Years ago, following an art reception, my husband and I were enjoying dinner at a restaurant. As the server set our food on the table, we watched through a window as a car hit a bicyclist who had run a red light.
Immediately, we left our table and went to the woman’s aid. She wasn’t wearing a helmet, and her face was bleeding. She was unconscious, but breathing. Besides a possible neck injury, my concern was that she would stop breathing before the paramedics arrived. Despite my fears, I told her over and over, “You’re going to be alright. Help is on the way.” I don’t know if this mantra helped the woman, but it calmed me.
Nurses tell patients, “You’re going to be alright” all the time, whether or not the situation is as dire as the scenario above.
We tell them they will be alright while we are learning a new EHR documentation system at the same time we are administering their treatment. We tell them they will be alright while we struggle to enter lab orders correctly in the new EHR. Fortunately, EHR experts are readily available to answer questions and help us through this transition. They show us the step we missed, which is the reason the order did not go through.
I slap myself on the forehead, and the EHR specialist kindly reassures me, “You’re going to be alright.”
I think this is one of the most special qualities of nurses: Despite our fears and misgivings about a patient’s condition, or our ability to handle a situation, we tell our patients, “You’re going to be alright.” For the most part they believe us, probably because what other choice do they have? What choice do we have? It is what it is. We must move forward, together.
In Human Resource department lingo, focusing either a patient’s or coworker’s attention on the positive is called “managing up.” For instance, instead of telling a patient you are precepting a nurse who’s giving chemotherapy for the first time, you might introduce yourself by telling them they won the jackpot today — two nurses caring for them instead of one! — and that you are helping Nurse B, who is new to the unit. By doing so, you tell both the patient and Nurse B, “You’re going to be alright.”
In what ways do you manage up at work? What techniques have you adopted to promote a patient’s or coworker’s sense of security during a change of condition or a work-related transition?
I totally hear you, and this is my first instinct too. I’m a FF/EMT, and interestingly we are always told NOT to say to a patient “everything’s going to be alright”- rather something like “we’re doing everything we can for you”. As an EMT I guess there’s a liability issue, which is sad, but probably worth mentioning. Also, for the record, I am a HUGE fan of the nursing profession and am always in awe of your caring and compassion. Thanks for sharing!
I loved this post. Especially the part about “managing up.” I did a lot of precepting back in the day and particularly with pediatrics and oncology parents didn’t want to know you were the least bit new or inexperienced! Ha!
It is always best to provide mental support to both patients and coworkers in the manner you described above.
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