Nurses Becoming Heroes – One heroic act at a time: Managing pain

In my experience, nurses really struggle to medicate their patients for pain.  I’ve heard them comment that the patients are either drug seeking or that they don’t seem to be in THAT much pain.  My aunt had major reconstructive surgery on her foot after she fell, crushing almost every bone.  Her initial surgery didn’t work and they had to go back in.  She was in a lot of pain.  She told me that most of the nurses gave her a hard time when she asked for pain medication.  They would either roll their eyes, tell her it wasn’t time yet (with an attitude) or that they were really busy and would get it when they could.  It got to the point that she wanted to go home just so she could be in control of her own pain relief.  This went on for the 3 days she was there.  I felt bad for my aunt but tried to find reasons to defend the nurses.  Maybe they were short staffed.  Perhaps they were behind the scenes trying to get her more pain medication but couldn’t get the doctor to budge.  It made me think about the many times I also overheard nurses complain about patients that complained about pain – like it was an inconvenience for them.  I can still remember the movie, Terms of Endearment.  The scene where Debra Winger was...

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Tips for New Nursing Grads: 3 steps to get involved early in your career.

Oh, if I could go back to when I was a new nurse.  The things I would do differently!  I have been a nurse for a little more than 20 years but I really didn’t get it until I had been practicing for almost 8 years.  I was a good nurse – I didn’t call off, I took good care of my patients, helped other nurses, was kind and respectful to all staff from housekeepers to attending physicians but that’s pretty much where it ended.  Once I was done with work, I punched out and went home to be a mom, wife, neighbor, sister, etc.  I didn’t really embrace my role as a nurse until I punched in the next shift.I realize now that nursing isn’t a Monday thru Friday punch in and punch out job. It’s a professional career that requires an infusion of nursing practice beyond the walls of our healthcare institutions.  So, what would I do differently if I could go back?  I would get involved right from the beginning. To get involved as a new nurse, follow these 3 steps:Step 1: Join a professional nursing organization and attend a local chapter meeting.  This is the best way to get involved with minimal risk.  Look for information regarding local chapter activities in your area.  Talk to your preceptor, educator or unit manager about professional organizations that...

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Professional Nursing Practice: 3 Steps to Awesome Autonomous Practice

What does autonomy mean and how does it influence nursing practice?  Autonomy means practicing with independence – free to make decisions that benefit others.  According to the literature, it is the most important factor to increase productivity, improve quality of care and boost job satisfaction.  People who believe they have a voice and are involved in decision-making are more engaged and more productive in their work.  If you or your department isn’t practicing to its full potential, start with autonomy.  These 3 steps will put you on the path towards autonomous practice: Step 1:  Become a solutionary.  People complain about problems all the time.  They spend an incredible amount of energy complaining to their boss or to each other.  Instead of complaining, come up with a solution and then pitch it to your supervisor.  Ask your co-workers for ideas.  You are in the best position to create solutions to the problems you deal with every day in health care. Step 2:  Get involved.  Join a committee, council, journal club or community project where your voice as a nurse can be heard.  There are over 3.1 million of us in this country.  Just imagine the improvements we could make if we all just got involved. Step 3: Improve your communication skills.  Autonomous nursing practice requires us to communicate both verbally and in writing in a way that demonstrates our competence and knowledge...

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Professional Practice: Preparing for you promotion

One of the things I love about nursing are all of the many opportunities we have.  We can be a bedside nurse, educator, manager, researcher, teacher and the list goes on.  In every case, going from one opportunity to the next requires some level of preparation.  What I see too often are nurses that want to do something different; they want to advance their position but don’t know where to begin.  If you really want to move to that next level or try a new role, it requires preparation.  Follow these 3 easy steps to make sure you are prepared when the next opportunity knocks at your door: Step 1:  Tell somebody.  So many times I hear nurses get upset because they missed out on an opportunity because they failed to let somebody know that they were even interested.  For example, if you are considering a position in education, tell someone that is in that role.  They may find opportunities for you to get involved on a small scale now.  When a position opens up, it may be easy for you to be a good choice. Step 2:  Find a mentor.  Decide what position you want and then find somebody who is successful in that role.  Take them out to lunch and ask if you can interview them.  Find out what they did to get their position.  You can...

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Is your fear real or imagined?

I fear black lines.  Not just any black lines.  I’m afraid of the black lines at the bottom of an Olympic size swimming pool.  I’m not sure why I fear them or when I first became afraid.  But ever since I can remember I’ve felt a surge of fear every time I’ve been in a pool with those lines.  It might not seem to be a big deal.  There aren’t a lot of negative repercussions for avoiding big pools, especially in my nursing career but in retrospect, this fear has held me back.  When I was in high school, I was encouraged to join the swim team.  Not as a swimmer but as a diver.  I’ve always been a good dancer with fluid movements, flexibility and a graceful stance.  Diving came easy for me and I could have been good.  However, every time I walked up to the diving board, I saw those black lines.  I was able to overcome at first but each time I stood on the diving board and looked at those lines, I was more and more afraid.  After a while, I quit the swim team.  I can remember saying that I was just too busy and that I really didn’t like it.  But the truth was that I just couldn’t face those black lines every day.  Silly thing isn’t it?  But it did prevent...

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Preceptor Workshop: The future of nursing is in your hands.

Successful transition into professional practice as a new nurse or experienced nurse starting a new position depends on having a good orientation with a good preceptor.  Studies show that having a good relationship with your preceptor is the key ingredient to becoming a confident and competent nurse.  Wow! This puts a incredible burden on the shoulders of preceptors!  Do we even give them the resources and support they need to be successful? Organizations typically have good intent but don’t always devote adequate time and effort into supporting the role.  It almost becomes an expectation – something that you have to “fit” into your busy day. How can preceptors embrace their role and successfully teach new nurses while simultaneously keeping up with the demands of their own work?  Today’s environment is very different than it was years ago and demands a different approach.  The solution is to learn the principles and skills necessary to become a competent preceptor in today’s complex health care environment. I have been involved in selecting preceptors and helping them learn their role for many years.  I have also seen so much effort put into recruitment events and residency programs but hardly any effort into the role of preceptor. To support their role, I have developed a 4-hour workshop that provides them with the resources and simple strategies they need to be successful. This workshop addresses the...

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Overwhelmed the many options you have as a nurse? Coaching can be the answer.

When I decided to break out on my own and start a speaking/consulting business, I decided to also include professional coaching.  I’ve always found myself in the situation where I was giving advice to people – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers.  When it’s in my personal life, it’s typically advice on finances, relationships, setting goals and wellness (nutrition and exercise).  In my professional life, it’s advice on career advancement – choosing the right degree, the right program, the right job, how to get a career promotion or how to handle the different situations that come up as a professional nurse.  Many people that come to me for advice I know, others have been recommended to me by somebody else.  “Oh.  You should contact Renee Thompson.  She can guide you.  She can help you to figure out what to do.”  I receive emails from many nurses asking me to write letters of recommendation, to be used as a reference or to help them sort out what school they should attend or what to do to get that next promotion.  I guess you could say I have a knack for helping others to figure out how to make good decisions regarding their professional and personal life.  Perhaps it’s my background in psychology (I minored in my undergraduate program) or maybe because I’ve learned what to do and what not to...

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Nurse Executives Focus on Complexity of Care Delivery

Nurse Executives Focus on Complexity of Care Delivery Today’s health care environment is very different than it was a few decades ago.  Nurses are now finding themselves with the heavy burden of functioning in a complex world without the necessary skills and support they need to be successful.  I wanted to share this article that discusses this complexity and sheds some light on the challenges we face as nurses.  Please share with your colleagues and do whatever you can to support each other out there.  It can feel like a jungle sometimes! Take...

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Is your job a good fit? Part 2: Preparing for your ideal job

Many of us are either struggling with what we do or struggling with where we do it.  After considering what you like to do, what you’re good at, and what value you bring to an organization (previous blog), consider identifying what skills you need to develop to put you in the best position for your ideal job. How do you know what skills you need in your perfect work world?  Ask yourself these 3 questions:1.  Where are my holes in knowledge and experience?  A professional gap analysis can help you uncover areas that you need to develop or experiences you need to acquire to get you ready for your ideal job.  Do you need to get certified in your specialty to enable you to get a clinical leadership role?  Do you need to publish an article or get involved in research to get the academic position?  Or do you need to get an advanced degree in order to move up the administrative ladder?     Gap analysis option:  Connect with someone that is doing exactly what you want to do.  Sometimes what you think is a good fit for you really isn’t.  Likewise, the experiences and knowledge that you think you need may not actually be the right ones.  Spending time with someone that has achieved what you want to achieve can shorten the time spent trying to figure things...

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Is your job a good fit? Part 1: 3 questions to ask yourself

Nursing is not as simple as other professions because we have so many choices, so many different entry levels, and so many challenges.  We are in the muck of life caring for people at their sickest, in an environment that is getting more and more complex, and sometimes working with other people that are not so nice.  To complicate things, some of us are not living up to our full potential because we are not working in an environment that is the best fit for us.  How do you know if your current job is the best fit for you?It’s important to have a job that combines what you really like to do and are good at with a clear understanding of how your work contributes to the overall health of the organization. Here are some questions to ask yourself: 1.  What are the tasks that you getting excited about doing?  This could be managing a code, inserting IV’s, or attending committee meetings if you are a bedside nurse or teaching a class, doing research to improve care, or developing a program if you have a different nursing position.  Spend time thinking about what you really like to do at work.  Then ask yourself, how much time do I get to spend doing that?  Is there a way that I can increase my opportunities to engage in that activity...

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Renee Thompson
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