It’s no big secret that nursing is a challenging field. As if the ever-changing knowledge required to remain competent in the profession were not enough, factor in the inherent difficulties such as unrealistic staffing ratios and false perceptions from the community at large, and it’s near impossible to perform the job as is expected.
So while striving to perserve required credentials, maintaining skill’s competency, and keeping up with continually changing and expanding technological advances, the professional nurse must also adhere to safe practice standards, ensuring the best possible care is delivered to his/her population.
And that’s fine. I mean, we’re used to it anyway. Where things may get kinda slippery are keeping to such a high standard when short-staffed. But the hardest part is probably trying to reach the high bar that is set by the expectations of the patient population.
Indeed, nurses are not only expected to perform their job with skillful competency, without mistake, and in a timely manner, but also with a huge grin on their face. In fact, nothing ruffles the feathers of the general public more than a nurse who can’t seem to adhere to the Florence Nightingale, Angel of Healthcare perception. What I mean is, it’s just expected that nurses should perform their duties without complaint and with a happy smile. At all times.
So is it the unrealistic expectation of the general public that makes nursing harder than it should be? Perhaps. What about stubborn, cocky physicians who belittle their nursing counterparts? Yep. That’s certainly a dinosaur I’d love to see fully extinct! How about unfair working conditions or a nonsupportive work environment? Is that the worst enemy of nursing at large?
While all those things are terrible, they’re not the worst. It’s not even patient satisfaction surveys. And although this might disappoint some, it’s not even the large number of professionals who misspell HIPAA. (Of note, I don’t think this is a big deal whatsoever.)
I can recall my first nursing job. It was PCU, aka, Progressive Care Unit. It was a step down from ICU, which basically meant I worked my butt off. I had patients who likely should have gone straight to the ICU, but started with me instead. Most patients were one minute away from coding, but instead of having two patients, I had 4-5. It was awful! I mean, I loved it, but as a new nurse it was incredibly stressful.
The great thing, though, was how much I learned. While I anxiously prayed my way to work, once there I hit the ground running and set-up an awesome foundation of knowledge for the rest of my career. Yet I only stayed there a year. I became certain it was the worst job ever.
This fire of dissatisfaction was stoked by the company I kept. I worked night shift and several of my coworkers had passed go at burnout, and had completely submerged themselves in Bitter, Angry Nurseville. And they were determined to bring everyone else there to live.
Looking back I see a job that to this day paid me better than any I’ve ever had, to include the largest sign-on bonus, best compensation package I’ve seen, and a rocking shift differential. We were paid frequently for continuing education, and had the joy of self-scheduling. Like, I only had to work a weekend every once in a blue moon.
But at the time, I was sure my workplace was the pits. The bad mood, poor attitude, and “eat their young” mindset of those around me did their very best to poison my new nurse persona. They were serving up bad apples, and I naively fell into that barrel. And that was the worst.
I saw it then, and I see it now. Do you know who’s the worst enemy of Nursing? Nurses. We are our own worst enemy. Sadly, poor attitudes of burned out professionals seek to infect the incoming newbies. Know-it-all nurses who are full of judgement but low on grace are negatively impacting those around them.
Nurses are a strong breed. They have to be to survive nursing school, but that tough exterior is strengthened by necessity when they encounter the very real challenges of being responsible for the life of another while maintaining professionalism, integrity, and stellar, skillful performance without error.
But sometimes that tough exterior actually becomes a hardened shell, one that lacks the compassion that led them into the field to begin with. The lack of help, grooming, and guidance from one’s peers can lead to burnout faster than anything. The inability of coworkers to be cohesive and willing to team-build can break a young (meaning green) nurse quickly, and it can even wear down the rest.
As nurses, when we forget what it was like to be the “new guy” we are not doing any favors for the field. When we lack grace and mercy for our peers we are actually enemies of the state, the state of nursing professionals. When we’ve lost sight of our compassion for not only patients, but also our brothers and sisters in arms, we become the worst enemy of nursing, for no one can more quickly tear down the field than someone on the inside.
In our own unrealistic expectations of those within the fold, we can quickly put out the fire of even the most motivated of professionals. We eat our young and slowly smother everyone else. It’s a shame. And it’s something that only we can change.
As a nurse we are taught to see the patient through eyes of compassion, to try and walk in their shoes, to see the good in all. Why is it so hard to extend this same gesture to our fellow professionals? It shouldn’t be.
As nurses we must strive to not only provide the best care to those we serve, but also the best and most compassionate care to those we serve amongst. No one will save us if we do not at first save ourselves.
To pull together and overcome the many challenges that exist in the field of healthcare we must first pull together as a team of nursing professionals. Only then will we be able to reach fully the goals we have for the nursing field. Only then will our efforts be worth anything substantial.
United we are many, but divided we will certainly fall. Although it sounds cliche, sometimes the simplest answer is the best one.
The field of nursing isn’t easy. We all know this too well. There are enough challenges we face without having to face unnecessary ones within our own ranks.
The next time you interact with a peer ask yourself if your behavior and words are ones that help build your fellow nurse, or if they in fact cut them down. If they’re anything beyond compassionate, constructive criticism that is aimed solely with a noble purpose then they are poison to the very thing you love. They are actually killing the field you claim to hold so dearly.
And that attitude of unknowing self-destruction is the worst enemy of Nursing by far.