How do I deal with a poor performance evaluation?

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Take a deep breath. No one is perfect all the time, and no one expects you to be. A less-than-stellar performance eval doesn’t mean you’re a bad nurse; it just means you have room to improve. And really, who doesn’t?

If you haven’t already taken the deep breath advice seriously, do it now. Seriously. The worst thing you can do is respond or act immediately after your eval. Odds are, you’re upset. Odds are, you’re a bit defensive. That’s okay—these are natural human reactions. But acting while you’re still reacting is rarely in your best interest, so if at all possible, breathe, do something you enjoy and get a good night’s sleep before pondering your next step.

Once you’ve taken some time to cool down, revisit your eval. What did your supervisor say you need to work on, and why? Did she suggest specific steps you should take to improve your performance? If so, begin implementing those steps immediately. If not, do a little brainstorming. What could you do to improve? Generate a list of ideas and then run them past your supervisor. That might sound like extra work, but in reality, it’s a timesaver. Your supervisor will be pleased that you’re taking her feedback seriously, and you’ll be able to move forward, knowing you’re on the right track.

Be honest with yourself. Do you truly have the requisite knowledge and skills to perform your job at a consistently high level? If your supervisor tells you your assessment skills are lacking, it may be time to take a refresher course. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help—the best nurses are constantly updating their skills.

Ask your supervisor for another meeting in three months or so. Consider this meeting an opportunity to discuss your progress. Your supervisor can let you know if she likes the changes she sees; if not, ask her what you could do differently.

And what if, upon further reflection, you decide you disagree with the negative eval? Gather as much data as possible to support your opinion and present it to your boss—calmly and professionally—in another meeting. Even bosses make the occasional mistake.

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