I am a registered nurse of twenty years of experience. After graduated from my three-year training in a nursing school, I had been worked in an intensive care unit (ICU) and a pulmonary unit of a public hospital. Now I am working in a non-government organization serving the mentally disabled. No matter which specialty I am working in or how senior I am, I found learning being crucial for professional competence, job satisfaction and personal growth. In this paper, I would like to reflect critically on my experience of learning in nursing with reference to relevant learning theories.
Learning in workplace
At the time when I started to work as a registered nurse in a new workplace after graduation from nursing school there was no structured orientation program like nowadays. As an enthusiastic beginner with an imminent need, my motivation to learn was very high. I clutched every opportunity to observe how other colleagues perform, to ask questions proactively and to study references from ward manuals and books by myself. In addition, the colleagues were willing to teach and finally I was able to meet the requirement of my new role quickly and smoothly.
With about a year of experience, I started attending formal in-service training courses. I was assigned to attend trainings of the specialty I was working with and some core management skills. Nevertheless, I got little satisfaction but I did not know the reasons at that time until I was studying my bachelor’s degree program and was promoted to Nursing Officer later on. As a new Nursing Officer I had to deal with a lot of problems which I had not come across before but some issues were the topics that I was studying at that time. I then tried to apply the knowledge and theories into practice. Not only could the knowledge solve my problems, but also the application of theories had enhanced my learning. I realized that putting theories into practice make the learning and working effective and interesting and vice versa. I felt the sense of satisfaction of learning by then.
Advanced academic learning
I started to pursue a master’s degree program last September. My motivation for advanced academic learning is both extrinsic and intrinsic. The academic requirement for professional nurse is increasing now and I need to upgrade myself so as to be synchronized with the pace of professional development. Academic study has made me more knowledgeable, more critical and more assertive. Moreover, the qualification enhanced my self-confidence directly. The program is actually imposing great pressure on me that I need to struggle for a balanced life between work, family and study. In order to up keep my motivation in learning, I tried hard to make the study more interesting and pragmatic by integrating theories into practice, sharing and discussing with colleagues as much as possible.
My learning experience in the workplace when I was newly qualified was a kind of social learning which Atkinson, Atkinson, Smith, Bern, and Hilgard (1990) described as learning by watching the behaviors and the consequences of others. Social learning is a human instinct and we learn by it consciously or unconsciously. When I was a newly qualified nurse, the need to learn was immediate. I consciously went into the learning process of attention, retention, reproduction, and also motivation. If the displayed behavior was perceived favorable to me, my motivation was particularly high. It was because of my active participation and my self-directed learning, I had a good learning outcome at that stage. Quinn (2001) believed that the quality of the model influence the result of learning. I am always aware of my behavior when I become a senior nurse, need to act as a preceptor or a mentor and especially when I have become the ward-in-charge which Fretwell and Melia (as cited in Hand, 2006) found to have an exceptional strong influence on colleagues in their...
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