Nursing Professional Persistence: Lessons learned from kids.

Dominic just wouldn’t take no for an answer. We were at a neighbor’s party and there was a “no kids allowed” in the hot tub rule – adults only. All of the other kids accepted this rule and although they whined a bit, quickly found something else to do, but not Dominic. He sat on the step of the hot tub and over the course of 15 minutes, asked his mother a gazillion times if he could come in.  It was like some type of brainwashing persistence technique! Finally, against our advice, she gave in. Dominic sat proudly in the warm hot tub among the adults while the other kids ran around the house playing tag. He was 10. The best thing you can do if you know what you want but still can’t seem to get it is to practice professional persistence.  We see kids like Dominic practicing this technique all the time in the grocery store, the playground and in school. They keep asking until they get what they want. I’m not condoning “giving in” to this behavior, especially if you are the parent, however, we can adopt the principles behind their excessive nagging with a bit of a twist. Professional persistence means to respectfully and consistently, over time, make known that you want something.  It sends a message that you are serious, committed and willing to...

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Got knowledge? Don’t be an Ogre – Share it!

My dad called me the other day to ask me a medical question, as he often does. After I answered him, he asked me what was going on in Libya. Since I hadn’t had a chance to watch the news that day, I really didn’t know. His reply was that although I was smart in my field, that I was somehow ignorant of everything else. It was a test – a test to see if I was an informed human being of the events in the world and I failed. I was a bit annoyed that he would deliberately test me. After all, I can’t know everything. While stewing over our conversation for the entire day, something kept nagging me. And then I figured it out. I have worked with nurses that would do that to me all throughout my career. They would test my knowledge in a non-supportive, “I want to teach you” way, but in an “I’m going to expose your ignorance” way. Why?  Why do some people love to make others look stupid? Does it make them look smarter? Do they feel better about themselves? For some people, it’s a part of their personality – like my dad. I am the oldest of 5 kids and naturally the one my dad expects more of than the rest (even at my age). Although he frequently plays the...

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Tips for New Nursing Grads: Target of bullying? Don’t suffer in silence!

New nurses fear two things when they start their first job: Making a mistake and that the other nurses will eat them alive! Really. I’ve talked with many student and graduate nurses over the years and get the same response: “What if the nurses are mean? Does my preceptor want to be a preceptor? What if they hate me? Are they nice to new nurses?” Unfortunately, they have every right to be worried.  I once witnessed a new nurse on her very first day, approach the unit secretary and announce that she was there to start work. The unit secretary, who didn’t smile or even truly acknowledge her presence, hollered to another nurse and said, “Hey Carol. Your baby nurse is here.” Carol looked up and said, “Great” sarcastically and then said to her, “Look. I don’t want to be a preceptor and I tried to get out of it but couldn’t. Just don’t get in my way and try not to kill anyone okay?” The look on this new nurse’s face was a look of terror. Horizontal violence has been going on for a long time and although there are a lot of theories behind why nurses “eat their young” and what bullying looks like, it’s continued to plague our profession. Instead of worrying that the nurses will be mean, new nurses should be focusing on learning what they...

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Tips for New Nursing Grads: 5 things you should never say to a patient.

New nurses tend to be very myopic during their first year as a professional nurse.  What do I have to do? What do I have to learn?  How am I going to get through this shift? This is a normal part of being new, especially in a profession that involves life and death! However, sometimes patients can become causalities in the process. We don’t always realize that what we say makes a huge difference to patients and their families, sometimes leading to a lack of confidence in us as health care professionals. 5 things you should never say to a patient or family member: 1.     “We are really short-staffed.” Although this may be true, when you tell a patient you’re really short-staffed, they worry that you won’t be able to take care of them, especially in a crisis. Patients need to trust that you will meet their needs – not worry that you are not capable. 2.     “I have never done this before.” If you are asked to do something you’ve never done before, you need to thoroughly prepare before you walk into your patient’s room. This might include reviewing the policy or bringing a more experienced nurse into the room with you. But please make sure you are not verbalizing your insecurity to your patient. The last thing you want to do is to scare them. 3.     “I...

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6 Tips to Becoming a Great Test Taker

I have always been a good test taker and have spent a lot of time helping other nurses prepare for a variety of tests: NCLEX, certification exams, comprehensive exams for graduate school and even the dreaded GRE’s. Although I would like to say that it’s because I’m smart, I do have to admit that it’s partly because I know the strategies involved in increasing my chances of passing an exam. Follow these 6 tips to becoming a great test taker: These study tips will help you study more effectively, care for your body properly and prepare for the exam...

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Tips for New Nursing Grads: Multitasking. Fact or Fiction?

I recently read the book, Brain Rules, 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. I’ve always been interested in how the brain functions and even worked in neurosurgery for several years. I found John Medina’s principles of survival to really relate to the challenges that nurses face, especially new nurses. One principle I found particularly helpful was the principle of attention.  As a female, I have always bragged that women can multitask while men couldn’t. That’s why women say they can manage the kids, the house, and their career while simultaneously climbing Mount Everest! A bit of an exaggeration but for a long time, I really did think that women were more capable of handling multiple tasks more than men. But after I read Brain Rules I realized I was wrong. According to John Medina, multitasking is a myth. The brain naturally can only focus sequentially; on one concept at a time. It’s the way our brains are designed. However, it can do several things at once (walking and talking, eating and breathing, etc). Although you can do several things simultaneously, you CANNOT pay attention to more than one thing at a time. It’s physiologically impossible. Think about it. How many of you turn down the radio while driving once you get close to an address you are trying to find? You...

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Tips for New Nursing Grads: Looking the Part: What NOT to Wear!

One way we inspire confidence or concern in our patients and colleagues is by what we wear. Although as humans, we like to express our individuality, we need to be mindful of how we express ourselves in the work environment. By knowing what not to wear, as a new nurse, you can use this to your advantage and be viewed as a competent professional right from the beginning of your career. I once worked with a woman that looked like Barbie – really. Her hair was big and blond, her make-up thick and bold, and her cleavage available for everyone’s viewing pleasure. To make things worse, aside from looking inappropriate as a bedside nurse, she was close to retirement age! Although she was a good nurse, nobody initially believed it – not even her patients. Initially, some of her patients even asked to have a different nurse. Why? How could they tell if she was a competent or incompetent nurse within the first 5 minutes of meeting her? The answer is – They couldn’t. However, just based on her appearance, they made an assumption that she was incompetent. Another nurse I worked with was in a management position. Her hair was clean cut, she used minimal make-up, her uniform was nicely pressed and her nails were short and clean. But, her shoes were filthy! It looked as though she...

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Avoiding the Blame Game

During our vacation, my oldest daughter found out that somebody stole $350 from her. She forgot to bring her spending money with her and asked my youngest daughter to bring it when she came out a few days later.  My youngest daughter put the cash in her glove box, but forgot to bring it with her. A few days later when she went to get the money, it was gone. My oldest daughter immediately blamed her sister for being irresponsible at the same time that my youngest daughter blamed her sister for forgetting the money in the first place. This battle went on for 2 days, both of them blaming each other. Hurtful things were said, the past was brought up and everyone else in the family was thrown into the rink! The really interesting part was that both my daughters suspected a co-worker who apparently knew the money was there, had access to it and had been accused of stealing money before! They were blaming each other when they KNEW who probably stole the money. This blaming when something goes wrong reminds me of how quick some of us are to blame each other or other disciplines when bad things happen in health care. I’ve been witness to physicians blaming nurses, nurses blaming physicians and each other over and over again to the point where we forget about...

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Tips for new nursing grads: Orientation. Focus on the “need to know” – not the “nice to know.”

Health care organizations have a tendency to shove everything single rule, policy, initiative, mission, vision, expectation, etc. into the first week of orientation and assume new grads will remember it all. The reality is, you zone out by the end of that first week and only retain 10% of what was taught. However, you are expected to perform according to policies, adhere to initiatives and meet expectations.  It can be extremely overwhelming. Our brains, although magnificent, are not magic. You can only retain a certain amount of information at a time. When learning a lot of new things, work with your brain to learn the most important pieces of information critical to your success as a new nurse. Follow these tips: 1.     Ask You will have a lot of presenters during orientation. Each one may be passionate about their topic and will want to impart all of their knowledge onto you. Find out the 3 most important things the presenter wants you to know about their topic. They may not identify the “top 3” so you have to ask. For example, ask the Quality Improvement Specialist,  “What are the 3 most important things related to quality improvement new nurses need to know to be successful in this organization?” 2.     Validate Once you start on your unit, share what you’ve learned in orientation with your preceptor and unit manager and validate that you are focusing on...

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Tips for New Nursing Grads: 3 tips when facing death

Yesterday my Grandmother died under the watchful loving care of myself, my Aunt and nursing staff at the Masonic Village in Sewickley Pennsylvania. Spending my last days with her reminded me of my fear of death when I was a new nurse.  I didn’t have a lot of experience with death in my personal life and I somehow avoided it as a student. I knew there would be a time when a patient would die on my watch and I was overcome with worry. What would I do?  How would I handle it? Would I do the right thing? I worked for 1½ years as a new nurse without any of my patients dying.  And then it happened.  A patient I had been taking care of for over a week, deteriorated to the point where we knew she was going to die. Her name was Mary. At first, I was relieved that she wasn’t going to die because of something I did or didn’t do. But then KNOWING that somebody was dying was a situation I wasn’t prepared to handle. How would I help the family deal with Mary’s death?  I was 24 years old and didn’t really feel qualified to support the family. What would I do? What would I say to her daughter and son? Would I cry? Should I cry? Will the rest of the nurses...

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Renee Thompson
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