Updated: Aug 26, 2022
Many times people will tell you that you shouldn’t go to this restaurant or you shouldn’t buy a car from that dealership. It’s good to get valuable advice to help us weed through confusing choices in life. This type of advice can save you time, and you shouldn’t have to attend the school of hard knocks to get valuable information.
Getting good advice is so important when you are navigating your experiences in healthcare. As a nurse, you have many rewarding days, and these days will be balanced by the stresses of the job as well as dealing with difficult colleagues. Also at times you will find that dealing with your patients brings challenges.
You may have been in a situation in which, as a caregiver, you have a hard time making a connection with a patient. Sometimes that patient may be described as challenging, abrasive, or even obnoxious. You won’t always anticipate walking into that patient’s room with a smile.
It’s important to know that if a colleague of yours has difficulty working with a patient, it’s doesn’t have to mean that you will. Recognize that this is your co-worker’s truth and his or her experience, but it doesn’t have to be yours. Sometimes we can become jaded by another person’s opinion, and when we walk into that patient’s room, we can look for or even anticipate a certain behavior. If you go through an experience, especially if it’s an unpleasant one, you may anticipate that experience happening again.
As a nurse who may be on an 8 to 12-hour shift, you want to have the best experience possible with your patients. You don’t want to imagine going through hours of tension and hassle.
When you seek your own perspective on an issue, you allow for the chance to view the situation from a new lens. I went through an experience that illustrates this concept:
I once worked in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). One of my physician colleagues told me that it would be a generally rewarding experience, but the nurses would be difficult to work with. Then my colleague completely bashed the nurses in the NICU; it seemed that she used every noun and adjective except calling them—rhymes with “witches.”
I thought long and hard. I wanted to have a better experience. Were these nurses really as difficult to work with as I was hearing?
In the NICU, there are infants at many different stages of health and development. Some were born prematurely. You generally want to limit the amount of stress to which you expose them. Some doctors would unwrap and examine an infant and leave it to the nurse to re-wrap that infant and tidy up the crib. As you might imagine, tensions did develop.
As a physician, I wanted to feel in control of my actions and not be bossed around, and also not feel as if I had to tiptoe around the nurses. At first I wanted to express my authority and do what I wanted. I then realized that my role was to be a patient advocate. I realized that I had several patients who got feedings at different times. I would ask the nurse what time she planned to “disturb” an infant.
After a while I was able to examine an infant when I wanted. I would re-swaddle the infant, and I would make sure that I left the crib the way I found it. From my perspective, the nurses started to see me as a part of their team and not as a disrupter.
I attribute my very pleasant experience in the NICU to my willingness to have a different point of view. My colleague’s opinion of the nurses was her perspective. It didn’t have to become my perspective, especially since that perspective would have been counterproductive. Even though this example is about staff and not patients, it is still relevant. Changing your perspective can change your experience.
Whenever I am told that I have a patient that other staff members have found to be difficult, I look forward to the challenge. I don’t look to prove that my colleagues were wrong; I am opening the door to the possibility of a different experience. I always ask myself if there is something I can do to tip the scales and make it a better experience than what my colleagues went through. Most times I have been able to make a positive impact and have a less stressful experience.
What challenges have you faced that got better when you changed your perspective?