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Social Skills in Nursing (Part I): The Art of Validation

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TheCommuter has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

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Countless nurses, new and seasoned, continually report problems at their various workplaces. A common theme that proves central to many of these problems is a notable deficiency in several important social skills. In essence, some nurses are creating discord at their places of employment without even realizing it. This article is the first of a two-part essay that aims to discuss the top social skills problems that nurses face today. You are reading page 2 of Social Skills in Nursing (Part I): The Art of Validation. If you want to start from the beginning Go to First Page.

Lev has 7 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency - CEN.

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Great topic!

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Gooselady has 23 years experience as a BSN, RN.

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Excellent article on an important part of being a nurse.

I think most of my social skills, which are pretty good, are because I've been a nurse most of my adult life. But I didn't start out that way, and until I 'got it' my life as a nurse was much harder than it is now.

One big revelation to me (in hand with this article) was how much better my life in nursing was when I shifted my focus to the well-being of the others around me. I don't mean some codependent thing, just natural interest in what's happening to a fellow nurse, and definitely, giving positive feedback even to the biggest curmudgeon.

It's kind of like 'feeling' your way around, there's no checklist or function chart.

I remember cringing and being so focused on how I was treated, what I imagined was being said or thought about me. I was petrified of making a mistake or of being the black sheep. Somehow, not sure how, but it occurred to me that I was just plain feeling sorry for myself, and that drew a lot of negative attention (or, it appeared to). It's not like my job got better or my coworkers easier to get along with, it was the way I looked at things that changed.

I still see all the insanity and chaos as much as I ever did. It bothers me as much as ever. I just don't take it personally, as if it were some kind of personal attack just to make my life suck (like, staffing issues). I have a choice to work or not in a poorly staffed unit. Hey, wait! It's understaffed EVERYWHERE. Literally. Some places worse than others . . . so lets find a better place.

I think you do find what you are looking for :( If you are very anxious about how mean fellow coworkers are to you, you'll see EVERY LITTLE thing. I'm sure I've 'overlooked' a lot of evil thoughts along the way. What a lovely thing, really. Makes a hard job easier to tolerate. So nurse A isn't all that fond of me? That's her right. I don't like everyone either.

There have been some nurses I really looked up to, and wondered what it was about them that they didn't seem so stressed, actually appeared cheerful almost no matter what. I'll admit I suspected some were borgs, how could anyone be so darn cheerful all the time? In THIS place? But they often complimented or gave positive encouragement. They could discuss an error with another nurse without the nurse feeling insulted. They could withstand verbal abuse from a patient's family with the most amazing dignity. Again and again, no matter what went on, they held their chin up, kept their sense of humor about themselves (I think this is key).

Our job is hard. And we unintentionally make it much harder than it needs to be. "Social skillz" is the lubrication in a cranky mechanism called healthcare. You can be pleasant and polite with ANYONE, no exceptions. Even when they are spitting in your face, no need to lose your own dignity. You can have the most difficult conversations and maintain a pleasant facial expression and tone of voice. It takes practice. And no, it does not feel 'fake'. I do it from genuine respect, which I extend to myself as well as others. That's the idea, anyway, and no I'm far from perfect, but I've worked hard to 'get it' and I agree, it's made my life as a nurse SO much more satisfying.

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SubSippi has 2 years experience.

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I do separate "being friends with" and "being friendly with"- I keep close boundaries, I don't socialize much with coworkers outside of work, but I have very collegial relationships with them. I know people professionally at outside facilities and other sites in our health system (case managers, home care people, etc) that we do favors for our mutual patients, and our patients benefit from these relationships that we share. We're just not running buddies or drinking buddies.

Yeah it makes sense when y'all say it like that. I really like all my coworkers and would consider them to be friends, but not the kind I would ask for a ride to the airport.

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strawberryluv is a BSN, RN and specializes in LTC, Med-surg.

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This reminds me of something that happened to me during my shift on Sunday as a CNA. One of the nurses made

a very rude comment to me when all I did was repeat back to her what the patient had said about her bowels. I guess

the nurse thought it was stupid of me to bring it up. Instead of replying back in a very aggressively hostile way and making an

awkward work environment, I chose to chat with her. I quietly relayed with her that I was not aware of the patient's status since I worked very little hours at the facility nor was I aware that this patient was not in her right mind. In other news, I continued to talk to her more so that we can somehow lose the hostility and to help myself "make up" for the hurt feelings I felt by her comment.

In the end, she taught me a thing or two and even suggested a very interesting medical television documentary for me to check out. I don't think we're friends but I feel like my approach made her an ally rather than an enemy in my book. Hopefully, she will treat me better since I've spent some time talking to her.

Social skills really do matter.

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Stcroix has 6 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in cardiac-telemetry, hospice, ICU.

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OP, great topic, you are right on. I honed my people skills with an OLD book,"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It was a huge best seller in its day and is still totally appropriate. The book is and easy read and you can get an old copy for next to nothing.

I remember one story he told where he was at a party and engaged in a conversation with a stranger about sailboats. At the end of the conversation the stranger considered Dale an interesting fellow and a new friend. Dale reported in the book that he didn't know a darn thing about sailboats, but he showed interest in what the stranger found interesting. Very much in tune with what the OP is saying.

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TheCommuter has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

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I really like all my coworkers and would consider them to be friends, but not the kind I would ask for a ride to the airport.
If you would not ask your coworkers for a ride to the airport, they're not really friends in my humble opinion. I'd refer to these types of people as acquaintances or associates: the people in our lives whom we know fairly well, but are not quite friends.

Most people would have no problem asking a real friend for something such as a ride to the airport or other types of favors that will be reciprocated someday.

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smartnurse1982 has 7 years experience.

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Social skills is a really hard topic for me,as i have higher functioning autism.

I cannot show interest in a person if i truly do not like them,and i certainly cannot fake it.

I tried so hard to smile all the tine,but i felt so fake and stopped it.

Why should I have to alter *my* comfort level so someone else can feel comfortable?

Since it is Christmas,this makes this topic even harder.

I do not celebrate any holidays,including birthdays.

I do not celebrate the holidays,and when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas,i do not say anything back.

People think I am then being an itch.

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JustBeachyNurse has 10 years experience as a RN and specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics.

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Social skills is a really hard topic for me,as i have higher functioning autism.

I cannot show interest in a person if i truly do not like them,and i certainly cannot fake it.

I tried so hard to smile all the tine,but i felt so fake and stopped it.

Why should I have to alter *my* comfort level so someone else can feel comfortable?

Since it is Christmas,this makes this topic even harder.

I do not celebrate any holidays,including birthdays.

I do not celebrate the holidays,and when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas,i do not say anything back.

People think I am then being an itch.

Why not just say "thank you" or "have a nice day" if someone offers a holiday greeting? It's simple acknowledgement that someone spoke to you and offered a greeting not an offer of celebration. (Saying have a nice day was a suggestion by a speech pathologist for a middle schooler that has a form of autism and wanted an idea rather than turn away or ignore the person)

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firstinfamily has 33 years experience as a RN.

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How does the generational gap come into play here? I work with nurses who are basically 20-30 years younger than I am. I try to be interested in their "chatty" subjects, but honestly, there is only so much I can listen to. I do not want to come across as the "old geezer with advice on everything," but I kind of feel outside the loop. I try to touch on a subject all of us may relate to, but sometimes that is very difficult. We are just forming a team because over half are new hires. What advice to you have for those of us working in a more generational gap environment??

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TheCommuter has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

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Why not just say "thank you" or "have a nice day" if someone offers a holiday greeting? It's simple acknowledgement that someone spoke to you and offered a greeting not an offer of celebration.
Bingo! Even if you do not celebrate the holiday, proper social etiquette requires us to respond to holiday greetings by saying something like "thank you" or "same to you!"

Not saying anything in response to a holiday greeting is construed by many people as the rudest slap in the face ever because you are not acknowledging them or validating the person who greeted you. Instead, you are ignoring the person as if they are invisible. Look up the concept of invisibility; it is rather bleak to treat someone as if they aren't there.

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JustBeachyNurse has 10 years experience as a RN and specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics.

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Bingo! Even if you do not celebrate the holiday, proper social etiquette requires us to respond to holiday greetings by saying something like "thank you" or "same to you!"

Not saying anything in response to a holiday greeting is construed by many people as the rudest slap in the face ever because you are not acknowledging them or validating the person who greeted you. Instead, you are ignoring the person as if they are invisible. Look up the concept of invisibility; it is rather bleak to treat someone as if they aren't there.

Exactly. My son is dealing with this now. Former friends turn their back to him and blatantly ignore him as though he isn't there causing much difficulty. There is no excuse as these are "typical" children and my son is the child with autism and social deficits. Ignoring someone intentionally is extremely cruel. Simply saying have a nice day does not acknowledge the holiday celebration that you don't recognize/celebrate but simply affirms the existence of the human being that offered a greeting. By not doing do isn't being an "itch" but is being rude and possibly cruel. No one says you need to socialize or participate in trivial conversations with others whether or not you like them but being civil is necessary. You don't need to be friends with everyone.

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SubSippi has 2 years experience.

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If you would not ask your coworkers for a ride to the airport, they're not really friends in my humble opinion. I'd refer to these types of people as acquaintances or associates: the people in our lives whom we know fairly well, but are not quite friends.

Most people would have no problem asking a real friend for something such as a ride to the airport or other types of favors that will be reciprocated someday.

It's come to my attention...that I might have been using the word, "friend," a little loosely! :)

We still have a good time though!

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