Leaving the room, Lincoln shut the door behind her. “The unit was a madhouse,” she says. “I went with her to her patient. And then on to the next thing. Phones were constantly ringing; nurses were being paged every which way. As the chaos increased, we answered one phone and heard a frantic voice on the other end of the line. It was the cardiac care unit, the unit just below ours. ‘What the hell’s going on up there?’ they screamed. ‘The ceiling down here is falling in and water is flooding the unit.’”
“Oh my god,” Lincoln thought, as she hung up the phone and raced over to the bathroom. “I opened the door and water streamed out into the hallway. I had left the tub on and shut the door and forgot about it because of the crush of other responsibilities. I was… well, how can I describe it? Mortified, humiliated. And also very, very angry.” “You don’t come out of nursing school ready to start on an understaffed unit. I should have been oriented,” Lincoln says. Training was what she determined to get.
The next morning, Lincoln went to the nurse manager and begged her to let her spend the next five shifts with no patient load, following a veteran nurse and just absorbing and learning. She agreed, with one caveat. “She told me they couldn’t pay me that I’d have to work for nothing.” The two came to an agreement: Lincoln would work seven shifts and get paid for only two.
With that week of training complete, Lincoln felt more secure. Over the next eleven months her skills improved, but the situation in her hospital deteriorated as more nurses were laid off and patient loads increased. Since Canada was experiencing widespread hospital “restructuring,” Lincoln was unable to find more satisfying work. Lincoln followed many other Canadian nurses who went to the United States during the 1990s because of the lure of better pay. What she didn’t understand was that positions in U.S. hospitals were vacant because similar hospital restructuring was taking place in the United States. When she spoke to the vice president of nursing in the U.S. hospital trying to woo her down to Texas, Lincoln was surprised to learn that she was being interviewed for a head muse position on the cardiology unit. She told the nurse executive that she’d had less than a year’s experience as a nurse with none of it in cardiology. Lincoln’s reservations were dismissed, and she was told that the hospital would provide her with a few weeks of training for the position. She nonetheless refused to take the job and was hired as a staff nurse on another unit.
For years, nursing students have complained about the education they receive from veteran nurses in the clinical setting. Restructuring only exacerbates the problem. And the rudimentary introductions new nurses.