How to Become a Better Nurse

Provides a variety of tips to help nurses become better at their professions. Advice includes continuing education, following intuition and maintaining a work-life balance.
  |   Anna Wood |   Basics
How to Become a Better Nurse

Regardless of how much education you have or experience you've accrued, there is always room for improvement when you are a registered nurse. Considering that you are there to provide excellent care to patients, it pays to continually work to hone your skills. As demanding as the profession is, however, knowing what to do to improve your nursing ability can be tricky.

Whether you are new to nursing or are a seasoned professional, keep these 10 tips in mind to continually improve yourself and your career:

1. Trust Your Instincts

It pays to be self-aware and in touch with your intuition as a nurse. This includes knowing your limits. If something seems off or not quite right, think carefully before proceeding. Before making a big move, give plenty of thought to how it may affect the future of your career. Don't be afraid to take time to think things through before acting.

2. Have Integrity

The most successful nurses are those who are as honest as possible at all times. Strive to maintain integrity in everything that you do. When you make mistakes, which you will because everyone does, readily admit to them. This won't just help you work better with others; it will help you to provide optimal care to patients. By remembering that honesty is the best policy, you won't have to worry about being caught in lies that can be very damaging to your career.

3. Stay Positive

Given the long hours, strenuous work and, many times, overnight shifts, it's normal to feel like you're being run ragged as a nurse. It's easy to start feeling resentful or negative about things in general, but work hard to rise above those feelings. Take a positive approach to everything that you do, and never assume the worst. Having a positive, sunny demeanor will improve your bedside manner considerably, and it will help you to advance in your career too.

4. Advance Your Education

If you just have an ADN, why not progress into a BSN? If you already have a BSN, why stop there? It's easy to feel like there just isn't time to pursue a master of science in nursing, or MSN, but plenty of working nurses do so. Many programs offer hybrid online instruction, providing more flexibility for busy RNs. Your life will be especially busy while earning an advanced degree, but the payoff from doing so will be huge.

5. Make Time For Yourself

All too often, nurses allow their jobs to consume their lives. If you find yourself getting home after a shift, going right to bed and getting up and doing the same thing again and again, reevaluate your schedule. It is crucial to try to achieve a good work-life balance, and that means deliberately carving out a little "me time" for yourself. This doesn't necessarily mean making big, ambitious plans all the time. Sometimes, it just means setting aside a day to just relax and do nothing at all.

6. Lead By Example

Strive to be a positive role model to the other nurses and health care professionals who work with you. When someone needs help, be ready and willing to assist them. Be generous in sharing your knowledge about various things with fellow nurses and other coworkers. Lead by example for patients too so that they come away with a positive impression of the nursing profession.

7. Ask Questions

One of the worst attitudes to have as a nurse is to think that you know it all. Sure, it is sometimes embarrassing to be in the dark about something, but it's far better to ask and learn than to keep being ignorant about something. On the flip side, be receptive to answering questions that are posed by others, whether they are coworkers or patients. No matter how long you have been working as a nurse, there is always more to learn.

8. Prioritize Privacy

As a nurse or any health care professional, maintaining patients' privacy is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, nurses sometimes become sloppy about this and end up in hot water. Tempting though it may be, refrain from discussing anything about your patients with anyone who isn't authorized to hear about it. Demonstrate to your patients that you take their privacy seriously so that they will trust you and feel comfortable with you. If you see others violating patients' privacy, bring it to the attention of your manager.

9. Be A Positive Representative Of The Nursing Profession

It's not just important to be a good role model while you're on the clock. Even when you're not at work, you still represent the nursing profession. Show the world that nurses are trustworthy, caring individuals by leading a positive lifestyle. Avoid griping about patients with others, as it reflects poorly on your attitude. If you need to vent, do so to others in the field, as they will more readily understand and won't take the comments the wrong way.

10. Continually Improve Your Skills

Finally, take a proactive approach to maintaining and improving your skills as a nurse. Don't just do the bare minimum. For example, join professional nursing organizations and be actively involved with them. Stay current about the profession by reading trade publications and the like. Attend seminars and other events whenever possible, and work to make new connections in the field. The more that you learn about nursing, the more that you will want to learn. This will create a cycle of continuous improvement that will serve you well throughout your nursing career.

Whether you just earned your RN license or have been working as a nurse for years, you can always take steps to become an even better nurse. Keep the tips above in mind to continually maintain, hone and improve your nursing skills.

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