Empowerment in nursing: 5 ways to find your voice
Bullying is not new to our profession, but the term “nurse bullying” seems to be the buzzword du jour. I believe nurse bullying stems from the old adage, “Nurses eat their young.”
We’ve discussed this hot topic before, and there are a myriad of well-respected resources that have researched this disheartening subject. I’m here to suggest some ways we can curb its development and possibly (with a little bit of time and effort) eradicate its existence.
I don’t think nurse bullying is going to go away anytime soon. However, I do think we can take steps to face it head on. I humbly believe that bullying exists only because we allow it, either passively or actively. In neither case are we helping the situation. If we’re not solving the problem, we’re contributing to its growth.
Ultimately, each of us possesses the singular tool to fix this problem. Bullying in nursing takes many forms and has many different sources, but it ultimately is about power. Someone bullies another out of a need to show power, to become more powerful or to at least feel as though they are in power. The reality is that power is in the eye of the beholder. Empowerment trumps power every time.
To have that empowerment, you must find your voice. I’m not talking about your physical voice, its tone or volume. Yelling and shouting are simply byproducts of one’s insecurities. I’m talking about speaking up, speaking out and speaking for yourself. All the time. Every time.
Every nurse has a voice and just needs to find and cultivate it. From the moment you decide to become a nurse and during the entire journey to your final destination, you need to find your voice. Find it and cultivate it. Once you cultivate it, keep using it. Once you find your voice, pay it forward by teaching it to others.
Here are five ways to find your voice:
Speak up in school
Sit in the front of class. Make sure the professor knows you by name. Become an active participant in your learning. Ask questions and seek answers. Don’t be afraid to ask the stupid questions.
Speak up during clinicals
Be the first to volunteer. Be at the front of the line. Be the first to check off a skill. Make sure your advisor knows your name. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Speak up during your orientation
Never be late. Arrive early. Ask questions. Learn something new every day and be sure to master everything that is taught. Do not learn the shortcuts and whatever you do, don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
Speak up to the physician
Always have your ducks in a row when reporting a patient’s care plan. Always be organized. Anticipate the next step in your care. Never apologize for doing your job. Do not be afraid to say, “I do not know.”
Speak up when challenged by bullying
Never passively let bullying happen, whether to you or someone else. Take an active part in squelching it. Don’t be that nurse who adds gasoline to the bullying wildfire. If you don’t speak up, it won’t go away. Just because you ignore it, doesn’t mean its gone. Don’t be afraid.
Here is the irony of it all: We as nurses are given the responsibility to advocate for our patients. It’s our job to speak for our patients when they cannot. We do a fine job of advocating for our patients; isn’t it time we did the same for ourselves?
For more on bullying, check out “Renee Thompson Bullying Expert” on RN.FM Radio
Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing.
After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital.
He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
By Sean Dent