I’ve been a nurse for almost 7 years now and it’s become quite apparent there are 10 unspoken truths in nursing that need to be normalized. The results from my surveying, polling, and research from nurses shows what truly matters most to them when it comes to healthy work environments.
The biggest thing I’ve learned and observed is that there are MANY important things that need to be “normalized” across the board in order for our profession to change and these are things that we don’t speak of or talk about enough. My research has shown that most nurses are simply afraid to speak up. They’re afraid to put themselves out there and be seen. We’re afraid of rejection and penalty.
Nurse leaders are afraid to admit they don’t know everything
Nurse leaders are afraid to admit they don’t know everything and therefore their units suffer because they have no clue what to fix. They’re afraid to ask for feedback as it might be seen as weakness. Nurses in general also don’t believe they can negotiate. They believe that by saying no, it makes them a bad nurse instead of a healthy one.
All of these are truths that we so desperately need to normalize in order to see REAL change within this profession. I wanted to share this blog because I truly believe that the following has the potential to change the mindset of so many nurses and truly impact this profession in a positive way, so give me 5 minutes and I’m going to share these life changing TRUTHS and CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
1. You’re not supposed to know everything – ever.
Nursing is a constant journey of growing and learning. You are learning something new everyday and you will NEVER know it all! If you come to the table acting like a “know it all”, that’s when we get scared. WE don’t know it all, so don’t pretend you do either. Especially you new grads.
The only way you learn is by asking, and trust me, we know that nursing school is nothing like the real world. Please ask away. If your preceptor puts you down or shames you for asking questions, you ask it anyway. Let her know that you are trying to take the best care of your patients and want to make sure you have a firm foundation moving forward on your own. If they have a problem with you trying to be a better nurse, then that’s her problem, not yours!
2. Asking for help or asking a question is not a weakness, it’s a STRENGTH!
Never stop asking for help or questioning things! The minute you do, you become an unsafe nurse and risk hurting yourself and your patients. Don’t be afraid to ask your leaders. If they respond poorly with you asking for assistance or shame you for ANY question, they are the ones with the problem, not you. Ask away and know that you’re doing it because you want to grow, be safe, & protect your patients & your license.
3. Managers don’t know everything & they should not be afraid to admit that!
Leadership is a learning process too! This is a GIANT misconception in nursing. You don’t go into nursing knowing everything and your leaders don’t go into leadership knowing everything, either. They are learning and growing too. Support them. Give them clear, direct, & polite feedback on how you feel things can be done better. If they pretend to know everything & ignore your kind, clear, & direct feedback, then they aren’t a good leader. Period.
Leaders need to be willing to put themselves out there and come ALONGSIDE your nurses. You know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Instead of blaming them or pretending like you know it all, be real. Come alongside them and let them know that you’re human too. How can you guys come to a conclusion and solve a problem TOGETHER.
Instead of pointing out your staff’s weakness and all that they did wrong, point out their strengths and how they can use them to solve the problem. We’re going to mess up as nurses and don’t treat a nurse like it’s not normal. It’s VERY normal. We need to speak to this and support each other, not shame.
4. Asking for feedback as a leader is not a weakness, it’s a STRENGTH & how you LEAD & SERVE YOUR STAFF BETTER!
LEADERS! Ask your staff for feedback. If you want to serve your staff and better your team, you can’t do it blindly. You need to know their needs and you need to include them on how you can collaboratively solve the problems & issues they are presenting. And you cannot shame your staff or blame when you invite them to open up & give feedback. Sit beside them & solve solutions, not across from them.
We’re all growing. We need to be honest & vulnerable if we truly want growth. If you want respect from your staff, give respect to your staff. Don’t gossip if you don’t want them to gossip. Avoid nit-picking their nursing if you don’t want them to do the same about your leadership. If you want your nurses to be kind & hardworking, you show them what kind and hardworking looks like.
If you want to improve your unit, constant feedback is key, but realize you are being vulnerable to put yourself out there and risking some not-so-nice answers. Just remember that this is the starting point to address the issues. There may be a lot of hurt going on and we can work through this when we know what needs to be worked on and it can totally be done in a healthy and respectful way, but it starts with opening yourself up.
5. Nursing is hard.
Yup! It’s not gunna be easy. You’re going to cry. It’s going to keep you up at night. You’re going to work your tail off, but with healthy boundaries and a healthy environment, it has the potential to be the best job in the entire world! You’re not abnormal if you feel that it is hard. It’s VERY hard. My biggest piece of advice is to find a job and environment that you truly love and that supports you!
6. Saying “No” to extra shifts & hours is healthy, right, & you should never be shamed or feel bad.
Saying “no” to working extra is an act of self-care. You are responsible to do a good job on the days and hours that you are scheduled to work. Anything beyond that is optional. No one wants to see our team drown or patients suffer from lack of staffing, but the reality is, we have lives outside of our jobs. We want to be there, but we can’t always and that is OKAY. We have to take a step back and realize that we are humans outside of nurses with families and things that matter more. You can’t feel bad for doing what’s healthy and right for you.
7. Saying “I don’t know, but I can find out for you” or “I don’t know, but I’m open to learning” is WAY better than pretending that you know.
This is a giant pet peeve of mine because so many people say the opposite out of fear. They THINK they’re supposed to know. They THINK they’re supposed to have it all figured out. NO, NO, NO! You’re not. And you should never be afraid to admit you don’t. It’s not a weakness, it’s called being a human. Go find someone who DOES know the answer. Go find someone who will help you learn. That’s the answer this world is looking for.
The honest truth that we are human and we don’t have it altogether and that’s OKAY! Anyone who treats you like “you should know this” believes that THEY should know everything themselves and they are going to constantly let themselves down because they never will. That’s an unhealthy inner-world to walk around with, let me tell ya!
8. It’s not a nurse’s responsibility to staff the hospital. It’s their responsibility to work the days they’re scheduled to work!
YUP! News flash. If your manager wants to manipulate you with phrases like, “You’re letting your team down” or “you’re not being a team player” or “we don’t want the patents to suffer” to get you to come in and work a shift, RUN. That’s a giant lie. You are being paid to work your scheduled hours and do a good job during that time. Everything else is on the hospital!
Last I checked, “making sure you staff the hospital when they are short” wasn’t on my job description and no one’s gunna tell me it is! There are people in place who get paid a hella’ lot more money than I do to figure that stuff out! Don’t let ANY manager or leader make you believe it’s your responsibility. If they need more staff, they can hire them. Outside of my days that I work, I’m doing “me.” (If you are mandatory OT, I suggest you get a new job bc I could never work at a hospital that can tell me when I need to come into work or not, no ma’am)!
9. Nurses CAN negotiate!
YUP! Recruiters will tell you all day long that they go by a grid, but let me tell you this. The minute you say “oh, okay never mind”, they’ve won. They WANT you to say that. They WANT you to believe that they can do nothing about ‘the grid” and that’s not true. Why do I know this? Because I’ve personally increased my hourly pay significantly with negotiation and I’ve coached many nurses who have successfully done the same.
A good negotiation takes place when both sides win, the nurse and the hospital. No one is gunna tell me that my pay-rate is going to be the same as a nurse with a terrible attitude who gets patient complaints all of the time simply because we have the same years of experience.
The key to negotiating is bringing forward evidence strategically as to WHY you deserve the number you’re asking for and the BEAUTIFUL thing about it is that you’re only going to be successful at negotiating if you truly are a valuable and great nurse! You can check out my “How To Negotiate as a Nurse” Webinar here!
10. You’re a “REAL NURSE” no matter where you choose to do nursing.
Whether you’re a case manager, lactation consultant, insurance nurse, clinic nurse, part time, full time, PRN, bedside, social worker, hospice, OR, or at a school, you are a REAL nurse! So many want nurses to believe that being a “real nurse” means only staying at the bedside. This could not be further from the truth.
You are a “real nurse” no matter WHERE you choose to use your license! Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT stay in a job that is sucking the life out of you because someone else has said to you or made you believe that you won’t be a real nurse or you will “lose your skills” if you choose to take a job that is healthier or right for you.
You will use your skills and expertise as a nurse no matter WHERE you go! Do what is right for you and your family! You are a REAL NURSE and will be an AMAZING nurse no matter where you choose to work! Don’t let anyone tell you differently! If you’re looking to make a switch into a healthier new career and you’re struggling to get the call back that you need for an interview, check out my “How to Land Your Dream Nursing Job” webinar!