You’re Going to be Alright

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.

Go Team Oncology by jparadisi

Go Team Oncology by jparadisi

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?

Are You a Morning Person?

Forgive me, nurses, for I have sinned. I thought I had the day off, when in fact I was scheduled to work. Has this ever happened to you?

I was still in my jammies drinking coffee when the phone rang. It was my colleague from work, the charge nurse.

Late for Work (Oh No!) by jparadisi

Late for Work (Oh No!) by jparadisi

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine, why?” I responded.

“Because we were expecting you here 20 minutes ago.”

Holy carp! I checked my schedule while still on the phone. It indicated I had the day off, but with all the changes taking place in our unit it was quite possible I picked up an incomplete schedule in error. Whatever, it didn’t matter. I was missing in action. I got there ASAP.

My co-workers generously chose to laugh about my mistake. The schedule was full, and they would have been short-staffed without me.

As I’ve previously written, as of September 2013, my coworkers and I have a new employer. During the transition we were assigned new employee training classes and team building meetings, besides working our regularly scheduled shifts. Some of the classes or meetings were held at our workplace; others on the campus of our new employer.

The week following my schedule error,  I was slated for a third Electronic Health Record (EHR) training class at 8:00 a.m. on the other campus. This time I arrived early, and waited for the classroom to be unlocked. At 7:54, no one had opened the door. No classmates had arrived either. Worried, I called work to find out if something had changed.

“The class is at 9:00,” I was informed by the charge nurse.


In my defense, the two previous EHR classes had started at 8 am.

I am optimistic about the job change, but clearly it shook my routine, highlighting the ironic humor I found in one of the team-building meetings I attended.

The meeting’s facilitator taped colored pieces of paper on a wall of the conference room. On each piece was written one of the phrases below:

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Unsure
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree.

This particular meeting started at 7:00 a.m.

The facilitator instructed everyone to stand under the piece of paper describing his or her answer to the questions she asked.

The first question was, “Are you a morning person?”

I ran to take my place under the piece of paper reading Strongly Disagree, while thinking, “You’re asking me this at 7:00 in the morning? Couldn’t I have phoned in my answer?” After this past week, I’m pretty sure my co-workers already know I’m not a morning person.

How about you? Have you ever accidentally missed a shift? Does significant change to routine increase your mistakes, too? Any tips for managing?