I recently received this question from a Nurse Manager at the Las Vegas Conference I recently spoke at: “Is it okay to admit I am not an expert in all areas, and if so, how do I let others know that it’s okay for them as well?”
Well, of course! Sure – I say that easily now. But there was a time when I believed I needed to be all things to all people. I thought it would be terrible if I lost my clinical skills in place of becoming good at budgets and schedules. I remember thinking once how embarrassed I would be if someone asked me to start an IV. I had not put one in for a very long time. As a matter of fact, on the plane returning from this conference, I was in a situation where I needed to assist a fellow passenger who was having some trouble. The flight attendant gave me the blood pressure kit and I tried several times to get a blood pressure, but I just couldn’t hear anything. The gentleman was cool and clammy, so I just palpated one and it was low. I then asked my nurse friend to try and she couldn’t get it either. That made me feel better. I had originally thought that maybe I actually forgot how to take a blood pressure…turns out, the diaphragm on the stethoscope was cracked. But for the moment, I doubted myself because I knew how long it had been since I actually cared for a patient of my own. I believe we do not lose those fundamental skills and probably retain many of the advanced ones as well. We just don’t give ourselves credit for remembering. But there is no doubt in my mind that staff in my hospital are better prepared to care for a patient than I am at this point. They have the routine down. They know the newer medications. They are more comfortable with the equipment. However, I am sure I could do it…slower…maybe a little more anxious…but I am confident I could give safe basic care. One thing for sure, I know what I don’t know and I am more willing to admit it than maybe I was when I was younger.
So, the moral of the story – You are still a nurse, even when you are a Nurse Leader. If you want to remain authentic, you should keep yourself in touch with bedside care so that you can make decisions that include consideration for the needs of the patient and of the bedside caregiver. Of course, you should also include the bedside caregiver in these decisions to ensure they will be on target as well. However, you should not expect yourself to remain an expert in all areas. You need to develop new skills that will assist you to make the decisions that match your new responsibilities.
And to answer the last part of the question “How do I let others know that it’s okay for them as well?” When asked if I can still give patient care, I smile and say, “Of course I can. But will I do it as well as someone who does it as her daily assignment?” and then I pause a moment or two and say “Perhaps.”