company. Orientation needs and resocialization then arise.

What is resocialization? This happens when we are forced to learn new skills, knowledge, and attitudes as well as new sets of rules and policies as a result of the change in type of work with resulting new scopes of responsibilities. Who needs this resocialization? Most often new graduates who just obtained their license as a registered nurse and entering work as staff nurse, experienced nurses who decide to change work settings, and those nurses who have new roles due to a promotion or lateral transfer need resocialization. Some of us adapt easily to resocialization, but within the adaptation process we may experience stress with role change.

A very hard role transition is that of changing position from expert to novice. One reason that is common why nurses today change careers is because the previous job is no longer challenging or the work environment is not anymore healthy for them. Other reason could be a promotion to an administrative role. The career change always means the need to assume a new learning role in a new work environment. It is a humbling experience for the expert nurse to begin all over again either in the same organization or in a different institution.

Whoever is given the task to orient the nurse in the role transition must be informed about the role strain that the new nurse is experiencing or will soon be experiencing. There must be a seminar for employees who are given the task to orient new nurses to the work environment. They should be sensitive to understand that transferred nurses or nurses getting into new roles who have lack of knowledge to the new area are not completely without any special expertise. If possible, the expertise they bring to the new company or the organization from their former work should be acknowledge and utilized.

Nurses who experience role strain may be transferred from the medical floor to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or from the Surgical ward to the Emergency Department or the Operating Room. Other nurses who have career shift from clinical setting to the community as public health nurse may also feel the need to change values and behaviors, adapt to the new environment and be familiar with the norms and expectations that come along with the new role. Some nurses may be coming from the academe as faculty and decide to go back to the clinical setting and find it stressful to relearn skills that have not been practiced for a long time. Some nurses may be transferring from one institution to another and find him/herself powerless during the role transition that can lead to frustration later on as they seek to resocialize into a different role.

It is therefore necessary to accommodate the needs of these nurses in their role transition and assist them in the resocialization process. Orientation program to the new position is obviously not the only way. Specific values and behaviors necessary for the new roles must be addressed. For example the values and attitudes expected in the Emergency Department are different from those expected in the occupational health setting. Companies must have leaders who take responsibility for shaping the values of new employees through emphasis of organizational values, philosophy, and teamwork. The managers’ role in this process is to provide support to new employees adopting new values as they give up former values from their previous organization or assigned department. Healthy value resocialization occurs with adequate management support. Formerly held values must not be belittled or taken negatively by the manager and other colleagues in the new area. The experienced nurse in the role transition must be ready to deal with all these issues and the nurse manager must empathize with the new nurse as he/she has experienced this as well when he/she first accepted the position. From expert nurse to a novice administrator or leader, all managers have been through the “unfamiliar” phase. Role transitions must not be taken negatively but a challenge in your ability to adapt and learn new values.

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Freslyn Lim

About Freslyn Lim

I am a Registered Nurse currently taking my PhD in Nursing. I earned my Masters in Nursing major in Nursing Administration in March 2011 and had my clinical experience as Staff Nurse in the ICU, Pediatrics and NICU. I am presently a nurse educator/clinical instructor.

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