Can someone who struggles learning skills ever be a successful ICU nurse?

  1. Throughout nursing school, I remember that passing my skills tests was my greatest challenge. I usually knew all the steps, however, implementing them was another thing. We had three tries to pass each skill, and usually, I needed the third try before I passed it. It was very rare that I ever passed on my first try.

    I remember discussing my difficulties with learning new skills with one of my instructors, as well as my future career in nursing. This meeting took place in fourth semester when I nearly failed clinical because of my struggle to work with IV bags and pumps. She chose not to fail me because I made satisfactory progress and did manage to perform the skill correctly. However, when discussing which area of nursing I would potentially go in, she advised me to avoid ICU nursing.

    I had similar struggles with learning new skills when I worked on a cardiac progressive care unit. Nearly every skill I needed help with multiple times, and even then, I barely performed them satisfactorily.

    Now, I am working in a SNF and my skills have gradually improved. I am performing up to standards there. It's not that I can't learn hands on skills, but I do need a lot of repetition. I hate to admit this, but working with lots of equipment, tubing and machines does not appear to be my strength.

    At the same time, I find ICU nursing fascinating. I admire those that are able to work in such a challenging work environment. I definitely have the motivation to learn, which all of my instructors and previous preceptors have acknowledged. However, I do find learning a lot of new skills to be frustrating and am wondering if ICU nursing is something I should avoid for the rest of my nursing career. After all, just because I am fascinated with ICU nursing, doesn't mean I'm actually a good fit.

    What are your thoughts? Have any of you ever struggled with nursing skills, and then made it to the top to become a top-notch ICU nurse?
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  2. 5 Comments

  3. by   offlabel
    You'll never know if you don't try...if it doesn't work out, you could always go to medical school
  4. by   bekabsn
    In my opinion, skills can always be learned. It's those who struggle with critical thinking, problem solving and/or prioritization that might have a difficult time in an ICU setting.
  5. by   Maevish
    If I can do it, anyone can. It seemed like I had to work harder to retain things in nursing school and had to practice the skills multiple times before I felt comfortable doing them correctly. To this day, if I don't do something over and over again I have a tough time with it. I haven't had a Swan or a balloon pump in about a year so I would want a bit of a review before having either one again! The key, however, is speak up if you're not comfortable doing something. You don't want to be that jerk who acted like they could do more than they could and then injured a patient

    I think you can do it if you want to, but you have to overcome yourself first. Needing repetition doesn't make you unable or "not quick enough" to work in any unit.

    xo
  6. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from purplegal
    Throughout nursing school, I remember that passing my skills tests was my greatest challenge. I usually knew all the steps, however, implementing them was another thing. We had three tries to pass each skill, and usually, I needed the third try before I passed it. It was very rare that I ever passed on my first try.

    I remember discussing my difficulties with learning new skills with one of my instructors, as well as my future career in nursing. This meeting took place in fourth semester when I nearly failed clinical because of my struggle to work with IV bags and pumps. She chose not to fail me because I made satisfactory progress and did manage to perform the skill correctly. However, when discussing which area of nursing I would potentially go in, she advised me to avoid ICU nursing.

    I had similar struggles with learning new skills when I worked on a cardiac progressive care unit. Nearly every skill I needed help with multiple times, and even then, I barely performed them satisfactorily.

    Now, I am working in a SNF and my skills have gradually improved. I am performing up to standards there. It's not that I can't learn hands on skills, but I do need a lot of repetition. I hate to admit this, but working with lots of equipment, tubing and machines does not appear to be my strength.

    At the same time, I find ICU nursing fascinating. I admire those that are able to work in such a challenging work environment. I definitely have the motivation to learn, which all of my instructors and previous preceptors have acknowledged. However, I do find learning a lot of new skills to be frustrating and am wondering if ICU nursing is something I should avoid for the rest of my nursing career. After all, just because I am fascinated with ICU nursing, doesn't mean I'm actually a good fit.

    What are your thoughts? Have any of you ever struggled with nursing skills, and then made it to the top to become a top-notch ICU nurse?
    Skills can be learned. What I find most difficult as an ICU preceptor is the experienced nurse who has a poor attitude, is not fully engaged or doesn't want to learn how we do things in ICU because she "already knows that." Even I & O can be a struggle with an experienced nurse who does not appreciate the need for HOURLY I & O.

    ICU involves skills, to be sure. As long as your attitude is otherwise impeccable, most preceptors will be glad to spend the extra time helping you with the skills. Critical thinking is imperative, and hopefully you've got a head start on that from your years as a nurse. And need I mention the need to be able to take criticism even when it's not delivered in a manner that you find comfortable? I didn't think so.

    If you're fascinated with ICU, give it a try. I would caution you that learning ICU is a challenge, and at times you will feel frustrated, stupid and clueless. Keep at it, and you'll find it "clicking" at about the year mark. Are you ready to invest a year?
  7. by   B52Bomber
    I was nervous too! My first nursing job was in a neurotrauma ICU with only student nurse experience in cardiac cath and telemetry. I can tell you it takes time, it was exciting to me so I would ask other nurses to complete some of their tasks while they watched so I could demonstrate it correctly. My first time I passed my NG tube meds and forgot I left the feeding tube clamped and when I finished and started running the pump, 5 minutes later I heard POWWW and walked in to find my patient and their family members covered in Glucerna! Luckily the family thought it was funny and had no idea what even happened. I'd say I felt the most comfortable after a year (including knowledge and preparation of emergent invasive and non-invasive procedures) which made the MDs happy haha! Always determine what needs to be done and prepare what you need to get it done. It's very complex but intriguing and exciting!

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