Of course today is the big game: The Super Bowl. I had no idea who was even playing until about 1pm today. And was actually going to try and pick up an extra shift tonight (pay off that debt!) but after a short nap and the fact that I STILL can’t hear out of my left ear, I decided to stay home and enjoy the
But of course the big take away from this big game is that it takes a team and a plan to win. And the same is so true of nursing. Granted we don’t get the same prestige of a ring and national acclaim every time we save a life, but every shift and every code we pull out our teamwork skills to win.
There are times we lose sight of the fact that we are a team. I mean if something goes wrong, it usually a unit issue or seemingly the fault of a group. So please realize you are part of a team when you become a nurse. But as a nurse, aren’t my patients just my responsibility? Is it best for me to show up, do my work and head back home? Do I really need to do anything else? And if you’re new to nursing how can you possibly contribute to the overall unit when you are just trying to figure out how to hold your own? What are some of the mindsets that hold us back from being team players and ultimately growing our abilities?
Every day that we walk into work one of our patients may die and that is a scary thought. If we don’t know our drugs or the importance of our lab values or when to call for help, we are not being team players. As we gain experience, we gain confidence but we should also remember that there is still so much we don’t know. Keeping a healthy dose of fear in your mind keeps you humble, teachable and constantly in the way of being a team player. You know you can’t do it yourself and that’s good. If you feel like you are lacking in an area of knowledge or skill, seek out learning opportunities and education. If you don’t know your drugs, make drug cards…and then remake drug cards…and again. Find ways to confront your fears and improve your team.
Keep ’em alive until 7:05
There are times, especially as a night nurse, when you just cannot get the answers and help that you need simply because of the limited resources you have. You can work your tail off to meet the needs of your patients but still feel like you failed because your patient needed something more than you could provide. And in jest this phrase can bring some comfort to your effort, but let’s face it. It just passes the buck and if ever muttered in seriousness, the person expressing this belief really needs to examine whether or not they are burned out and/or if they really should be working as a nurse. Holding this mindset allows you to feel like the bare minimum is acceptable; please don’t let this be your attitude or mindset. It passes work to others in an unfair way and it’s not the way to be an advocate for your patient.
What are we fighting for
We fight for dignity. We fight for the vulnerable. We fight for our rights and the rights of our patients. We fight against death. We fight against unfair staffing ratios. We must know what we are fighting for to work as a team. To be honest, I fall out here sometimes. There are times I don’t know what my goal for the patient is. Are we fighting bacteria? Failing organs? Drug addiction? Unrealistic expectations? When you are getting or giving report be sure there is a clear picture of what we are doing. And if you’re not sure, ask. Also, if you work with a team that fought and fought and are getting discouraged, find a way to bring life and rest to the team. Whether that is through a group meal or an exercise group or book club, find ways to encourage each other in the fight.
Know your limits
If you are unsure of how to care for a patient or you feel you are in an unsafe environment, tell someone. There’s always the fear that this makes you look weak or when you’ve encountered something similar in the past and it worked out fine but it’s a gamble. It is not our job to gamble with others’ lives. And those in power over us need to know that as well. We are limited and we can’t be asked to do the impossible. One way to ensure we have a voice when we feel like we are mute is to join and be active in nursing communities. Joining your local AACN chapter or ANA chapter allows you to be active in legislation that affects nurses. These organizations give us power to fight unjust systems and we must be willing to step up and protect ourselves and our limits.
Teams only get better with practice and when everyone does their expected job. We are accountable to each other, ourselves and our patients; ask for feedback and seek ways to improve. Know the plan for your patients and for your unit.
How do you contribute to your team?