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  1. Dear Nurse Beth, 

    So my passion all throughout nursing school was to become an ED nurse. I had my preceptorship in the ED and actually ended up becoming good friends with my preceptor. I landed a ED job at a hospital 30-40 min away from my home and while I had never been to this hospital before and it was farther away from another hospital that I had been offered a job at, but I was determined to do ED. My first week was overwhelming however I felt like I was catching on to everything very well. I thought I was getting along with everyone and tried so hard to make friends because this has always been a struggle of mine because I have always been told I have a big personality. Mid second week, my preceptor pulls me aside and tells me I have had complaints that I have an attitude and am argumentative when others try to help. He did not have any specific examples and I was baffled, hurt, and felt so bad that I had made this impression. I cried and apologized to him and he hugged me saying he just wanted to help and he thought I was doing great but to just work on how I speak with others and that it was just something I was going to have to improve on. He even called me after saying I don't want you to take this personally, I want you to take it in, grow from it and keep moving. I walked away from the conversation thinking this was just a hiccup and that I would become more comfortable within a few more weeks and I just needed to find my footing with this group of people. I thought that this meeting was to tell me "hey this is what you need to improve on" and that I would have the rest of my orientation to improve myself. I felt that maybe my anxiety was getting the best of me and making me come off as argumentative with the staff when truly I was just nervous and unable to communicate when I was struggling with a certain task. I worked two more shifts after that and tried my hardest to watch how I was speaking to others. After that conversation though I suddenly was seeing myself never quite fitting in with this team. I was not nearly as excited to be in this ER or even work at this hospital the way I was during my preceptorship. My first day back on my third week, the manager pulled me in her office an hour into my shift and told me my communication skills were not what they were looking for, that I was not a good fit for their team and I was being terminated effective immediately. My heart sank. My old preceptor from school who I had become friends with was shocked that they did not give me more time. I want to be angry and blame them that they were not welcoming enough and being a bit harsh on me, but I want to learn from this experience and acknowledge my mistakes because I know I cannot walk away from this having learned nothing. However, I am suddenly doubting my decision to go into nursing. I am confused that they brought a problem to my attention last week, told me to improve on it and that they would help me, and then fired me the following week for that problem...I thought I would have more time to improve myself but I guess my problems were much bigger than I thought. My skills were not a problem whatsoever and I was learning everything very quickly. I am still trying to understand exactly what I did wrong so I can improve myself, but my confidence is shattered and they frankly did not give me much explanation or examples on why they had this impression that I was "argumentative". The only thing was that my preceptor told me when someone says something to me or tries to help me that I should just smile and say yes okay I understand instead of explaining why I am doing something the way I am doing it. I almost feel like I was fired because I did not brown nose the nurses the way the other new hires/grads were. I'm confused and scared to try to go back to working at a hospital because I am afraid I will make the same mistakes. I feel like my personality tends to make a large and longer lasting impression on others and I can be charismatic and flamboyant, but end up being not everyone’s favorite to be around. I have no filter when in my comfort zone and I will tell you exactly what I think and why however I guess that causes me to come across as abrasive but without the intention of being insulting.

    The orientation was supposed to be 12 weeks and I couldn't even get through 3 weeks. I was supposed to be given one patient in my first 2-3 weeks and was juggling 4-5 in my second week. I scribed and charted a cardiac arrest my second to last day of work perfectly and constantly thanked others when they taught me something. I am trying to figure out if I really just am a person with an attitude problem or maybe this unit and set of people was just not a good fit for me. I'm just lost and disappointed in myself and wishing I could have shown them the best side of myself, but I somehow feel like i wasn't given a chance to do that or to even fix my mistakes. 

    1. Nurse Beth

      Nurse Beth, MSN

      I'm so sorry this was your first experience.

      The fact that they did not give you any specific examples and moved to judgement so quickly could be signs that the management is not experienced or mature. If you worked 12 hr shifts, that means that you worked 6 shifts and were fired on your 7th shift. Only something egregious would warrant immediate termination.

      Too many times I've seen nurses who start out a bit shaky in some way  blossom with support and with time. What a shame to just throw away nurses.

      You describe yourself as explaining yourself (being defensive) when someone said something to you (which I'm taking to mean giving you instruction). You use the term "brown-nosing" to describe other new grads' behaviors. Acknowledging their novice status is not brown-nosing, it's appropriate. This view could be a point of pride on your behalf.

      Here's what I'm sensing, and what you can learn from the situation, because I know you want for this to make some sense. Tone down your big personality. Adopt a humble, learning attitude.

      This is harder for people who are smart, and I have a hunch you are smart, skills-wise. But there's also emotional intelligence, or people-smarts. If the nurses at all thought you were not teachable, that would account for the decision to terminate. Being seen as not teachable is the unforgivable sin in new nurses. Why? Because your co-workers need to know they can trust you with what they consider their patients. 

      You need to move forward from this experience. The worst experiences often become important landmarks in our lives...if we learn from them.

      I, too, had a rough start. I was suspended for a medication error as a new nurse. I know how you feel because I questioned if I should even be a nurse. It was pretty awful. Read about it on my blog I Was Suspended.

      Here's the key- do not quit. You did not come this far to quit, you have a purpose.

      Best wishes, my friend

      Nurse Beth

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