Crossroad of Intimidation & Fear in Nursing...(getting on with it).
For a profession that is ostensibly about trust, empathy, and compassion - there is a surprising amount of intimidation, frightening scenarios, or just plain uncomfortable moments that nurses are exposed to.
1. In nursing school, an instructor who gathers an entire clinical group to watch one anxious student perform a skill on a patient, and asking them to do it repeatedly when they “fail” to do it correctly - all the while everyone observes knowing it is uncomfortable for the student. It’s pretty damn uncomfortable for the patient too. The nursing student may respond under pressure, but they recognize we learn from everyone whether it’s a positive or negative influence. They remember what it’s like to be criticized under the spotlight, and do what they can to avoid it happening to fellow students, and later, fellow nurses.
2. A graduate nurse, intentionally left alone by a preceptor, who throughout orientation made it known he/she really didn’t want to be the preceptor; disappears to see if they will “sink or swim.” They swim, but they remember what it’s like to feel alone, unsupported, and vow to never impart this on any new nurse.
3. An experienced nurse who happens to be introverted, rarely vocal about the constant crappy assignments, first/worst admissions, while others seem to have a smooth day with no admissions. Fear of speaking up, fear of facing retribution, and perhaps exclusion from other nurses. But he/she does it anyway, as the nurse knows advocacy begins at the beginning.
4. Any nurse trapped by a patient who is combative, verbally abusive, in many cases over demanding, or threatening legal action if they don’t abide by what they want. Palpable fear, when a patient strikes a nurse physically, or shouts profanities, and security isn’t there yet. The nurse will do one of two things, get in the middle and prevent the patient from harming themselves, or allow the flight instinct to kick in and move back to safety. (Which do you think is more likely to happen?).
The nurse also learns to “read between the lines” and really listen to what the patient is asking for. Often the basics of what they need may have prevented escalation/help keep them calm.
5. A nurse who perhaps realizes he/she may have made a misstep in career, choice of unit, hospital, clinic, or institution - and worries over the opinion, and judgment of others for being a “quitter.” Somewhere along the line, makes the best out of an impossible situation, recognizes all employment and learning (positive or negative) can actually be a blessing, and just gets on with what needs to be done to move past it.
6. A new nurse afraid of the patient care technician, who will not help them, refuses to answer call bells, disappears when EKG/blood is needed, and does not complete patient care. The new nurse knows everyone has value, and this likely came from the PCT being mis-valued during earlier encounters. The new nurse also understands it’s important to respect everyone, regardless of their title, and rather than reporting it to the manager, makes a point of talking to the PCT on their own (even if it scares them to hell). Although it’s met with resistance at first, the new nurse takes the time to really listen to the PCT’s concerns, and each day walks through the patient rooms with the PCT, giving a report on the day’s plan, involving them in it by asking their thoughts - especially considering they may know the patient better since they spend five days a week (often double shifts) in the zone/district, as opposed to nursing 3 x 12 hr shifts. They discuss which patients need full care necessitating two people, and they talk about who is the biggest fall risks. The new nurse does not show weakness because they approached the PCT first, but a respect for the coworker, and patients who are suffering because of the lack of communication.
7. A nursing student who is scared to face his/her classmates after repeatedly failing competencies, lecture exams and semesters, or perhaps not progressing as quickly as others. Beyond the internal doubt, and shame of not meeting standards, they realize at some point they need to get on with it. And more importantly, they recognize the strength of a nurse isn’t measured in failures or standardized testing, but in the will to prevail, and an understanding of what it may mean for a patient to be in despair.
8. A nurse who has difficulty expressing his/her thoughts, when in a confrontation with a coworker, charge nurse, a doctor, or a multitude of doctors when they round. A nurse who fears speaking up to a boss in a clinic, or college, as they are extraordinarily loud, obnoxious, and critical of every move the nurse makes. Fear of being wrong, fear of being right. The nurse may not ever be as vocal as others, but instead, chooses to redirect the fear by knowing some battles are best left unattended, sometimes silence is far wiser in delivering a point, and preserving sanity - and eventually they learn that it is not personal. Intimidation speaks volumes.
How people treat others is a revelation of their character. How we respond is a revelation of ours.