Top Lessons I’ve Learned as a Nurse (So far…)
1.You must be able to speak up and advocate for your patients.
You are the nurse. You are the eyes and ears of the doctors that direct this patient’s care. You are with that patient 8+ hours per day, and you know what’s going on! In the short amount of time the doctor is seeing the patient, you must address all of your concerns with him or her. If you have a gut feeling about something, tell them! They cannot read your mind, nor do they have the luxury of knowing this patient as well as you do. If you disagree with an order, respectfully discuss your disagreement and ask for an explanation of their logic. Some docs are great about this, some are not…but when you are a nurse, you develop a thick enough skin to let it go if they do not have time to provide an explanation. What matters is that you are there for your patients and provide them with the best care possible. You are the bridge between patient and doctor. Your patients rely on you to guide them through the tricky, stressful field of healthcare!
2.Be respectful and kind.
When you treat everyone you encounter with respect and kindness, not only does this reflect well on you as a person, but it makes everything SO much easier! You will be on the phone A LOT as nurse. Scheduling tests, coordinating, asking for test results, etc. This gets OLD fast. You are going to want to scream at people who are rude to you or seem incompetent, or who just won’t listen to you/transfer you a million times so you have to explain your situation to EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON. DO NOT give in to the temptation of rudeness! By treating people kindly and respectfully, I’ve steered many grumpy interactions in the opposite direction. People are much more willing to go out of their way for you if you treat them well. It gives you a good reputation for future circumstances as well, and it keeps you from being in a bad mood. BONUS!
3.You need EVERYONE you work with.
Each person you encounter on a daily basis is there for a reason! A hospital environment cannot function smoothly if any one of these people are missing from the equation. We need the higher ups, unit managers, doctors, nurses, CNAs, housekeepers, maintenance workers, dietary aides, PT, OT, unit clerks, respiratory therapists…EVERYBODY!! Treat each and every employee with respect, and do not act as if one person is “above” any other person. We all have a common goal, and that is to care for people, whether it be directly or indirectly.
4.You need to have superior time management skills.
You are in the business of working with people. People are HIGHLY unpredictable. You will make plans for how your day should theoretically go, and your shift will most definitely ignore (and laugh at) those plans. You know there are certain things that remain constant; assessing, charting, giving meds, baths, etc. Get those things done as early and efficiently as you possibly can (of course not SO fast that you sacrifice patient care!) By getting these tasks done quickly, it’s one less thing to worry about when you are dealing with unexpected events later in your shift. Here are some tips I have for time management.
5.DO NOT get involved in drama!
As nurses, it is in our nature to be curious and know every little detail about people. However, there is a time and place for this, and it is NOT inside the workplace! Participating in gossip could ultimately end up reflecting poorly on you. If you think talking crap about another co-worker is a “bonding” activity, what makes you think that these individuals aren’t talking about you behind your back too? You can’t stop it from happening. People will always talk and have strong opinions, but why participate in it? I know I feel guilty and ashamed when I feed into this kind of negative talk, and I cannot imagine how it would feel if I found people were talking crap about me too. It’s just bad all around, and it takes away productive time from your day. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
6.Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Nursing is a profession where you will never stop learning. Something foreign is ALWAYS going to come up, and you just simply cannot know EVERYTHING. Unfortunately, there is little room for error in anything we do as nurses. If you are unfamiliar with something or want help with a procedure you have never done before…ASK FOR HELP! You do not want to try and “hack it” through anything in the nursing world…especially if it could sacrifice your patients’ safety and well-being. Many hospitals also provide you with some good resource materials as well (mine is an online program they pay for through Ebsco Host called Nursing Reference Center…it’s awesome). Also, there are going to be many critical situations you face that you just simply cannot do by yourself. If you have a patient that is crashing, admit you need help…don’t try to go it alone! You do not need to prove anything or be a hero…you’re already a nurse after-all 😉 Lean on your team members!
7.Never quit learning.
This goes along with #6. There’s always going to be something new, exciting, and strange when you’re working as a nurse…that’s the beauty of this career! It is truly difficult to become bored. If you’re bored, you can always hop to a new position or even continue your education- nursing is so versatile. Medicine is an ever-evolving field, and in the blink of an eye practices change…this is why it is critical to keep learning. Delve head first into that evidence based research! Your patients will thank you!
I’ve seen things go awry so many times because individuals in this field do not listen to one another. You cannot be headstrong and carry preconceived notions around with you in this field! If you don’t stop and truly listen to what others around you are saying (especially patients) important details can easily get overlooked, and that’s just no good!
9.Take care of yourself.
You simply cannot take care of others if you do not first take care of yourself. You need to look out for yourself to make sure that you are taken care of physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Nursing requires great strength in all of these areas whether you realize it or not. If you are feeling burnt out, take a look at where you might be lacking self-care in your own life. It’s ok to not pick up every unfilled shift on your unit! You are allowed to say no!
10.Work on your communication skills.
Communication between all individuals in the hospital is key, especially for safety. This correlates highly with listening skills. You need to take a close look at your communication style. Do you feel like you get your point across clearly and concisely when talking with others? Communication goes hand in hand with respect for others. Communication must happen in an environment where people listen to one another and are given time to respond and be heard as well. We can’t let our emotions get the best of us, and we have to maintain composure under pressure. Ask for clarification if you are not clear on something. Health care is very team-oriented, and you must know how to effectively communicate with your team in order to function well!
On top of these lessons, my patients have taught me more than I would have ever thought possible. Nursing is so great because it gives us insight into the human condition, and if you’re paying attention, there are wonderful pieces of wisdom everywhere!