We all have heard about the new nurse, the novice nurse, and one of my favorites- the “green” nurse. The stories, the tales and the folk lore that make its way into “New Nurse” legends. During Covid, the starter nurse was plucked up and thrown into the harsh real world quickly. Today’s amateur nurse is much wiser than generations back, full of sage advice from their elders and a true understanding the value of self-care, empowerment, and limit setting.
I marvel at the new nurse, full of unlimited courage I never had, a voice I still largely lack, and an impeccable skill of detachment. I say this with a curiosity and a fondness that I would admire similarly to a graceful ballerina. I stand in awe that we are both humans sharing space in this world, but so profoundly different.
The new nurse may lack the knowledge of how to obtain a manual blood pressure or know the pain of trying to decipher a physician’s handwritten orders. However, in its place the new nurse is tech savvy, a computer aficionado, and a genius of short cuts. These fierce newbies fully embrace “work smarter, not harder” motto. Like a rocket ship careening the milky way, they have their eyes set on career development, climbing the ranks of academia while traveling the world. These new nurses embody energy, enthusiasm, and patience, not settling nor compromising.
I remember in my early days, I looked with pity at the older nurses as they shuffled by-clinging onto their med cart/ walker. Their faded white and starched uniforms complete with itchy nurse mates opaque hose made a swooshing sing song noise. If those uniforms could speak, despair is what you would hear. Oh- and yes, the cap- do not disrespect the nurse’s hat. I have fond memories of it getting entangled in traction, as my mound of hair-sprayed youthful curls challenged its integrity. Oh- my sweet young nurses, you will never know the misery.
The aging RN…. what station can I secure within this healthcare paradigm? In this hierarchy- what place do I hold? Do you look at me with the same inquisitiveness? As I try to find my standing in this new ecosystem, the same world where I once was the youngest-what value do I add? Young nurse- there are many times we are competitors gunning for the same opportunity. I always thought I had the upper hand. An alphabet full of credentials, experience, and a toolbox full of mastery savoir-faire.
What I have learned over the past couple years is “green” is gold. Seasoned equals problematic and challenging, proficient translates to expensive. Future employers, recruiters-look in your crystal ball and tell me what you see as my future? Do you want my 30 years of knowledge, or do you seek an echo chamber? I have so much to offer, so much left in my heart to help.
As I confront a crossroads in my third decade of this career-I want to know I participated in positive change, I made a difference, I made an impact. I have yet to find my purpose. I once said in an interview- “I may lack the skills, but I have the heart.” Shame on you, young Brooke. That job put all my skills to the test, tormented my soul and chucked my heart out on the curb.
So, I come back to the crux of this discussion-how do we bridge our worlds with new and aging? Where does my expertise and wealth of knowledge fit into the new modern sleek world of nursing? So much discussion on the new nurse-but very little exists on the senior nurse. Trying to remain current and relevant in a world that is rapidly changing remains to be my challenge as I negotiate my way as the aging RN.