At times it does not matter how much time and effort is invested in planning for orientation, things will go wrong:
• Equipment breaks
• Inclement weather delays staff arrival
• Guest speakers forget to arrive
• Training room is double-booked
• Handouts are not collated
No one wants to plan for adverse events however staff development trainers need to be prepared for unexpected occurrences by having:
• Extra time planned for the first session of the first day
• All paperwork that the new employees need to complete placed in one area
• Speakers planned with extra time in-between to allow for delays
• Short self-learning modules or lessons prepared to use as fill-ins when other delays get in the way
As a staff development trainer for a disease management company, I was responsible for conducting orientation every 5 weeks. This class included teaching the use of the proprietary computer system and reviews of 5 major body systems and potential disease processes. During one particularly rainy month the orientation session was fraught with issues: computers were malfunctioning; staff couldn’t find parking places and arrived to class late; and power was sporadically working due to wet weather. Just when I thought that things could not get any worse, a major section of the roof collapsed and it started to rain in the training room!
Luckily the new employees moved quickly and started to pull the plugs on the computers and cover the monitors with personal coats and sweaters. Someone handed me an umbrella as we all tried to protect equipment and paperwork from the onslaught of water falling from the ceiling!
Needless to say, that orientation class did not complete training on time but it taught me the most important thing that I needed to have when I was teaching orientation. And that was…to have a sense of humor.
The staff development trainer “sets the tone” for the sessions. Being able to laugh at adversity and troubleshoot issues in order to “make the best” of situations communicates to the new colleagues that life at the new organization is not always perfect. Things can and will go wrong! No one is blamed, no one is at fault, and no one gets angry or upset!
Attending orientation can be grueling for the new employee. Many nurses are not used to having to sit and participate for hours in a closed-up classroom. At times, an unexpected diversion helps to ease the tension and loosens everyone up.
Orientation does not end when the class is over. New employees are often paired up with a mentor or preceptor to help through the next weeks and months of being on the new job. Next week we’ll focus on the unique challenges of a preceptor program. See you then!