“Would you like a piece of cake?”
There’s just something about her that puts you at ease.
Right away, you can see why Libby Byrnes is a great preceptor. She’s got that warm, friendly kindergarten teacher vibe – an open face and a bright smile that takes you into her confidence.
And a teacher is what she is. As a Registered Nurse with decades of experience, Libby plays a vital role here at BRHS as one of our Graduate Nurse preceptors.
“Preceptor” is a term used in healthcare and other professions to describe a mentor – an experienced practitioner that provides guidance and support to young colleagues.
In nursing, preceptors play an enormous role in helping, advising and encouraging young nurses as they take their first steps on the ward.
“Young nurses are full of energy and ambition, and they are keen to learn,” Libby says. “You want to nurture that.”
We’re sitting in the staff break room on the Rotamah Ward as Libby makes a cuppa and has a well-earned break. She slices pieces of her tea cake and offers it around.
“Often they are straight from Uni, it might be their first time away from home, they’re living in a new place, starting a new life,” Libby says, reflecting on the new grads she has met over the years. “The advice they need is about more than just nursing, it’s about life.”
“It can be an exciting and confusing and challenging time. We have the opportunity to help them through. We can lead them in the right direction.”
As experienced nurses know, this is a profession that demands certain intangible, hard-to-measure skills – deeply human qualities that can make the difference between being able to help a patient, or not.
“I’ve learned as a nurse that you can get a lot from a patient just by slowing down and engaging with them – take the time to listen to them, ask questions and really listen,” she says. “Nursing is about human relationships. I always tell young nurses ‘you have to keep it real.’”
BRHS hosts graduate nurses from tertiary institutions all over the country, and we relish the opportunity to show them that East Gippsland is a unbeatable place to live, work and grow.
For Libby, the countless hours she has invested in training our next generation of nurses is not purely a one-way street. What does she get out of it?
“Friendships,” she says, without hesitation. “I’ve made long-lasting friendships with many of the nurses I’ve helped along the way.”
As if on cue, Registered Nurse Leanne Smith wanders by. The two have been friends since Libby was Leanne’s preceptor a few years ago. We snap a quick photo of them in the break room.
“You could always ask her anything,” Leanne says. “She’s the kind of person that always makes time for you.”