An Open Letter to (Some) Nursing Education Faculty

Dear Nursing Faculty Around The World:

First, I’d like to thank you for devoting your time to advancing the nursing profession and passing along your knowledge to the next generation of nurses. You probably don’t get much public recognition for the work you do. I wish you did. Maybe that will change (read on).

In scanning around web, I’ve noticed lately that many nursing students are frustrated, disappointed and angry with the way they are treated in nursing school. If you honestly care about the future of the nursing profession, then you aught to determine if there’s anything you need to change about your approach.

I attended an accelerated program and my peers already had bachelors degrees. I am grateful for what the teachers did for my education. I detested most of the ridiculous and outdated approaches some of the faculty embraced, but I got what I wanted out of the whole experience. I am grateful for what the faculty did for me.

But I also had the chance back then to observe some of the behaviors of the nursing instructors. Frankly, I was disappointed in what I witnessed. The way some clinical instructors behaved toward their students was inappropriate, abusive and counterproductive. Nursing schools are going to have to put an end to these behaviors.

Having spent a few years in bedside nursing, I realized that the health care profession seems to have a higher proportion of unhealthy and harmful personalities. Most of the profession is composed of remarkable people. The bad apples, though, are spoiling the entire industry.

I suspect that the intra-professional abuse that happens stems from the need to take patient care seriously. It should be serious business: life is at stake. Using that premise as a pretext for displacing anger has no place in the health care setting. It’s dangerous: life is at stake. Berating your students or peers does nothing to help patients.

So to those of you who might be abusing your students: stop it. For those of who run nursing education facilities: do your part to stop the emotional violence. We’re losing the war in nursing and physician recruitment. In an age when one person can reach millions within minutes, you no longer can turn a blind eye to the problem.

Please think about the impact your behavior has on nursing students. If you were mistreated by crotchety nurses during your education, please don’t replicate that misfortune on people who don’t deserve it. If you do that then you are ruining the most important profession in the world.

Here are some practical tips for being a better nursing instructor:

  1. Understand that making mistakes is essential in learning well
  2. Appreciate your students’ inexperience
  3. Accept the diversity of your audience
  4. Never humiliate your students
  5. Lead your students as if they were the last hope for the profession
  6. Find a good therapist
  7. Don’t take it all so seriously
  8. Know the difference between constructive feedback and destructive emotionalism
  9. Learn to turn the most difficult students into remarkable opportunities for education innovation
  10. Elicit the help of your peers and school leadership during difficult times

We don’t have much time left to rescue the health care industry from the its eventual demise. Word is now getting out about how nurses and nursing students are treated. Bad news travels so much faster than good news.

If you don’t ensure that nursing school is a safe, effective and remarkable environment to cultivate, socialize and encourage the best and brightest minds to enter the nursing profession, history will hate you.

It’s no longer the 20th Century. Mass communication is giving way to mass connection. Nurses, and nursing students, are growing networks, establishing on-line presences and constructing novel ways to distribute ideas around the world. It’s becoming harder to conceal long-silenced wrong-doing in institutions.

Think about what I’m telling you. I love our profession, but I’m disappointed in how some people in this industry can treat each other. Nursing school is a large part of the problems we now face. You are at the center of something that could be remarkable. Please don’t rip out your place in history.

It’s your choice: continue an archaic cycle of abuse or create a remarkable future for the health care of every child, woman and man on the planet.


Phil Baumann, RN BSN (whatever that means)

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