Nursing 101: 7 Things They Forgot to Teach You in Nursing School

As Nurses, we are made to read a lot of books, journals and reports to further our learning in school. Although all of these are important, a lot of our learning happens when we enter the “real world” of Nursing. And here are some of them:

1. BEDSIDE MANNERS RULE: Emily Post’s manners and etiquette teachings go beyond the table. It extends to the bedside as well. You may be the most brilliant clinician (book-wise), but if you lack good bedside manners, you won’t go far in Nursing or in anything in life for that matter. Good bedside manners elevate you from being a good nurse to an exceptional one.

Our patients come to us with a lot of physical and emotional baggage.They face a lot of unknowns and are riddled with anxiety. The least we can do is to make them feel comfortable under very trying circumstances.

So go ahead and flash those pearly whites, ask “How are you today Mrs. Smith?” and actually listen to what Mrs. Smith has to say.

2. DODGEBALL IS A CONTACT SPORT: Dodgeball is a game where players throw balls at each other while avoiding being hit themselves. Working with patients who are confused and delirious can sometimes feel like dodgeball. Except you don’t get a turn to throw the ball, and you are the only target. For your own safety, you must become an expert in dodging punches from a combative psych patient and death grips from a demented grandma.

There is a reason why they tell you not to wear dangling earrings in Nursing school. Go figure.

3. McDREAMY VERSUS McMEANY: I hope by now you have realized that “Grey’s Anatomy” is based on fiction. And so is Dr. Derek Shepherd aka McDreamy. You will meet a lot of doctors who are downright bossy and rude, or as I used to call them McMeany.

Doctors are people too. They come in different shapes and sizes, and yeah, sometimes, some of them are mean. That is not to say that there aren’t mean nurses, because there are…believe me! (Don’t even get me started on that!) The key to dealing with mean doctors is to learn not to take it personally. They may be having issues of their own and don’t realize that they are being mean.

Keep yourself informed, polish your skills and stand your ground. There’s nothing more formidable than a confident nurse. Except maybe your high school principal after you have falsely pulled the fire alarm for the nth time.

4. QUIET IS A DIRTY 5 LETTER WORD: Please don’t say the word QUIET at the beginning of any shift. This is a sure-fire way to jinx yourself and your colleagues to a code red, code blue, code brown and all the colors of the rainbow…all in one shift!

Don’t believe me? I dare you to say it to a veteran charge nurse and see what happens to your patient assignment.

5. NURSING IS AN ART AND A SCIENCE, AND GOD DARN IT, IT IS MATH TOO!: One of the reasons I took Nursing in college is because I have an intense dislike for Math. I nearly flunked Algebra and Geometry in high school and wanted to do something that doesn’t have anything to do with Math. Little did I know that you can’t escape Math even in Nursing. Math’s ever-looming presence haunted me in Pharmacology and beyond.

Whether you’re an ICU nurse calculating your dopamine drip or a Labor & Delivery nurse computing for gestational age, there is no escaping Math. Deal with it.

6. THERE ARE MORE THAN FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY: Ever dealt with a patient who did not want to be resuscitated but his family wanted to keep him going no matter what? I have! And boy is it painful to see and hear.

As nurses, we are faced with ethical issues everyday. Most of them you know what to do right away because it is black and white. But sometimes, it falls within what we may call “gray areas”. In the course of your Nursing career, you will encounter a lot of these gray areas. Play by the rules and seek wise counsel. Don’t be afraid to ask if you are unsure about something. After all, the only stupid question is the one that was never asked.

7. HAPPINESS IS A COMFORTABLE PAIR OF SHOES: Whatever setting you work in, it is always smart to wear a comfortable pair of shoes. What’s the use of wearing pretty shoes if you look like you’re constipated? Reserve your Jimmy Choo’s for the after-work party. You will have enough party-like craziness at work to last you a lifetime.

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