One year ago I made the decision to go back into clinical practice. I made this decision for 2 reasons: First, I still teach seminars with clinical topics (certification review courses, medsurg topics, etc.). It’s a credibility thing – I can’t teach about clinical topics if I’m not still practicing clinically! Second, for me to be an effective keynote speaker and help nurses succeed, I need to know what they are going through.
Going back to the bedside after being away for such a long time (8 years) was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Not only does this experience give me great stories to share while I teach, it gives me great insight and understanding to the challenges current and future nurses face.
This knowledge helps me to help you!
I was lucky to find a casual (prn) position where I got to float to different units. Some units I noticed were staffed with primarily newer nurses who had less than 3 years experience while others had primarily experienced nurses. Over several months, I started to notice a pattern. When I worked on a unit with primarily experienced nurses, my shift went smoothly but when I worked on a unit with primarily newer nurses, I left there exhausted and not feeling good about the work I did.
Then I figured out why.
On the units with more new nurses, I found myself saying this phrase, “They don’t even know what they don’t know.” Their conversations focused on:
· “my patient” or “your patient” instead of “our patients.”
· care of the patient only while in the hospital without considering needs beyond the acute care setting
· the tasks that needed to be done versus improving patient outcomes
· what “I” (the nurse) had to do versus “others” (nursing assistant, ancillary, physicians, etc)
Ultimately, these conversations impacted the flow of patient care on those units in a negative way.
It wasn’t their fault. These nurses just hadn’t had the wisdom and experiences with the complexity of patient care to truly understand how to see the delivery of care beyond their shifts – beyond the tasks they needed to accomplish – and beyond their unique role as a nurse. I felt like I was working in my own little silo when I worked on these units compared to the team approach I felt when working on units with experienced wise nurses.
1. Find a trusted guide
Spend time getting to know some of the nurses on your unit. Who seems to know and manage everything with ease and grace? Who would you consider wise and a role model for exemplary practice – a nurse who you want to be like? Attach yourself to her/him. Watch and learn grasshopper.
2. Maintain curiosity
Nurses who maintain a healthy curiosity about health and humans tend to broaden their understanding and therefore, their ability to deliver comprehensive, meaningful care. It’s not just about doing the things on your list but asking why and how might the patient be affected.
3. View care from a 10,000 foot perspective
Realize that the care we provide patients in the hospital is just a snap shot of the overall care they will receive. Care doesn’t just happen within the 4 walls of your hospital. Be sure to consider what your patients need beyond you.
Becoming a wise, competent and confident nurse takes time, experience and the wisdom to know…that you might not KNOW what you don’t KNOW. But that’s okay. None of us experienced nurses knew either when we started!
Thanks so much for reading and for choosing to become a nurse. I’m cheering for your success!
Take care and stay connected