Nursing School Won't Teach You These Things (Part 1)
Student nurses learn all about the art and science of nursing while attending school. However, two aspects of nursing exist: a textbook world of nursing, and a real world of nursing. Sometimes these two worlds do not coexist in harmony.
Student nurses have the awesome opportunity to learn about the art and science of nursing during the time they spend enrolled in school. Nursing students are bombarded with different theories, introduced to procedural skills, drilled on critical thinking strategies, exposed to new information, and tested constantly to determine their ability to apply and analyze the mountain of material rather than recall facts through rote memory. In other words, pupils must adapt to a new way of learning once they start attending nursing school.
Conversely, two worlds of nursing exist side by side. A textbook world of nursing exists where everything is done strictly by the book, colleagues conduct themselves with professionalism, patients have optimal outcomes, and family members are reasonable. And a real world of nursing exists that seems to contradict a great deal of what we've been taught in school. Sometimes these two distinct worlds do not mesh harmoniously. To be perfectly honest, these two worlds clash rather often.
I have compiled a random list of aspects that characterize many workplace settings in the real world of nursing. Your personal experience may vary once you secure your first job as a licensed nurse.
1. Unspoken politics exist.
In today's ultra political workplace, it's not about what you know. It's all about who you know. The floor nurse who has friends in high places typically receives preferential treatment and sometimes gets away with antics that would have resulted in firing if you had done the same things.
2. Interpersonal skills will make or break you.
I've watched as many highly skilled and proficient nurses were either fired or forced to resign. Although these people were competent, they rubbed coworkers and management the wrong way due to poor interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are the soft 'people skills' we use to conduct ourselves acceptably and interact with others.
People with good interpersonal skills enjoy great workplace relationships. Those with poor interpersonal skills will not remain employed at any one place for very long. I've seen nurses with good interpersonal skills remain with an organization for many years, even if they lacked competence in hands-on procedural skills.
3. People with 'quiet' personalities are sometimes viewed suspiciously.
Some new nurses wonder why their employment was terminated at the end of a 90-day or 180-day training program. Even though they were learning at an appropriate pace and able to manage their own patient loads, the quiet personality was the unspoken trait that broke the camel's back.
Some established employees grow increasingly alarmed when you never have anything to say and fail to ask any questions. A few of your needy coworkers will be offended that you never eat lunch with them or take breaks together. These are the same people who will report on your progress to the unit manager, so you might want to be likable.
4. Sometimes the best nurses are the first to be punished.
For some reason, the nurses who are idealistic and honest to a fault are often the first to be punished by management. I don't know why this is. Perhaps the idealism causes insecure coworkers and managers to cringe.
5. Sometimes the worst nurses fly under the radar undetected.
This phenomenon is slightly related to number one (politics). In some practice settings a nurse can do sloppy, absent-minded work and get away with it if he/she has friends in high places in the organization.
Read part 2! Nursing School Won't Teach You These Things (Part 2)Last edit by Joe V on Jan 6, '15
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Senior Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
TheCommuter has '11' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych'. From 'Fort Worth, Texas, USA'; 36 Years Old; Joined Feb '05; Posts: 38,050; Likes: 68,968.Nov 29, '13Quote from TheCommuterSo true!!!Conversely, two worlds of nursing exist side by side. A textbook world of nursing exists where everything is done strictly by the book, colleagues conduct themselves with professionalism, patients have optimal outcomes, and family members are reasonable. And a real world of nursing exists that seems to contradict a great deal of what we've been taught in school. Sometimes these two distinct worlds do not mesh harmoniously. To be perfectly honest, these two worlds clash rather often.Nov 29, '13This is why I love AN. I will (hopefully) be starting an ABSN program next year, and it's posts like these that make me feel more prepared for the reality I will be facing in nursing school and beyond.
I would also note that #1 is incredibly true and applies to a lot of fields. It's never too early to network.Nov 29, '13I think this applies to all workplaces and all fields. Unfortunately, it its true that it is sometimes more about who you know than what you know.Nov 29, '13I look forward to the rest of this series. I can only just glimpse these during clinicals. There's a lot about nursing they aren't teaching us in school.Nov 29, '13... and this is true for all kinds of different clinical settings
I hope every (prospective) nursing student reads this
I believe the song "the Gambler" by Kenny Rogers
was really about nursingNov 29, '13I can be a combination of 2 and 3. I worry about that. I probably would have been dx somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum. I am not quiet, I ask a lot of "why" questions ad sometimes they are really random. I know people think I am a little odd. I don't make friends easily either. I am trying, it is just difficult to me. I am still relatively new but am older, so I don't fit in with the other new nurses, and I haven't been there long enough to "bond" with the older nurses who have been there a long time.
I am in this for the long haul, so I am working very hard to improve in the areas I feel I need could use improvement. I feel my nursing is good, I am learning and moving forward, it is the social/political aspect that I am working on.Nov 29, '13Quote from eturner7But people in other professions can have poor interpersonal skills and remain successfully employed at the same place for many years. Night shift groundskeepers come to mind. Many IT professionals, researchers, and engineers come to mind because many of these positions do not require as much interaction with people as nursing.1,2,3 and 5 are not specific to nursing. These things happen in all industries.
Have you ever met a doctor with poor interpersonal skills? I've met numerous doctors who lack basic social skills. Sometimes the most educated people lack emotional intelligence, yet they remain employed due to having autonomous work to do.
Nursing involves heavy, constant, prolonged interaction with many different faces on a daily basis. The nurse with bad social skills will not last long at any workplace, whereas other types of workers can have poor people skills.Nov 30, '13I've known several new nurses who get fired before their probation is over because of one or more of the problems listed by the OP. Some of them are awesome nurses with great skills who just cannot get along with others. Some of them are mediocre nurses who have the potential to become good nurses but won't get the opportunity because they cannot take criticism well, their co-workers don't like them because they're so afraid of being "stabbed in the back" that they won't chat or take lunch with anyone or because they're quite vocal about their unhappiness with some facet of the workplace. Some of them are just people with very poor people skills.
Whether it's fair or not, the well-liked new nurse can get away with more (and bigger) errors than the nurse with poor people skills. It's worth while to try to develop some BEFORE you start your first job!Nov 30, '13I feel worried because I am DEFINITELY QUIET! I like to hear what people have to say, and I ask questions pertaining to my job, but I can be difficult to get to know on a personal level. I think that I am friendly and I get along with most people but I have a very "reserved" type personality and it has always taken me a long time to get close with my co-workers. I tend to focus on work when I am working and usually I need my lunches to myself to "recharge" (I am an introvert).
I am a pre-nursing student. I hope that I can make it despite this obstacle.Nov 30, '13Very useful information, though #3 came as shock for me.
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