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Being a Compassionate Nurse… with Thick Skin

By Carrie Kiekhaefer Subscribe to RSS | January 11th 2012 | Views:

We must have compassion for our patients to make us a better nurse. They need to know that we care for their health, well-being, and ultimately them as a human being. However, being compassionate can also open us up to criticism that we are not equipped to handle. That's why as a nurse, we need to be strong, and have thick skin to resist any criticisms that can come our way on a daily basis.

We've all made errors. I've made them, but it's how we correct these errors that will define us. I see it everyday someone watching over you, almost seemingly waiting for you to screw up. They are those people that love to get under your skin. You can't please them, and no matter what corrections you make they are not happy with your work. It's an inevitable part of life, really. However, these people don't need to define who we are as a nurse.

These people have also called me a bad nurse, or a bad worker. I've also let it bother me in the past as well. It's not easy to have someone tell you these things and not get depressed. Having a low opinion of yourself makes everything we do, harder. However, it doesn't have to be like that.

There's a saying I try to live by and that's, "Only I can control how I feel." We control what we feel. The person giving us criticism isn't telling us to feel bad. We are doing that to ourselves, but sometimes repeating this saying isn't good enough. Here's a writing exercise I like to do to help toughen up and control how I feel.

First, write down the things that people have said to you that have hurt you. Then come up with an answer for it. Here's an example: Anne said I was a bad nurse because I didn't give Mr. Jenkins his meds. Your answer: Mr. Jenkins and I agreed that his meds would be taken at 11. It's not my problem that you came by at 10:30 and gave them to him.

This is one example of many that can help you not take harsh words to heart. The next step is to accept that we are human and that we are going to make mistakes. If someone confronts you about errors you made, accept it. Accept that you made a mistake and make the necessary corrections to remedy it. For some people this still won't be enough, but just know in your head that you did everything you could to make the situation right.

Another thing that has worked for me in the past is to think of all the people that you trust and whose opinion you value. Are these people who put you down and criticize you on that list of people? If not, then their words should have little impact on you and how you feel. We can even be strong in the moment as well. Phrases like, "Did you mean to sound rude?" or "What did you just say?" are great ways to buy some time and gain some composure so that you are able to answer them calmly and confidently.

I hope some of these tips will help you toughen up or at the very least help you resolve some issues that you might have been having. Just remember it's not the errors but the corrections we make to these errors that define who we are. As nurses, we need to be strong. We need to let these "words" slide right off our backs so we can continue to enjoy what we love. That's why it's important to have compassion, but have thick skin.

Carrie Kiekhaefer - About Author:
Since 1995, Nurses PRN has used resources, experience and expertise to coordinate the match between healthcare professionals and facilities. Established and headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin – Nurses PRN, now provides seasoned healthcare professionals to over 1,200 facilities across the country.

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