Saturday, December 26, 2020
A graphic of office space with laptop

I have listened to some frustrated nurse residency coordinators and nurse leaders over the last few years. What are they frustrated about? They offer this amazing evidence-based residency program but their new graduate nurses are hesitant to engage. They hear things like, “I don’t understand ‘why’ I need this” or “I am too busy; I just don’t have time to do it!” How many times have you heard those excuses yourself?  

Are you familiar with the 1977 song ‘I want you to want me’? You know how it goes….’I want you to want me, I need you to need me, I’d love you to love me, I’m begging you to beg me.’ Okay, I apologize because now that song will be in your head for the rest of the day, but it does such a great job making my point. Do you ever feel like that is you as a residency coordinator? You hear new graduates are struggling with their confidence, want to feel competent, and want support, yet they don’t put in the work to engage in your program. If you can relate, know you are not alone.   

There are 6 assumptions of adult learning that if applied can help you as a nurse leader or residency coordinator overcome this challenge.   

1. Why  

Adults need to know why they need to learn something before they will ‘want’ to learn. New graduates need to know what is in it for them. What can they expect to get from putting the time and effort into this program? Why are they being asked to do this and why is it important? Make sure they understand the connection between what will be presented in your program and how engagement in the program will help in their current practice.    

2. Choices  

Adults have a self-concept of being responsible for their own decisions, for their own lives. They will resent and resist situations in which they feel others are imposing their wills on them. They might not have a choice on if they will be enrolled and complete the program but identify where you can give them choices and control while holding them accountable for their engagement.   

3. Past Learning Experiences  

Adults come into their first position as a nurse with a depth of experience in learning. These experiences shape their values, beliefs, and assumptions about learning and how learning should happen. They may not have done much learning online and are only familiar with traditional lecture-based learning or vice versa. Past experiences will impact their buy-in and engagement in learning. Spend time talking with new graduates about their experience with learning and highlight the benefits of your unique approach.  

4. Relevance  

Adults become ready to learn when what they’re learning is directly applicable to their everyday practice. Therefore, topics such as communication and time management are covered in the first few months of the program and the residency project doesn’t start until later. A new nurse is not ready to learn about quality improvement efforts before they even have their day-to-day routines figured out. Discuss how the information presented in the program will correspond with what is happening in their practice.   

5. Task-Centered  

Adults have a task-centered orientation to learning. They are motivated to learn to the extent to which they perceive that learning will help them immediately. Monthly check-ins with a mentor throughout this program are key to helping them not only apply what is being discussed in the program to their daily practice on the unit but also see how these directly relate to the current events on the unit. Ensure a structured and healthy relationship exists between the mentor and NGN.  

6. Motivation  

Adults are responsive to some external motivators such as better jobs, promotions, higher salaries, but the most potent motivators are internal such as self-esteem, quality of life, and increased job satisfaction. It does not work to motivate adults by telling them they are required to do something. New graduates will want to learn when they understand that learning will help them acquire a role or meet a goal. Your new graduates are probably already motivated; however, throughout each month be sure to help them see how this program is helping build their confidence, competence, and ultimately leading to higher job satisfaction or will help them to take that next step in their career.   

Your role as a nurse leader or residency coordinator is not to motivate the NGN to learn, but instead, reduce or remove obstacles to learning and enhance the process. Give choices while holding them accountable. Bring awareness to the need to know. Help connect program topics to the current events on the unit. Provide feedback and positive reinforcement. Promote feelings of adequacy, competence, and security.   

Knowles, M., Elwood, H., & Swanson, R. . (2005). The adult learner; The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Elsevier. 

Nicole Weathers, Program Manager, IONRP

& Lori Forneris, Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, IONRP