Nursing: Rarely black and white

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Gray areas are hard to navigate in nursing.

A very “non-black and white” situation came up at work for me recently that, quite frankly, has made me question a lot of things about myself and where I work. I’ve concluded that the little things and how we handle them DO count for something.

Here’s what happened: I had the opportunity to get myself out of an inconvenient situation by being dishonest. It was no biggie, as far as everyone else was concerned.

I was told I could just fudge my way out of something required of me—that it would be ok. But ultimately, I felt it would be wrong to blur the lines. “No one will know,” people were telling me. I kept thinking to myself, “Yeah, but I would know!” Man, I struggled with this one.

Basically, I was going to be able to cheat the system, and not get caught. How tempting! Yet it wasn’t going to be fair to my coworkers who have had to jump through the hoops that I was so quickly going to skip altogether. In the end, I was basically going to end up lying to someone. A white lie that would hurt no one, I was told.

Yet it was hurting me. Struggling with this decision that would supposedly make my life easier actually made things harder. I am not a lyer. I am not a cheat. I have to be able to look myself in the eye and know that I do things the right way, not the easy way.

And if I’m going to lie about the little things, skimp by on the easy stuff, won’t it be that much easier to do the same when the BIG things happen in life? And in my job as a nurse, people’s lives are at stake. Do my patients want a dishonest nurse taking care of them who can’t even be honest about the small stuff?

So, I’m doing the right thing. It stinks ‘cuz it’s hard and doesn’t feel so good.

Why is being someone of integrity—an honest person—sometimes the hard way? It’s easy to do the wrong thing. But I refuse to give an inch: In the end, isn’t the truth and our good character all we have?

It’s hard to be a nurse above reproach. Gonna continue to fight the good fight. I believe my integrity is worth the effort.

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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7 Responses to Nursing: Rarely black and white

  1. Howard rains

    I’m glad that you had to struggle with your dilemma. That is certainly not a struggle that many, if not most, in the nursing profession would have had. We may be trusted by the general population, but we certainly aren’t worthy of their trust.

    Keep it up

  2. RickD

    Good for you. Here’s my support for your right decision. True, it isn’t always easy, and sometimes very hard to do the right thing. But it matters. Just as you point out in this post. Surely we’ve all seen how cheaters prosper, but eventually something will come back to haunt them. I watched fellow students in my class cheat and be dishonest and generally demonstrate poor character and fool their way into situations that benefit them at the expense of those of us who have kept our integrity. And we are the ones who often suffer for being honest while the cheaters make out better than we. Their foolishness, indiscretion, lying, etc. will come back on them some day. Their temporary benefits will not last. There is a reason why the saying is still so true: “Honesty is the best policy.” Kudos to you for staying true to that adage.

  3. William

    Some say that conscientious people can sleep well because their conscience is clear. What is clear, however, is that a clear conscience is something conscientious people rarely enjoy – because they are conscientious.

    Honesty is not always the best policy. You don’t have to have lived in a political dictatorship to know that, but it helps. Honesty, like dishonesty, is just one way of asserting oneself in the competitive “work environment”.

    So you don’t get any support or kudos from me. I doubt if you need it anyway. What we all need is a controlling instance. That people simply “trust” medical staff is no more intelligent than trusting bankers or politicians.

    • Amy Bozeman Scrubs Blogger

      Well-said. And you’re absolutely right: I don’t need your support or kudos but do appreciate your candor and perspective. In fact, I found all three comments to be thought-provoking. Thanks.

  4. Holly Lynne Jeffery

    Honesty IS always the best pollicy. When you have lived long enough to become wise, this becomes even more clear.
    I would rather work with a nurse who is honest than dishonest. I simply would have more faith and trust in the honest nurse.
    As a patient, given the choice, I’ll take the honest nurse.
    After many years in nursing, I have come across many a dishonest nurse. These nurses never had the patient’s best interest in mind, and most didn’t even care about patients. It was a job to them, to pay the bills,etc.
    William, I hope you reconsider your position on this issue. Honesty DOES matter. I think all patients and nurses would agree. Being Honest, and having good morals, is what makes a good nurse.
    Trust me, after you have been a nurse for many, many years, William, you to will come to that conclusion. With age comes wisdom. You’ll have to have the experience of working with a few dishonest nurses, the problems they cause, the damage they can do to workplace moral, and patients. Why? They do not give a damn.

  5. amy

    Holly, I totally (and obviously) agree!

  6. Sabrah Jean

    Read closer, William is not saying that honesty does not matter. But like Amy’s title itself implies, there IS gray area in nursing, heck, in LIFE!

    I’m not talking about falsifying documentation or lying to people outright. I use the electronic reporting tool to report my few med errors I have had in my 3 years as a staff nurse.

    But I have been alive 10x that long and I know that NOTHING IS black and white. Look at the yin-yang. There is always a little truth in the lie and a little lie in the truth.