I know that it's important to have a "thick skin" as a nurse, but I just don't. I tend to be pretty sensitive when people are outright disrespectful to me. Not so much the people I'm caring for. More so peers and superiors. This is something I know I'm going to have to work on, I just don't know how.
Today was a real eye-opener for me. My professor was very rude to me for no reason. I mean just downright mean. I won't go into details, but I wasn't the only one who thought he crossed the line. It wasn't because I did anything stupid or anything. The only thing I can figure is that he was just in a bad mood.
Anyway, I was able to stay composed long enough to get to the bathroom - where I balled my eyes out.
Now I'm afraid that I'm too emotional for nursing. I know it's a tough profession. How can I develop a thicker skin?
Oct 12, '05
nptpbee, thank you so much for your post.
It's good to know that I'm not alone in my sensitivity. I understand exactly what you mean when you say that it hurts your soul. That's the way I feel. It's so much more than being offended or upset... my soul actually hurts when things like this happen. I just don't understand why people have to treat other people the way they do. It makes me so sad for humanity... does that sound silly? Anyway, it's ironic because my sensitivity is what lead me to a caring profession in the first place and now I feel like I have to overcome it. My good friend brought up a good point today. She said that it's my sensitivity that will make me a good nurse because I am able to empathize with other people and I truly care for others. So, I guess we don't really want to overcome the sensitivity completely.
I'd actually be okay with feeling hurt, as long as I could keep the tears in. I'm am so afraid that I'm going to cry in response to a mean comment by a doc or something. What a great way to lose respect. I don't worry about how I'll react to mean patients. I've been in situations in the past where I had to care for disrespectful and mean people. In those situations I can accept that they are just at a certain point in their lives and it's my job to care about them regardless. I just have a very hard time with mean peers and superiors.
So, I guess I just need to think of how I can react to those situations. Maybe I could focus on saying one brief, strong comment and leaving it at that. I like your response to the doctor who rudely told you to move. You made a simple, strong comment and ended it there.
Anyone else have any ideas? I'd love to hear them. Clinicals are starting soon and I'm sure I'll encounter many opportunities to practice my reaction then!
Last edit by belabelisa on Oct 13, '05
Oct 12, '05
Well, I have been a nurse for about 1 1/2 yrs now and when I started off I was really quite sensitive. In fact, I am sure there are posts on this very forum that I composed along those lines when I was back in school.
The truth is that negative feedback will always hurt but as time goes on, each sting is a little less unbearable and doesn't last as long.
That's my truth, at least.
Last edit by bluesky on Oct 12, '05
Oct 13, '05
As an experienced nurse who has worked with a lot of "thinned skinned" newbies ... my suggestion is to focus on the patient's needs.
There is nothing wrong with having feelings, being empathetic, shedding a few tears, etc. However, it becomes a problem if it interfers with your ability to provide care for the patient and/or disrupts the care provided by others. If you "fall apart emotionally" you are not able to help the patient and may become a burden to your already overworked colleagues.
When you feel yourself starting to get very emotional about something, take a deep breath and assess the situation. Focus on what the patient needs and/or what will help the situation. Focus on serving the patient's needs and/or on a strategy for dealing with the difficult interpersonal situation (or whatever). Have you feelings, acknowledge them ... but stay focused on acting in a way that will be of use. That is what you are there for.
Ignoring your true, spontaneous feelings usually isn't a good idea ... nor is always getting angry ... or always ignoring the negative ... or always making a joke of it ... or always anything. Each situation is different and you need to develop a variety of responses to suit the different types of situations. But one thing is almost always true: you (and your patients) will almost always be better-served if you focus you mind on meeting the needs of the patient. In the short-term "heat of the moment" that's a practical strategy that will help you through a difficult event.
Another tip is that most emotional situations are easier to resolve if you can find a way to diffuse the strong emotion rather than escalate it. By focusing on problem-solving (and/or tasks to complete), you can often steer your attention away from the strong emotions that are impairing your ability to think and act at your best. Once your emotional self is no longer "running out of control," you will be better-able to find an appropriate way to express those emotions and resolve the situation.
Last edit by llg on Oct 13, '05