There’s no doubt that nurses are interested in not only building their own careers but also in making people’s lives easier, better, happier, and healthier. It’s in this sense that all nurses are constantly looking for ways in which they can improve the quality of care that they provide to their patients. That could be through education, through listening, or through working together with your team to meet specific needs of your patients. This article will go through some tips that’ll hopefully help you become a better nurse, offering better care to the patients under your charge.
This is a term that is often used in corporate settings as well as in healthcare. “Active listening” is a term applied to a very close form of listening, which seeks to learn from the person speaking to use and understand what it really is that they’re trying to say. Often, people don’t actually vocalize what it is that they want and what they need – they tend to phrase things so that things are lost in translation and the listener needs to be really paying attention in order to notice something in the subtext of what they said. Only active listening can bring this to bear, which is why nurses dealing with patients should always try this method where they can.
Active listening entails a close form of listening that devotes your entire attention to what’s being said to you. You’ll listen to the tone of the voice and watch body language as well as listening to the words themselves. You’ll ask thoughtful questions about what it is that your patients are telling you. It’s through this form of listening that your patients will feel important and valued, and you’ll be able to address anything that they’re not confident enough to tell you straight. Patients really do appreciate this deeper form of care and attention.
As well as using active listening, it’s highly important that nurses do their best to remember names and to be able to address patients using their first or last names. You can, of course, check their chart to do this, but most patients will notice that you did so, and that will leave them feeling a little less special and as if you’re a little more impersonal.
Learning names is something that comes as a skill as you work as a nurse. You might be someone who considers themselves terrible with names, but you should still try your utmost to learn them when you’re working on a busy ward. Do consider taking a piece of paper on your clipboard that notes down names, so that you’re always able to flick to it to remember a name that’s escaped you. Again, this tip is all about providing that extra level of pastoral care that many patients really appreciate when they’re on a ward for a number of days.
If you feel that there are skills that you need to perform on your ward that you’re not so good at, it’s important that you flag these with your line manager. Every nurse will have their strong suits and their less strong suits, and it’s up to you to identify the areas in which you might need a little help. It’s likely that you will be able to talk to a line manager or training official about whether it’s possible to receive formal training, helping you polish up the skills that you feel you’re lacking in your current job.
Often, this will be granted to you and to your colleagues who are also interested in the training. If it’s not, you should seek other ways to improve in that area or field. Simply flagging that you’re interested in learning more will never not go down well with senior staff. In fact, it’ll show them that you’re serious about progressing your career and making the most of the opportunities laid in front of you to develop and learn.
Then there are the far more formal educational institutions at which you’ll learn a great deal about how to become a better nurse. You’ll have already been through nurse school once in order to qualify as a nurse. However, you can actually go back to nurse school, or to a college, in order to progress your career, gaining a higher qualification that could earn you further promotions while also improving the level of care you’re giving to patients across your ward. Look to these degree opportunities in order to give yourself the chance to rapidly learn much, much more about your field.
One of the most popular forms of degree that nurses tend to undertake is the BSN to MSN conversion. Having already earned your bachelor’s degree, the next logical step is to head back and earn your master’s one. This is something that you can do in person by taking some time out of nursing. That said, you can also do this online, which is great news for those who want to continue working and earning while also getting the skills upgrade that is provided by going back to school to earn a further degree. This is an option you’ll always be able to take in order to make you a far better and more qualified nurse.
When you’re working on the ward, you’ll be acutely aware of how senior nurses operate. They will be incredibly efficient in how they fill out the paperwork that they have to do. They’ll know exactly what kinds of treatment and medications each patient is likely to need, and they’ll work very closely with the ward’s doctors in order to have it delivered to patients as soon as possible. Most important for you is the way in which they interact with the patients, which will teach you a great deal about the conduct of a nurse and how you should develop your social skills on the job.
Nurses tend to be gentle people who are conscious of how their patients are feeling. They know when to be jolly and upbeat, and when to be a little more somber and earnest. This is a sixth sense that you develop on the job after years and years of meeting new patients. Senior colleagues will have had this experience in spades, which means they’re excellent people to watch and learn from when they go about their daily tasks. If you’re interested in formalizing this form of learning, you can always chat to a senior colleague to see if they’d be interested in mentoring you in the future.
Another brilliant way to learn how to be a better nurse is to ask for feedback from everyone you interact with. If you work with a doctor closely on a particular patient, do consider asking the doctor how you did when that patient is eventually discharged. Ask your colleagues if they think you’re doing anything wrong on the job, or if they think there’s something that you could improve in order to become an even better nurse. If you’re close with a patient and feel it’s appropriate, you can even ask them directly if there’s anything they’d have liked to have gone differently in the provision of their care.
Being able to receive critical feedback is a key feature of the attitudes of those who are successful in their jobs. This goes far beyond nursing, of course. However, in nursing itself, it’s important to listen to what people are saying about your care provision, to be humble and to see each element of feedback as a real chance to grow and develop. The best feedback comes from the people you care for and the people you work alongside – so do try to access these feedback sources whenever you can.
Nurses will often be motivated to go the extra mile with certain patients. You might take a shine to a particular patient, or you may be struck by their circumstances and wish to help them in some way. Of course, there’s a line to be drawn here between appropriate and inappropriate levels of assistance and care. That said, you’ll know where that line is, and you’ll know when and how you should provide that extra level of care to really make someone’s stay on your ward as comfortable and happy as possible.
There are plenty of ways to go the extra mile when you’re working on a ward. You can buy a birthday cake for every patient who experiences a birthday on the ward. Do check the date of birth of all patients so that you know who’s about to get a year older. You might want to stay an hour later than your shift in order to help an elderly patient use their smartphone in order to call friends and family, or simply to sit and chat with patients who you feel are in particular need of a little more care and attention. All of these steps make you a better, more compassionate nurse – though that’s not to say that overtime is necessarily a healthy choice for most nurses, who work very hard as it is.
This article has discussed mentoring and going back to college, but the truth is that you’ll always be able to find further educational opportunities out there that can help you to boost your level of care. A great place to start is with books. There are hundreds of books written by current and former nurses that really help to detail the challenges faced across your career. You’ll learn how those difficult circumstances were navigated and how you as a nurse can take some of these teachings into your own practice. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll feel seen and understood by nurses who’ve gone through what you’ve gone through.
Beyond books, there are dozens of other educational sources at your fingertips when you are a nurse. You can sign up to an online course in a specific area of nursing in order to learn new skills and care techniques. You can download podcasts about nursing to listen to in your time off. You can even reach out to other senior nurses to ask for advice on a particular patient. All of these opportunities can be reached online, through educational platforms and social media. They’re excellent ways to keep adding to your repertoire as a practicing nurse.
As a nurse, you’ll be well aware of your day-to-day responsibilities. You’ll know the minimum that is expected of you, and you’ll perform those duties diligently and with the maximum of care. While that’s obviously highly appreciated by your patients, there are always little touches that can help to show that you care about their wellbeing as well as their health, ensuring that you’re giving a more comprehensive level of care to those who are under your charge.
For instance, you might choose to purchase flowers for a patient on the way to work. As noted above, you could make a note of those patients who are likely to experience a birthday on the ward and do something special to celebrate. You might see that a patient is getting a little restless and find the time to take them outside for a little while on a sunny day. All of these extra touches can really help your care reach the next level.
Whatever your career, it’s always possible to coast a little bit – to not develop and to perform your job on a kind of auto-pilot setting. Sometimes, if things are a little touchy at home and in your personal life, this is the best that you can offer to your job. That said, where you can, it’s important that you’re consciously trying to learn and develop in your role as a nurse.
That involves all of the above. It also involves being aware that you have a long way to go in your career, and the strides you’re able to make now could benefit your future career prospects at the same time as making every patient who passes through your ward a little happier and more content.
Make your nursing skills improve every month by following some of the advice contained within this article, which is aimed at nurses at any level and any stage of their careers.