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Topics About 'Perfectionism'.

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  1. I have always admired nursing students’ ambition and drive for excellence. When I was in nursing school, I remember spending hours in the lab preparing for medication administration check-offs. My goal? It’s simple…I wanted to perform the skill flawlessly. The goal of ‘perfection” in nursing school can be both positive and negative. On one hand, it helps us to achieve goals that are demanding, but they are obtainable. On the second hand, not accepting anything less than perfect often leads to self-doubt, anxiety, and depression. Is This You? Do you recognize any of these unhealthy characteristics perfectionism in your own thinking? Setting unrealistic high standards for yourself, and sometimes other people. Using “all or none thinking” to evaluate yourself Anything less than meeting your unrealistic goals would be considered a failure Focusing on small mistakes or flaws instead of the overall progress being made As a clinical instructor, I’ve had to remind many students to clean the skin with alcohol before administering their first injection on an actual patient. The skill caused high anxiety in most students and I expected missteps. But for some students, this one small reminder was absolutely demoralizing, and the entire clinical day would be a wash. What is Your Self-Talk? One way to determine your own level of perfectionism is to think about how you talk to yourself. It is common for nursing students to adopt thinking habits that distort the way they perceive reality in a negative way. Ultimately, these cognitive distortions will leave you with low confidence and feelings of inadequacy. Let’s look at a few examples: Self-Talk Cognitive Distortion “I never get true or false questions right.” You overgeneralize by having a belief based on a single event. “I turned in my care plan assignment, but it was all wrong.” Jump to negative conclusions even when there’s no evidence to support your thinking. “My instructor must think I don’t know what I am doing.” You "mindread” and assume your instructor is thinking about you negatively. Want to learn more about common cognitive distortions among college students? Check out this link and learn more about how they can limit your college success. Irrational Beliefs Nursing students often irrationally believe they cannot make any mistakes in nursing school. I have often wondered if this belief is the result of faculty bombarding new students about the grave consequences that may come from even a minor misstep. The truth is…. no one is perfect in nursing school and there’s always improvements that can be made. Focus on Positives Perfectionist thinking habits ultimately lead to lower confidence and higher levels of anxiety. Fortunately, you can change your thinking by focusing on your successes instead of on your flaws. Students often cancel out a positive thought or experience by adding “however” and “but”. For example: I had a fairly good day in clinical, but my instructor had to remind me to recheck a patient’s blood pressure. I feel good about the nursing diagnosis assignment, however, I already know I did one wrong. “However” and “but” cancel out the positive statement in the above examples. Try reversing the order of your thoughts and use the positive to cancel out the negative. Or, just leave off the negative half. For example: "My instructor had to remind me to recheck a blood pressure, but overall, I had good day." "Overall, I had a good day." "I know I missed one nursing diagnosis, however, I feel good about the assignment." "I feel good about the assignment." Setting Realistic Goals We know being a perfect student is unattainable, so let’s look at a few ways you can set realistic goals for yourself. Set a goal like you normally do, but then reduce it somewhat. For example, if your goal is to make a 100 on a dosage and calculations exam, try reducing your goal grade to 90. Avoid should and must thinking when setting goals. For example, “I must pass all my skill check-offs on the first try”. A more realistic goal would be “I want to pass the majority of my skills check-offs on the first try.” Think about what you would do if you were setting goals for another classmate. Sometimes we are more realistic when setting goals for other people. Instead of using “perfectly” in your goals, try using “do well”. Focus on improving your own performance instead of doing better than others. Wanting to be perfect in nursing school can be an effective motivator to help you perform at your best. But, setting unrealistically high standards can also raise stress levels and lower your confidence. The key is finding a balance between your best and learning from any mistakes along the way. Let Us Hear from You Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement to share with today's nursing students? References Peurifoy, R. (2005). Anxiety, Phobias, & Panic: A step-by-step program for regaining control of your life. Lessons 5-6. Warner Books NACADA - Impact of Perfectionism on Students - The good, the bad, and the indifferent Perfectionism and Depression: Vulnerabilities Nurses Need to Understand
  2. jeastridge

    Perfect-o Meter

    The phone rang loudly besides me, it's electronic clanging disrupting the peaceful thoughts that floated through my mind as I enjoyed a first cup of morning coffee on the porch. "You forgot to enter a note on Mrs. S for Interdisciplinary Team Meeting this morning. Can you fix that by 8 a.m.? After quick "I'm sorries" and a few pleasantries, we hung up and I walked over to the computer. A few minutes later, task completed, I returned to my now-cool coffee and sat down only to hear the nurse in my head, the one with the "Perfect-o Meter" set on "10" wagging a scolding finger at me and singing that old song, "You're no good, you're no good, baby, you're no good." I shook my head to shoo her away and calmly addressed her accusation with reality: I am a wonderful nurse, experienced and caring. Yes, I make mistakes. But I keep moving forward." After the imaginary conversation was over, I tried to return to my morning meditation time, holding the re-heated cup of coffee to warm my chilly hands, enjoying the day off. But I couldn't stop thinking about the small omission and the drive to perfection. How do we cope with "the perfect nurse" of our imagination? Even harder, how do we cope with the real life nurse-sometimes our managers or co-workers-who really do seem to have it all together, never make mistakes, and have their Perfect-o Meters set on a steady "10"? First, a pause for consideration. The truth is no one is perfect. All of us are humans and do make mistakes of omission and of commission. Mistakes of omission, like mine, can be either unimportant in the scheme of things or more serious. Depending on the type of work we do, we can all supply examples. Simply forgetting to do something, to chart something, to add something, can have unintended consequences. On the other hand, omissions can also involve leaving work for the next shift or careless management of our time so that we are unable to complete the work before us. Whether it is a mistake of omission or commission-doing something that is not exactly right-we are often left discouraged with ourselves, processing the same event over and over, wishing we could fix it. Unfortunately, when this happens we tend to mentally compare ourselves with others. So how do we deal with our own Perfect-o Meter's setting and also deal with others? Mistakes are one thing,but there is also the general day-to-day nursing where someone whose meter is set on high can make us feel inadequate-even when we are doing a good job. Or the other side of that-if our meter is set higher we can feel critical of other nurses' efforts and try to do too much because we feel no one else does it as well as we do. Either approach can be defeating and leave us burnt out and sad. One way to begin to cope with this is simple acceptance of who we are and how we are made. Now this doesn't mean excusing ourselves for our bad behaviors, "Oh, I just blow up like that." or "I can't help it if I am slow." There are always things in our inner make-up that we need to work to improve; but there is a great deal of beauty in acknowledging that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" and that is not just a description of physical bodies but also our personalities and dispositions. A car with a full tank doesn't run better than a car with a half a tank. They both run just fine. The amount of gas that propels them forward is irrelevant to the ultimate arrival at their destination. We all have natural Perfect-o Meters. While one is set on a high "10", another nurse, also an excellent clinician may be set at a more casual "7.5." This doesn't mean that the 7.5 person is less or more. They simply are. Sometimes we go around disliking ourselves so much that we have little left to offer our patients and our co-workers. Or on the other hand, we exercise little tolerance for those who don't operate quite as efficiently as we do, thereby transmitting that critical vibe that makes others uncomfortable and undermines good working relationships. So what to do here? First, we learn to love who we are as we are. Let's turn off the mental recordings that sing the "You're no good" song and tell those voices to back off. Instead, we work to find voices of affirmation and encouragement to fill our heart and soul. We try to avoid the toxic people when possible in favor of those who express love and acceptance toward others and who recognize their own worth, no matter where their particular meter is set. When we are full to the brim with quiet confidence, we can make allowances for ourselves and for others. Wherever we are on the Perfect-o Meter, we are good!