Three Ways To Be A Really Smart Nurse
I’ve worked with many types of nurses over the years. Veterans, new grads, touchy-feely, hard-core critical care, family-oriented, family-haters, you name it. I respect a great number of them, and learned early on how to function as a nurse from their example. Here are some tips that I’ve picked up along the way on how to be a really smart nurse.
1) Give benefit of the doubt to the patient (or guardian speaking for them). What if they’re right? Just because a circumstance is highly unlikely does not mean it is impossible. And even if they’re wrong, is that going to change their treatment? If not, then accept their version of events, and move on. (Suspected cases of child abuse are an exception.)
As for those who are difficult to understand, even demented patients or those who communicate differently (such as the blind or deaf) can give out information relevant to their care. Even if what they say makes no obvious sense, do not be too hasty to brush it off, especially with children.
Now, for those fans of the show House M.D., you know one of his favorite lines, “Everybody lies.” Unfortunately, this may be true at times. But assuming this up front leads to cynicism and skepticism, which can rob us of compassion, affect patient care negatively, and lead to burnout!
2) Communicate well. There is no substitute for a respectful conversation. This applies to all conversations, whether with doctors, nurses, patients, family members, administration, etc. Know your information, and be confident in your value to the healthcare team. Communicating well not only requires respect for others, but requires this next point:
3) Know the answer to “why.” You know how little kids ask “why” all the time? They’re trying to figure out their world, and so are we. While we go about our busy shifts, we often just want to survive on what we already think we know, and get done what we have to get done. But we miss out on the most important opportunities when we operate like robots.
I’ve had several moments when a patient (or even a coworker) says something that triggers a pause in my step. Listen to that internal pause. That may just be the right moment to ask why they said what they did, and gain valuable insight as they answer.
Seize moments to learn. Never come to the end of knowledge. There will always be that one thing that you do not know already. Think how far we have come in our medical knowledge just in the last 20 years. Every coworker, and even every patient, has at least one thing that you need to know to be a better nurse.
Knowing the “why,” communicating well, and believing patients will make you a smarter, more effective nurse. Nurses who practice these tips who will lead our profession into the future successfully!