Perfectionism and nursing – are you driving yourself crazy?


Fuse | ThinkStock

Fuse | ThinkStock

As nurses, you know that your job is critically important. Every day, you deal with people’s health and wellbeing, and that’s inevitably overwhelming sometimes. But are you making it worse by trying to be perfect all of the time? The Nerdy Nurse investigated this issue recently, and we wanted to share guest blogger Ann W. Smith’s thoughts with you:

Perfectionists are forever asking themselves “Did I do that right?” “Am I forgetting something?” “Is … upset with me?” “I hope I didn’t make a mistake.” Listening to our own self-doubt and mental committee of critics is exhausting and may increase the likelihood that we will make mistakes. This leads to fear and anxiety which then lead to increased stress. The vicious cycle becomes a compulsive pattern that may last a lifetime unless we become mindful.

Perfectionism may be appreciated at work but it takes its toll eventually. Over time the consequences are apparent in our health, mood swings, depression, anxiety, dissatisfaction with work, irritability at home, and self medicating with food, drugs or alcohol that can lead to addiction.

How can nurses and other helping professionals find balance between being human with limitations and flaws and the need to be perfect?

Tips for Overcoming Perfectionism

  • Put people first. More than anything else, we need to love and be loved. Don’t put stuff ahead of people.
  • Come out as a human being. Authenticity is requirement for the pleasure of love, joy, fun and overall happiness. Yes, it is messy, but being real will be worth it.
  • Challenge your negative self-talk by turning the volume down rather than trying to shut out all critical thoughts.
  • Pay attention to your own signs of trouble. Perfectionists get more anxious and rigid when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Use prevention strategies to manage this tendency. Breathe, laugh and read something inspiring.
  • Let go of high expectations and try to accept people as they are. We are all unique and flawed as human beings. Don’t judge your flaws or those of others. Embrace your essence and see it as all part of being you. Amazing things will happen if you let go.

To read the rest of the article, head on over to The Nerdy Nurse. Then, in the comments below, tell us–are you a perfectionist nurse? How has it affected you on the job?

The Nerdy Nurse
Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Specialist practicing in Georgia. In her day job she gets to do what she loves every day: Combine technology and healthcare to improve patient outcomes. She can best be described as a patient, nurse and technology advocate, and has a passion for using technology to innovate, improve and simplify lives, especially in healthcare. Brittney blogs about nursing issues, technology, healthcare, parenting and various lifestyle topics at

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