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Being the Nurse Everyone Wants to Have

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In this article, the author discusses ideas that might help us be that nurse that everyone wants to have.

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Being the Nurse Everyone Wants to Have

I was visiting a very ill friend in the hospital where I work, and as I pulled up beside her bed, I leaned forward to hear her whispered words, "I hope I get that nice nurse again today." I smiled because I knew just who she meant. On my visit the previous day, I had encountered her: professional, kind, competent, cheerful without being silly or inappropriate and deeply compassionate.

As I left that day, I wondered to myself, "So what makes us 'that nurse that everyone wants to have?'"

Some people come by the necessary qualities quite naturally, being born with a sunny disposition and a penchant for perseverance through hard work. But most of us must cultivate the qualities that make that model nurse that we all long to be. We have to learn the balance between focusing on the patient and on their IV drip, numbers, labs; we have to learn to see the love in the family that interferes, knowing that they feel they are simply doing the right thing; we have to leave our home life at home and find ways to access professionalism from deep within our spirits when things outside work are not going well.

In nursing school we learn the anatomy and physiology, the technology and some of the emotional resources needed. We observe our instructors and the nurses where we work and learn, always making mental notes about how we want to copy (or not!) their example. We can all look back and see the nurses that set the bar high-challenging us to be more than we are.

I can think of a couple of nurse managers that stand out in my career:

In one job, I had the same nurse-manager for twenty years-a true rarity in today's mobile society. She was an example of caring and of continuing to encourage learning and growth through the years. She knew how to prod us along and how to lift us up when we were down. She could also be a great defender when we needed an advocate.

In a hospice job, I had a great nurse manager, too. She worked under all kinds of corporate pressures to carve out that place of excellent patient care right in the middle of reimbursement nightmares, changes galore, and an ever-shifting staff complexion. She expected a lot, but offered a deep well of compassion, helping us all get through hard times.

What are some ways that we can cultivate the qualities that help make us that nurse that everyone wants to have?

Be technically competent while maintaining a spirit of compassion

Let's face it, when we are sick, we want a nurse that knows her stuff. Being comfortable with the mechanics of caring for patients lowers our stress levels and allows us to have more presence of mind about our words and attitudes.

Give each other the benefit of the doubt

Support one another. There is an expression that you may have heard, "Nursing eats their young." Ouch. That is not very nice. But it does speak to our tendency to withdraw support when we feel someone is not pulling their load or doing a good job. Yes, there are some nurses that need to find other work, that don't belong in direct patient care, but so many times there is much more to the story than is visible. Taking an attitude of listening, helping, encouraging, mentoring, not only contributes to their growth but it also makes our workplace more pleasant in general. So many times, I hear one side of the story from a patient or a visitor and then go to hear the nurse's version. It's surprising how often those two stories are widely divergent! I am always thankful when I withhold judgement and try to hear from all the parties involved.

Work to cultivate a well-balanced life

Have fun! Do things you enjoy. Don't let the passive activities (screen time) absorb all your leisure time. Push yourself to physical activity, to spiritual activity, to reading that fills you with wonder and learning. When we are able to find ways to renewal, then we are closer to being all we can be at work, too.

Find a mentor, a confidant

We don't need to process our work days every day, but there are times when a difficult day, left unattended in our souls, can lead to decay from within-troubling our sleep and haunting our days. Finding a person who can listen confidentially, or a journal where we can spill out our troubles, can get us through troubled times. We all make mistakes. We all have times when we don't handle things well. Being perfect is out of our grasp. So when we slip up, the sooner we deal with it, the better able we are to carry on. It's amazing how far a simple apology can carry us!

Perhaps you can look back -or even at your current job- and find nurses that set a good example. If you were in the hospital would you want to have YOU for a nurse?

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Joy has been a nurse for 35 years, practicing in a variety of settings. Currently, she is a Faith Community Nurse. She enjoys her grandchildren, cooking for crowds and taking long walks.

14 Likes, 4 Followers, 81 Articles, 144,544 Visitors, and 358 Posts.

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Joy, I would be delighted and honored to have you as my nurse!

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Awesome read. I often ask myself the same question. I think genuine active listening, being attentive to patient and family needs, and having patience with the patient and family is VITAL. Always listen, don't judge, and help the patient and family. Educate them, encourage them, have compassion. A compassionate caring nurse. This is what I strive for, and so far, I think I'm working towards that goal very well

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If you are "that nurse," I reserve the right to wave a metal detector by you to check that you are indeed human.

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I think you will stand out as a nurse to your patient if you are "caring". Every nurses gives medications, does procedures and whatever-nursing-stuff from the Nursing Funda' book but what will separate you from the "drones" is caring. And when we carry out our task to the patient, we remember that the patient are like us too- people.

Example, i had a mother who just lost her child and she was crying hysterically. A colleague (for whatever reason she had) was telling her in a loud and irritated voice, " Please, shut up." because she wanted to debrief/console the mother.

I know nurses are afraid to be too emotional and involve with the patient but it is never wrong to empathize with them. It is never wrong to look beyond the disease.

One time, I was looking for my nurse. I saw her in a room bottle feeding a baby. I asked her where is the mother and she said: " I let the mother take a shower. It's been days since she got one."

Small things like that makes a difference. I mean until know i still remember that nurse.

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Does "a nurse who everybody wants to have" really exist?

I'd seen that one of the main reasons of "firing", conflict and poor satisfaction (on both sides) is a kind of non-congruency between nurse and client/family. There are people who want old-fashioned hand holding and chatting about going to church even if these are only two things their nurse actually does. There are some who appreciate teaching, and some who go into panic mode after hearing that blood goes 'round and 'round. There are nurses who do not feel comfortable caring for "comfort care only" patients, or, as an opposite, for patients/families who are in deep denial about gravity of the situation.

Ideally, there should be special assessment done on admission regarding expectations and individual needs of the particular patient, and staff assigned accordingly. One impossible thing to dream of.

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It seems to me that being the nurse everyone wants to have as a patient is tantamount to too much of a good thing. This notion, while noble, seems like a one-way ticket to burnout, disgruntlement and the possible ruination of a once warm, caring and delightful personality.

So arms-length is a good idea and always be leary of the soft-soap.

The goal is to get to the finish line with body and soul intact.

Edited by Buyer beware
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Does "a nurse who everybody wants to have" really exist?

I'd seen that one of the main reasons of "firing", conflict and poor satisfaction (on both sides) is a kind of non-congruency between nurse and client/family. There are people who want old-fashioned hand holding and chatting about going to church even if these are only two things their nurse actually does. There are some who appreciate teaching, and some who go into panic mode after hearing that blood goes 'round and 'round. There are nurses who do not feel comfortable caring for "comfort care only" patients, or, as an opposite, for patients/families who are in deep denial about gravity of the situation.

Ideally, there should be special assessment done on admission regarding expectations and individual needs of the particular patient, and staff assigned accordingly. One impossible thing to dream of.

I understand your point regarding often it is the right mix of personality. I do feel that I have learned to bend to the patient's needs over the years. I try to tune in to what their concerns are and try to meet those. No one can be everyone's favorite nurse, but as others have said, when you care about the person, it goes a long way.

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It seems to me that being the nurse everyone wants to have as a patient is tantamount to too much of a good thing. This notion, while noble, seems like a one-way ticket to burnout, disgruntlement and the possible ruination of a once warm, caring and delightful personality.

So arms-length is a good idea and always be leary of the soft-soap.

The goal is to get to the finish line with body and soul intact.

As far as burnout, quite the contrary. The more I learned to connect to the patient it seems I was more successful in helping them. It often made a difference and I went home happy and fulfilled.

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When my daughter who is now a Nurse Practitioner, became a Nurse, my advice was to think of each patient as someone's Mom,Dad,Sister,Brother,Husband,Wife or child! This was always my way from day one and still is! They are not a disease or a room number but a human being who is scared and in need of care and compassion.

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Awesome read. I often ask myself the same question. I think genuine active listening, being attentive to patient and family needs, and having patience with the patient and family is VITAL. Always listen, don't judge, and help the patient and family. Educate them, encourage them, have compassion. A compassionate caring nurse. This is what I strive for, and so far, I think I'm working towards that goal very well

Good for you! Keep working at it --you are an asset to the profession! Joy

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If you are "that nurse," I reserve the right to wave a metal detector by you to check that you are indeed human.

Good point! And of course, no one is perfect. That is understood. But being genuinely compassionate and caring goes a long way toward making us fully human with one another. Joy

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