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“Does negative feedback mean I’m a bad nurse?”

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Hemera | ThinkStock

Hemera | ThinkStock


Nurses pride themselves on their critical thinking skills and their ability to navigate through challenging tasks. Unfortunately, one of our glaring weaknesses is our habit of becoming defensive when we receive feedback. We consider it a personal attack instead of constructive criticism on our performance.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of nurses out there who have an open mind and utilize feedback as a means to help them grow. But some get defensive whenever feedback is not 100% in their favor.

Of course, constructive criticism is only as good as the person delivering it. So if the person offering the feedback is being condescending and accusatory, it can be easy for the recipient to get defensive. But it’s the message being delivered that matters the most.

As nurses, we already have to grow some thick skin whenever our patients or (some select) providers decide to lash out at us. So I’d like to think our skin is durable enough to consume some good constructive criticism, too.

Feedback is necessary. It’s how we troubleshoot what is going well and what is not. It’s how we improve our care.

To be truly collaborative, we need to value all shades of feedback. The care we deliver can only improve with continuous feedback.

It took me a while to disseminate feedback correctly. I used to think that any feedback that was not 100% positive must have meant I was failing. Or it meant that someone didn’t like me.

In truth, it had nothing to do with me personally. It was about my performance as a member of the health care team. It was about the patient care being delivered. Ultimately, it was about the patient. The minute I grasped that concept, my attitude and my reaction to all feedback changed.

I believe every nurse has their patient’s care in their best interest, and anything that improves that care would be a welcomed addition.

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