Linda Lindeke is the 2014 recipient of the Loretta C. Ford Distinguished Fellow Award, which is given to recognize member contributions to expand or improve pediatric healthcare and advance the profession of pediatric nurse practitioners at the local community, state or regional level. She is a long-time preceptor, widely published researcher and outstanding nurse leader.
My personal heroes are the PNPs who precept students and who mentor their colleagues! This is especially the case for primary care PNP preceptors with workdays of short appointments, crowded physical spaces, increasingly complex patient care and elaborate electronic health records! I have long wished there were more effective ways to reward the generous, patient PNPs preceptors who welcome learners and less experienced colleagues to work beside them through those nerve-wracking “first times” that we all remember so well. So, those of you reading this who are preceptors and mentors….you are indeed my heroes!
If you are not yet a preceptor or mentor, you should definitely consider doing it! The standard answer is that nurses have a professional obligation to “give back” in return for the advantages that they have received. True, of course, and this is an excellent reason for precepting and mentoring future practitioners and leaders in nursing.
But an even more compelling reason is this: Your own life and practice will be enriched beyond what you can imagine. Mentoring and precepting involve thinking out loud to explain why and how you should do something, and breaking tasks and ideas down into their component parts. You will receive new information and insights that will change practice. The freshness and questions of learners expand your thinking and keep you at “the cutting edge.” And you will develop patience as you guide your students from stage to stage in the art and science of what often becomes intuitive practice over time.
Need another reason? Celebrations! New beginnings and joyous endings bring a real sense of mutual accomplishment for both parties. For example, we fell a sense of pride when learners master looking in toddlers’ ears, when they come up with a complex plan of care and when they reach the end of a rotation. Effective preceptors and mentors help build a stronger workforce. They instill optimism and realism, and they guide others within relationships that sometimes go on for years.
The following is from an article I wrote with two of my graduate student advisees, years ago. We enjoyed creating six images, of ways experts guide learners, tongue-in-cheek metaphors that describe preceptor and mentor roles:
Perhaps these images will lure some of you to take the plunge to be a mentor and preceptor. Students have been the second-best part of my career (yes, the children and families I work with are the BEST part of my career!). I urge all PNPs who haven’t tried precepting and mentoring to call the nearest program and volunteer in small or large ways. You will get back more than you give. Few things in life are more satisfying than helping others grow.
The only way to be a researcher and author is to do it! Many nurses tell me they would LOVE to do research, go back to school or write “if only….” And they then describe a varying list of reasons as to why it just isn’t the right time for them …YET! Well, in my experience there is never a “right time.”
A key to being a scholar is curiosity, wondering why, how, when, or could something be better. Nurture that curiosity in yourself and in others. Beyond curiosity, a second ingredient is colleagues. Finding one or more lively colleagues to talk, walk, work and write with is an immense gift and treasure. My list of co-authors includes undergraduate students, staff members, advisees, coworkers and even distant experts who worked with me electronically over great distances. Each one taught me something, and the sense of not wanting to let others down kept my work moving forward during the low points.
Writing is a discipline. No one’s ideas come onto the page or screen fully formed or beautifully-crafted. For me, writing is both a mental and a physical process. I “write in my head” while driving, walking or talking with others. The trick is to capture those ideas quickly and then to nurture them patiently, eventually developing them into projects and publications. Publishing requires having something you think others could benefit from knowing, and then creating the message through an article, video, or learning module to fit that audience. Writing for the Journal of Pediatric Health Care is a delight because I have a sense of who the readers are and how they think. And of course, having skilled editors and reviewers is central to successful publications. The Journal of Pediatric Health Care is outstanding in how it works with authors, both new and experienced.
Finally, revise, rethink, resubmit and push on! Don’t become married to your ideas or words to the extent you cannot see ways to improve them. These days I spend a lot of time finding simpler words, making shorter sentences and being more direct in my writing. Articles I wrote years ago seem wordy and convoluted when I re-read them now. So, my last bit of advice is to keep it simple, not conceptually, but in your writing style. Seek advice, accept rejection and learn from every effort.
Don’t wait -- start today! Being a nursing scholar takes confidence, time and energy, and it begins by putting words on the page. There is no better time than this moment. And you have every opportunity to improve your writing. The key is to keep practicing.
I have personally lived through immense change in nursing and in health care during my career. I entered nursing in 1966 as a diploma-program student in a multi-piece starched uniform, complete with cap and cape. I have never had a dull day, nor two days the same, the rate of change is so rapid! My clinical practice is with infants who have survived prematurity and neonatal illness. No field changes faster than neonatal care.
We PNPs have an advantage when it comes to dealing with change and conflict. We understand human development and are skilled in reading and responding to behavioral cues in developmentally appropriate ways. We know that the displayed behavior may be quite different from the intent, and we witness the growth and maturation of individuals over time. All these concepts and skills from our PNP education help us to participate in, lead and welcome change.
My time as a leader of NAPNAP attests to these concepts. By taking on the challenge of holding a national office, I was mentored, trained, tested and not infrequently humbled. I believe in compromise at times, and in incremental changes at other times. And with a solid rationale, I believe in building a coalition of the willing, moving forward with the early adopters and bringing along reluctant participants in the long-haul. Building one’s ideas on the best thinking and best evidence is of course the foundation of change.
In terms of role models, we PNPs could not have asked for a better one than Dr. Loretta Ford, who has graciously attended so many of our national and regional events. Well into her 90s, she continues to travel, write and give interviews, and her humor and energy continue to astound and inspire.
Learn more about NAPNAP Award Opportunities.