Part Time Work? Not for New Grads
Part time work is not a good idea for new nursing school grads. A lot of new nurses think part time work hours sound nice, and it does create an opportunity for great work-life balance – but the new registered nurse will be missing out on growing the clinical skills needed to propel his career to the next level. Novice nurses need time at the bedside to learn how to be a nurse.
Think about this. An FTE is a “full time equivalent”. 1.0 is full time or 40 hours per week. (Each 0.1 is equal to 4 hours). Working a 0.6 FTE as a new nurse is a big mistake because frequent, consecutive practice is as vital to a new RN’s performance as it is to an athlete’s performance. How quickly would a new quarterback improve if he only practiced 2 days per week? Nursing is a practice and the new RN must practice with enough frequency to hard wire those new nursing skills.
Science is at work here. More specifically, anatomy and physiology. The brain lays down myelin along neural pathways during practice. Myelin is greased-lightning for nerve pathways. It allows nerve impulses to travel faster, much faster. The time the new RN spends thinking about what to do next as nerve impulses slowly plod down unmyelinated highways, with time and practice, becomes the split-second decision and life-saving actions of the practiced RN whose neural pathways are well-paved with “myelin-grease”. The more one practices a skill the stronger that neural pathway becomes.
If the new RN works three 8-hour shifts a week followed by 4 days off, half of what she learned in those three days has to be relearned the next week because those neural pathways have not been myelinated yet. Working two 12-hour shifts is even worse. Too much time off in-between practice before that myelin is laid allows the practice to fade. Time off between practice for a seasoned nurse isn’t as detrimental because those neural pathways were paved long ago.
We often hear seasoned nurses lament stepping away from the bedside for fear of “losing their skills”. The reality is that those skills, once learned, come back quickly for the seasoned RN. I suspect it is because of the myelin that was laid early in the nursing career. The bottom line is that part time work may be alluring, but if you want to learn to be a great nurse, leave the 0.6 FTE for experienced nurses only.