If THIS is your inner critic:
Then we need to talk...
I get lots of emails from experienced nurses that are getting their start in ICU and they all express the same frustration:
“Help! I feel like a brand new nurse! I’ve never felt stupider in my life!”
Ooooh trust me.. I know that feeling all too well. I felt that unsettling feeling every day for the first 6 months, if not longer!
In a sense, being new in the ICU is like starting out from scratch. It is a whole new world, unlike what most of us are used to. That is why I always tell new grads who are nervous about starting out in the ICU without prior experience to not worry about it. Some days it really felt like nothing would have prepared me for this.
So how did I survive?
It started by giving myself patience and compassion.
I know, I know… you’re probably thinking: “Gromit, DUH! But I need to start functioning NOW!”
Well, here is my secret:
One of the most helpful things I did for myself was that I started to keep a journal. Every day after my shift, I would reflect on the stuff that happened that made me feel stupid or made me blank out or that I just didn’t know. I would reflect on those moments and I would write down what I did learn having had that moment. It wasn’t fancy, in fact, it was bullet point style unless I wanted to expand on something.
And then, I would also list top 3 things that I DID do right or knew in the moment. (I did this bit because I tend to beat myself up and I wanted to feel like I was making headway).
Over time, I not only improved performance, but I found an interesting discovery. I remember looking back on my bullet points and realizing there was a pattern to the things I didn’t know. I started to see general knowledge gaps, which lead me to focus my studies on my days off.
Even better than that, I also realized that under certain conditions, I knew more than I thought I did, or conversely, a didn’t perform like I thought I could.
(you’re like, “Huh?”)
What I mean by that is I noticed when I paused my work, even for a minute, to just step back and look at the patient’s big picture and just put everything together in my mind, all my decisions and knowledge would come easier after that.
And conversely, if I felt like I was behind, overwhelmed and running around, I couldn’t think as straight or as deeply about a problem, and decisions were not intentional, and thus not always correct.
Overall, it was a really easy exercise that helped me get better and better each shift. Who knew bullet points could be so useful!
I am curious... do you know someone who could benefit from this exercise? Share this with your friends and comment below.
And as always, you can always email me. I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,