No one said nursing was easy. There are days when your nurses will be stressed out and possibly feel hesitant about their own abilities. Nurses may ask themselves “Is this something I can handle?” or “Can I really do this my entire career?” New nurses straight out of school may acknowledge that they have the clinical know-how, but don’t feel ready to face real life challenges or high acuity patients.
While executives are working on higher-level system initiatives like nurse retention planning and staff development, are there simpler ways to keep nurses happy and engaged? Here are some tips to help boost your nurses’ confidence:
Teach Personal Boundaries
Encourage your nurses to have personal boundaries; this is code for you cannot please everyone. Teach nurses, especially young ones, to be selective about what personal information they share with other nurses and staff. Teach your nursing staff the fundamentals of Emotional Intelligence, most notably keeping emotions professional. Boundaries are important in successful nurse-patient relationships as well. Teach your nurses where their responsibilities begin and end and how to assert those boundaries when tested.
See our related article, “Emotional Intelligence in Nursing – Six Key Traits.”
Build Bully-Proof Nurses
Lateral violence is no longer the hidden secret of the profession, and being bully repellant is sadly necessary. Physicians can also bully nurses; nasty workplace behavioral practices exist. But if nurses have a strong sense of self and know what they stand for, they can make themselves less likely to be a target for a bully. Bullies are attracted to low self-confidence and nurses with timid communication styles, so teach nurses to be assertive. Also teach your nurses the more subtle forms of bullying to watch out for. While physical violence is an obvious form of workplace bullying, there are other bullying techniques: peers setting peers up for failure, sabotaging work, gossip, or giving misleading/false information. If your nurses know these patterns, they can better prepare themselves to deal with it and possibly even combat it.
See our related article, “The Nurse Bullying Phenomenon.”
Teach Nurses NOT to Compare Themselves to Others
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where everyone seems to care about what others are up to. But there is little that can shatter confidence faster than comparing oneself to others. It is good for young nurses to have senior nurses/administrators to serve as inspiration for a career path, but teach your staff not to look down on their own abilities by comparing to others. You can also teach senior nurses not to inflate their own ego just because they are superior in some competencies. Even very experienced nurses can see their confidence get shaken at times.
Set Your Nurses Up with a Mentor
A career mentor is important in any career, but especially in nursing. A mentor can encourage nurses when frustration sets in, and give new perspectives. Start a nurse mentor program at your facility, whether formal or informal. For nurses, knowing that they have someone in their corner can give confidence. If a mentor program isn’t possible, encourage your supervisors, instructors, and directors to build stronger relationships with nursing staff. Have these senior staff members take nurses out for coffee or get some 1×1 moments in a judgment free mindset.
If there is anyone who knows the ins and outs of a facility, it’s the people who have been there the longest. Teach your nurses to model their work ethic after someone who is excelling in their role.
Teach Nurses that Perfection Isn’t Real
When in small groups with nurse staff or at 1x1’s, remind your staff that no one is perfect. It is better to admit a mistake or flaw than it is to make an excuse for it. Confident nurses are able to admit when they are wrong. By acting defensively after a mistake, it hurts confidence instead of boosting it. Possibly share mistakes or flaws that you had as a bedside nurse, and assure staff that all great nurses had moments they wish could be taken back.
Let your nurses know they do not have to personally know everything. Giving great care doesn’t mean nurses are on an island; teach nurses to flip the script. For example, when they don’t know what to do with a patient in distress, teach them to leverage the collective knowledge of the nursing team around them. Let the group figure out next steps. Having the ability to gather information and consensus is more important than the personal clinical knowledge to figure it out solo.
Help Your Nursing Staff to Engage in Lifelong Learning
Learning new skills and acquiring new experience contributes to both confidence and competence. As your nurses learn and develop, they will become more effective nurses. They will also be more confident nurses and better leaders. While knowledge is power and well-educated nurses will naturally be more confident, tell your nurse staff not to limit education to just clinical learning. “Soft Skills” like communication, conflict resolution, and leadership can help nurses stand out on the team and boost confidence.
NCharge®: “Nurses Learning to Lead” is a set of leadership courses built for the first-level supervisory nurse, the Charge RN. NCharge is an evidence-based curriculum that gives nurses the insights, interpersonal skills, and business knowledge they need to more effectively manage, inspire, and lead. NCharge helps U.S. health systems to build a nurse leader pipeline, impact financial awareness and results, and increase nurse engagement and retention. For instance, the Supervisory Skills For Positive Outcomes course teaches communication strategies to confidently communicate practice concerns, conflict management, time management strategies, and appropriate delegation while maintaining accountability.
Click Here to have one of our team members reach out to you about NCharge. Give us the opportunity to hear your skill gaps in nurse confidence and allow us to make a course recommendation!
“4 Ways to Build Confidence as a Nurse,” AHS Nurse Stat, Cade Webb, January 24 2019
“Boost your confidence to reach the stars,” The Nursing Times
“7 Things Nurses Can Do to Feel More Confident at Work,” Nursing CE, Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, March 20, 2019
“How Nurses Can Build Their Confidence,” The Gypsy Nurse, February 20, 2018
“Tips Nurses Can Use To Build Confidence,” Diversity Nurse Blog, Erica Bettencourt, July 26 2019