Need feedback: + or - its okay. My dream is getting crushed


  • Specializes in Transplant/Surgical ICU. Has 3 years experience.

First off, I am writing this because I respect the nursing profession and I am willing to work hard at staying in this field. It's hard to admit it but, I bum at this!

I have less than a year under my belt and so far I have received 3 complaints from family members about me. Yes, three in less than a year. I will not go into defencive mode and explain every detail of each situation (unless you, the reader need me to). The common complain is that I am not caring enough. I broke down and cried when my charge nurse told me this, I could not believe that I was giving off that vibe or better that my efforts were not good enough. I don't know what else to do, I feel like I try, but I have come to the conclusion that maybe nursing is not for me. Changing jobs in this economy is the last thing I want to think about but I don't want to be THAT nurse.

In honesty I tend to have a tough love attitute with my patients (pushing them to move or do breathing exercises etc. I explain why it's important and that I don't mean to be the bad nurse but it needs to be done), but I never thought I was uncaring or empathetic. I am a serious person and not very sociable, so I know this is something that probably contributes to my problem. My third complaint was today.

Family memeber said I did not expalin to patient what I was doing and that I startled him ( night shift--pt is sleeping I turn night light on draw labs, hand meds but dont wake hjim up to explain) Also, she said I gave him a bath at 5am when he should be sleeping and that I should not have done that.

I have had an assignment changed becasue pt's wife felt I was being rough with her husband. I don't know if it is because I am rushing or because that is just how I operate, but I sincerly did not mean to be. I try to check myself now and go super slow with turns and baths. I am scared! I am that nurse I never wanted to be and I feel like I will never recover from this ( I feel awful).

Tips and honest advice ( brutal is okay, I just need honesty) is welcomed. My charges have been very nice about this, but I feel it is part of there job and hence may not be able to tell me more of what they honestly feel.

Is this for me? Right now my anwer is no, but I really would like to feel like I can grow and learn from this. On the other hand I feel not all personalities can handle certain jobs and maybe mine can't.

Thank you guys


38,333 Posts

The biggest thing I have found is that one can have the disposition of Mother Teresa and the looks of Marilyn Monroe but the family member who complains will complain anyway, because they have every intention of complaining no matter how the care is. It is just as much a possibility that this is the case with the complaints as it is that the complaints are valid. I would think about the situation and make changes if necessary but I would not lose sleep over this unless your supervisor criticizes you. Complaints will come whether one deserves them or not.


561 Posts

Specializes in LTC/Rehab, Med Surg, Home Care.

There are two possiblities that come to mind right away:

1. Either you've had really bad luck and super-sensitive pts/family members who would have complained about everyone/anyone OR

2. You really ARE that "uncaring" nurse.

Clearly you are not the uncaring nurse, or this would not have upset you this much, BUT #1 is also unlikely...

Do you have a co-worker that you trust that could come into the room with you and help give you pointers? Not while you are in the room, but as a critique? You're giving the vibe that you want to fix this, but are unable to see what needs to be fixing.

Also, did you really do a bath at 5am? Why???

allnurses Guide

JBudd, MSN

1 Article; 3,836 Posts

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching. Has 42 years experience.

What I tell my students: when you go into a room, the first thing you do is look the patient in the eye and concentrate on him/her. Introduce yourself, explain who you are and why you are in the room. Don't look at monitors, IVs, anything else until that patient knows you are focusing on him as a person. Shake hands, or touch the arm, something to make contact. Ask how they are, any pain, any needs.

Use the gentlest touch you can when doing baths. Stroke, don't scrub.

Go ahead and wake them up, you have to verify who they are (our hospital requires asking name as well as looking at nameband) for meds or labs.

But like Sunny said, why a bath at 5 AM?


213 Posts

Specializes in Psychiatric Nursing. Has 1 years experience.

Another little trick I learned from a more senior nurse is to utilize a chair by the bedside and sit down for those few moments you are explaining a new med or importance of using the IS post-surgery. You don't have to sit any longer then it would have taken you to explain the same thing standing up it just gives the pt. more of an appearance that you are really listening to them.

Its also important to remember that while you are the nurse, these patients are not your children. As far as things such as baths go you really do need to try to be considerate of their preferences and choices. While its easy to feel like all they have to do is sit in bed all day long and wait for us to come in for whatever Tx is next on our NEVER ENDING LIST of daily to dos we need to remember as adults they are in a tough spot. So much of their freedom to choose regarding the smallest things has been taken away from them. While their are many tasks throughout the day that have to be time regimented based on whats practical ie med passes their are other things that it is really nice when we can give our patients a little more power to choose.

Please don't be too hard on yourself, it sounds like you are trying very hard and like it was said earlier you can be an amazing nurse but you can always count on "challenging" family members. :heartbeat

nursej22, MSN, RN

3,274 Posts

Specializes in Public Health, TB. Has 38 years experience.

If there are family members present, introduce yourself to them as well, and ask about their relationship to the patient. Families can hinder, but they can also help. enlisting them as part of the care team can go a long way to prevent complaints. The person in the bed is someone's spouse, father, grandma, a loved one. If they can understand why the nurse is making mama eat breakfast in the chair or deep breath and cough even if it hurts, then they are less likely to complain and will encourage the patient even when you're out of the room.

I am not very social either and I have to remind myself to engage the family members, but once I do it seems to put everyone more at ease.

Don't give up on yourself, you sound like a caring, sensitive person. Nursing tasks can be overwhelming but the human connection is the rewarding part.

allnurses Guide


7,065 Posts

Specializes in Peds/outpatient FP,derm,allergy/private duty. Has 47 years experience.

Please don't give up! There's so much to learn when we are new that only comes with time and practice. I still wince a little inside when a pt cries out because I've done something that needed to be done or they wouldn't get better. What I like to do is identify and be a keen observer of a nurse who seems to embody the characteristics you feel less confident about. My big problem was time management and prioritizing. My co-worker seemed to breeze through while I agonized over why I was never done. Finally one morning she said, "C'mon! I'll show you how I do it!" Off we went, it was lighthearted, I learned some great tips, never forgot her generous attitude.

The problem is clearly not a lack of caring. You do care. Probably why you were so surprised that people felt you were giving off that vibe. You know your insides, others see your outside. Without knowing the situation firsthand, it's hard to advise anyone as to what, why or how your communication skills are being mis-perceived. You mentioned that "I am a serious person, and not very sociable". Maybe part of that is being interpreted in the wrong way. And I say that as taking your word that it's more than just the type of complaining that's expected from patients, and justifiable!

Lastly, the charge nurses job is not to withhold negative feedback because being nice to you is part of their job. So don't disregard their opinion because you think they have to be nice to you. Best case scenario, you can find someone to work with you one-on-one, someone you trust.

Don't throw in the towel. Best of luck to you.:up:


542 Posts

Specializes in Transplant/Surgical ICU. Has 3 years experience.

Thanks for the responses. I had a pair on that day. I had just finished shooting his hemodynamic numbers (the patient was already awake), he was groaning about being uncomfortable and wanted me to turn him. Called the CNA in and we turned him. Turns out is linen was stained with blood from leaky A-line

I try to push everything I can towards the end of the night shift, but I can not start scrambling around at the last minute when I have a pair -- I see it as time management (now if I had done it at 1am..., also btw 5-530am is when nurses usually give baths at night or start their end of shift stuff like, dressings, labs...)

Finally, If the patient needs a bath (which he really needed), they are awake and I am able to commit to it then, I do it because I do not want to be rushing and not devoting time to them (or making them feel as though they are a bother: learned this after my first complaint!)


112 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg; aged care; OH&S. Has 14 years experience.

Ok well it sounds like you are being very honest with yourself which is great. And hey, we all make mistakes, it says in your profile you are 24, that is very young, particularly to be a nurse.

I was a young nurse when I started, around 21 or so and I think without the benefit of some life experience (not saying you don't have any, but i didn't have a lot) nursing can be very challenging when you first start. The nurses who transition very well are usually a bit older, have children, or have worked with people before, or have been in hospital, or have nursed family members through illness (in my experience). Also, new nurses are very skills focused (I was also) and it takes time to realise that is a human being sitting in that bed. Try to remember that, and put yourself in that person's place.

I think you should have a serious think about these complaints. Don't beat yourself up about it, just think about how you might have come across to the patient and their family. As nurses, our non verbal communication often says more than our actions as our job is largely face to face and this might be what the patient and family members are responding to.

We are all on a learning curve, every day. Just learn from the mistakes, and try to move on. When I was on orientation for my nursing grad year, I was told by a senior nurse that I would do something stupid, make mistakes or feel silly quite regularly, and to learn from it, and move on. That is the nature of the job when working with human beings.

I hate to flog a dead horse also, but 5am showers are way too early. I mean if someone got me up for a shower at 5am I'd probably object too ;). Patients should be given choices, as much as possible anyway in a busy unit.

I wouldn't give up yet, but honestly, only you can know if this role suits you - you might be better suited in surgery or ER down the track. There are lots of options.

Good luck.

mama_d, BSN, RN

1,187 Posts

Specializes in tele, oncology. Has 10 years experience.

I too have issues when nights is required to give oriented patients baths. If you want me to give the dementia patient who is trying to get out of bed every five minutes a bath, that's one thing. Waking up my totally with it 35 year old at 0500 to see if they need help getting cleaned up is not my cup of tea.

I'm kinda torn on this one. On the one hand, the complaints are similar, so maybe there is something going on. On the other hand, it's been three patients out of how many? And with the most common, least easily provable complaint that there is? So there may be nothing to it at all.

Either way, striving to be a better and more compassionate nurse can't hurt any of us. So chin up, smile, make eye contact, take a few extra seconds to ask "Do you have any questions?" or something similar, and know that whether or not the complaints have any grounding in reality they are spurring you on to do better.


658 Posts

Specializes in CMSRN. Has 9 years experience.

when trying to make pt's happy try to feel them out and see what type of person they are. Not saying change who you are but adjust to fit the pt.

I like the idea of making sure you introduce yourself and sit in a chair for a few moments.

I am very blunt with pt's but in a lighthearted way. I push pt's but if I see them agitated due to it or refuse. I educate gently and ultimately let them decide but with info. This way your but is covered and pt feels they are in control.

I will even ask the pt if I did anything to upset so I can turn the situation around. Sometimes it comes out that they are stressed or that is it something I did.

Also a plus, anticipate their needs and offer something before they ask or ask if there is anything you can get. Most likely the call bell won't go off later and keeps them happy. Win/Win, works well for me.


542 Posts

Specializes in Transplant/Surgical ICU. Has 3 years experience.

No, I have never woken a patient just to give them a bath. This man was wide awake and asked me to turn him. I proceeded to tell him that while we were all in here and his ***** were stained I was going to bathe him. He did not say anything (He is from Mexico and was visiting, he speaks little english). The CNA and I gave him a bath and as we were doing it he said it felt good. When I went in to do my assessment the next day I had him (last night) he told me he was glad I was back, so I was really shocked when I heard the complaint. I really thought I had a good rapport with him and his family... I apologised to him and his daughter after I was approached by my charge and he told me, it was just that I was turning on the lights and the alarms were going off and it bothered him and I did not understand him, but that it was okay. She told me he did not want her to go to the charge nurse and she hoped we would have a better night.

Again thank you for all the advice guys.

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