For anyone who’s been through nursing school, you’ve probably heard of Patricia Benner. She’s about as close to a nursing guru as you can get, I think. Which is to say, she’s a seminal practitioner, scholar, and teacher within the world of nursing. You can’t walk two steps in nursing school without bumping into her work somehow. Truthfully, there may be, from time to time, some eye-rolling that happens when yet another Benner paper is referenced in class. But I digress.
On the very first day, our faculty introduced us to Benner’s novice to expert theory. Basically, she identified five stages of nursing formation: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert. This sounds really, really basic and yet at the same time, when it was published, it was revolutionary. What make this paper so groundbreaking was the way in which she made visible the often invisible ways in which expert nurses “intuitively” know and practice.
As a novice nurse, I see this all the time. I walk in the room with my preceptor and in two seconds, she’s already assessed, interpreted, prioritized, is starting to act, and is reflecting and evaluating as she goes. She doesn’t do this linearly, it just happens. I, on the other hand, feel like I have to walk through every freaking line of the Adult Assessment doc flowsheet on Epic to make sure I’m not forgetting something.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not an extraordinarily patient person. In fact, the only people who ever have commented on how calm and patient I am were my former doula clients. Everyone else falls over laughing at the very idea that I could be patient. So no surprise that fumbling my way through the rather ungraceful stage of being a nursing student is sometimes excruciating for me. Just get me to the expert stage, please!
I can start to see little glimmers of how it might feel to just walk in a room and know where to start…how I might slowly ease into that place when I can competently (can we aspire for gracefully?) multi-task my assessment to minimize disruption to my patients.