Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

When considering the body of all possible knowledge, there are very few things that we actually know.  Many times we don’t even realize that we don’t know most of the things that we don’t know!

As nurses, many times we get a brief orientation and are thrown into circumstances that we could have never foreseen.  Since our training and experience can’t always prepare us for every situation, we are put at risk for making a mistake.  When that happens, it is okay to ask for help!

Try to think about all the possible things that you don’t know so that you can be adequately trained.  Think about other situations you have witnessed or heard about and determine if you have the skills and knowledge if it ever happens to you.  Talk with other nurses about situations they have encountered. Once you realize you don’t know something, you can do something about it.  Acting upon something that you don’t know can be dangerous.  As you become aware of needed skills or knowledge, ask those more experienced individuals for help or training or take continuing education.

What I have learned from talking to nurses and from the focus group is the main goal nurses have is to improve patient care.  By giving and getting feedback from other nurses and your employer about additional training or skills you may need, can help you and your patients.

In the focus group, we also discussed being “thrown in the water to sink or swim” as new nurses.  While some had more training and better orientation, all thought additional training was needed.  Let your employer know what you believe should be added to the orientation

If we sit back without saying anything, just pretending to know or if we do hear something that we don’t know and do nothing about it, then that helps no one, especially your patients!

So, when you become aware of what you don’t know, speak up!  Ask for help!  Tell your supervisor so that they can improve the orientation or have an inservice so that other nurses can be helped.  It increases the body of knowledge for all of us nurses.

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