Greater North Carolina Chapter of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses
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Meet the Current GNCCARN President, Donna Jernigan

President’s message

Pondering these memories, I have a few thoughts that I would like to share.  As a working rehabilitation nurse, I always searched for colleagues to share my philosophy of nursing practice. ARN always provided that foundation and leaders/mentors to support me in my journey.  Now as I teach the next generation of nurses and remember my days as a student nurse, I always go back to my roots.  I can hardly believe that I have returned to my first school of nursing to share my experience.  Every day I try to recall some of the most poignant moments in my career.  One phrase that haunts me is continually hearing that we “eat our young” and drive young nurses from our ranks by our actions.  Unfortunately, I have seen this phenomenon so I spent time reflecting on how to be a better leader.  I wondered how we as nursing leaders could do a better job of mentoring and saving those young nurses rather than casting them aside to other fields.


As new nurses graduate they look for someone who will support their reason for becoming a nurse and support their philosophy of care.  In this search they are very zealous but they often encounter nurses who feel they need to give them “a strong dose of reality”.  This dose of reality can be constructive but many times it is tinged with cruelty or unintended consequences which causes confusion, anger, dismay or other negative emotions.  These bad experiences may eventually “eliminate” the urge to search and may cause unnecessary conflict between nurses, which leads to stress and job dissatisfaction.  If we are fortunate enough have strong, supportive mentors we continue our search while growing in expertise and moving up in our organizations and our profession.  New nurses look for other nurses who support our philosophy of nursing, as leaders should encourage nurses to lead whether they agree with our “individual” philosophy or not.  It is this search that gives us new opportunities to learn different approaches to tackle nursing issues we face every day.  Whether we are identified as a “leader” or not, if you are not a new graduate, whether you want the responsibility or not, young nurses look at you and how you do your job.  They may or may not want to emulate you but you will be scrutinized nevertheless.  What kind of “vibes” are you giving off?  Would someone want to follow you or avoid you at all cost?  We have all been a new graduate looking for support for our new found profession   Encourage continuous education, try new ideas, promote difference, and facilitate leadership in every situation.  If we will all adopt this we can turn the tide from “eating our young” to “nurturing our profession”.  I remember Cookie Gender taking me under her wing and helping me on the right path.  Who is remembering you and for what reasons?  Remember that “they” are always watching.  We veteran nurses should always be showing the best of ourselves for them!


Donna P. Jernigan, MS, BSN, RN, CRRN




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