Bad nurse?


I'm a new nurse, barely 4 months in. I've heard all the advice, give it a year, the first year is terrible, be easy on yourself, but really, how can you tell if you might be a bad nurse? I'm feeling horrible today because a pt.'s family (who were nurse's themselves) complained about me to my manager, said I didn't do a good assessment, and didn't take their concerns seriously. The way I remember it, they had one concern that I addressed but didn't really communicate with me otherwise.

I just feel like crap, feeling unworthy.


467 Posts

I'm my experience patients' families who are in the medical field (not all, but a lot) can be very critical. They watch you like a hawk, sometimes try to tell you how to do your job, can be very's very intimidating to say the least. I had a patient whose mother was a nurse...she called me at 3an demanding that I give her daughter a sleeping pill. I tried to tell her I already gave her something for sleep that the Dr ordered and she yelled at me that it wasn't working and to call the Dr to get something else NOW! Our policy says we can't give sleep aids after 2am but she wouldn't listen and continued to scream at me. I finally gave the phone to my charge nurse since I'm also a new grad and was pretty shaken up by it. I also had a patient whose daughter was a veterinarian and was trying to tell me how to do my job. Ugh.

Try not to let it bother you and just do your job the best you can. That's what I've been told anyway. You're not a bad nurse...don't let them get to you. Sorry this happened to you but I think it happens to everyone at some point.


473 Posts

Specializes in Emergency. Has 5+ years experience.

You've been doing this less than 6 months and you post clearly suggests that you care about your competence. There is no way you could possibly be a "bad nurse." You are a new nurse. You may be making mistakes, you may not be doing the correct assessment, but that happens. It is also possible that this family was being too hard on you. IMO here's what you should do.

1. Take a hard look at your practice, if there is validity to what was said, or if you identify a place for improvement, make a plan and improve.

2. Take the criticism, use it for good then shrug it off. Don't dwell, don't let it hurt your feelings and don't let it discourage you.

3. Remember this when you join the experienced nurse society and let it guide your actions. There are good ways to give feedback and bad ways.

Keep your chin up, it gets better.


27 Posts

Thanks, I am trying to use it for good, it's just hard not to think that I'm just always going to be one of "those" nurses, a mediocre, not-on-top-of-it nurse. I really don't want to be that.


473 Posts

Specializes in Emergency. Has 5+ years experience.
Thanks' date=' I am trying to use it for good, it's just hard not to think that I'm just always going to be one of "those" nurses, a mediocre, not-on-top-of-it nurse. I really don't want to be that.[/quote']

Give yourself some time. No one is a master at four months, you have barely dipped a toe! Obviously, no one here can comment on your competence, if you are truly concerned maybe you could ask for a mentor on your unit (or find your own informal mentor). I think if you look back on this post in a year, you will be amazed by how far you have travelled.

Best of luck!

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.


If you were a mediocre nurse, you wouldn't have even made this post - you would have just blown off the patient/family concerns and not engaged in any self-reflection to figure out what you could be doing better.

You're on track to become a great nurse.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

The 2-5 month time frame is often the worst for new grads. This is the period in which the "newness" has worn off and reality has set in. (See resources on Reality Shock.) Also, as you have been working really hard and making a lot of effort to learn new things in a new workplace, you may have simply "run out of coping energy." (See resources on Transition Shock.) Research has shown that both types of shock tend to peak in the 2-5 month time frame. If you can get through the next couple of months, you will probably feel better about things.


1. Get plenty of rest, eat right, get a little exercise, have a social life, etc. Taking good care of yourself will help keep your energy levels up and help you cope with the stress you are under now.

2. As others have said, try to be objective about the criticism -- whether it comes from a patient, family member, co-worker, educator, or manager. Don't freak out about it: learn from it. Forgive yourself for not being perfect and make a plan to pay a little more attention to whatever areas need a little improvement. Over-reactions to criticism is a common sympton of Transition Shock as you no longer have the psychological energy to take it in stride. Take a deep breath, count to 10, and move forward.

3. Find mentors in your workplace that can help you with any areas that need a little work -- not shoulders to cry on (Save that for people outside your workplace. You don't want to look like a loser at work.) -- but people who don't mind helping a newbie out a bit.

4. Don't wallow in self doubt and/or self pity. Take everything as a learning experience that will help you grow and be a better nurse in the future. Focus on a brighter tomorrow -- not on the imperfections of today. The time will pass ... your skills with improve ... and you will start feeling better about yourself as you see that you have progressed over time. A key moment for new grads is often when they see how far ahead of the newer nurses hired 6 months after them -- and they realize how far they have come in the past 6 months.

uRNmyway, ASN, RN

1 Article; 1,080 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg.

I would take the criticisms from family members with a grain of salt. Many people come in claiming to be nurses, and then you later find out they WERE nurses 20 years ago, or are actually CNA students or something like that. Or are psych nurses trying to make waves on a med-surg floor. If your bosses are telling you that you are doing good work, then that seems to hold more weight than a few family members. Because seriously, barring some GROSS misconduct, breaking sterile procedure, telling off a patient, complete neglect...a REAL nurse would rarely criticize for stupidities.