While most of the time, nursing is a highly rewarding profession, there are times when even experienced nurses feel like they are in way over their heads. It might be a particularly challenging patient, or another nurse who seems to have the answers to everything, or just a new situation that brings on feelings of inadequacy and doubt, but regardless of the cause, when your confidence is shaken, you might wonder if you’re even in the right profession at all.
Travel nurses often experience a “crisis of confidence,” especially in the early days of any new assignment. Even if they know that they have been well trained and have a wealth of experience themselves, entering a new situation and working with a new group of colleagues presents a challenge.
There’s usually a learning curve as you get to know the personalities and politics of the department and the facility, and you might feel like everyone is watching you, the “new kid” to see what you can do — and whether you will make mistakes. While there is little besides time that can help you get past the first day jitters, you can build your confidence as a nurse going forward, and reduce those nagging feelings of self-doubt.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Build Your Knowledge
Knowledge is power, and when you are well educated, you feel more confident in your abilities. Going back to school for an advanced nursing degree not only provides you with more training and insight into the theory and practice of nursing, it opens up new opportunities for your career.
With a master’s degree, for example, you’re qualified for roles as a nurse leader or educator. However, even if a full degree isn’t practical for you right now, taking workshops or individual classes in areas that you’re not familiar with or want to expand your skillset to include can help you feel more confident in your work. Don’t limit your education to just nursing, either; learning communication, conflict resolution, leadership, and other “soft skills” can help you stand out on the nursing team and boost your confidence.
Even if you have an advanced degree and several years of experience, avoid falling into the trap of thinking that you know everything. Nothing can deflate your confidence faster than being sure of something, only to find out that you were wrong.
If you aren’t 100 percent positive about something, ask questions. Even if you think that your question could be perceived as “stupid,” ask anyway. It’s better to be sure than to make a mistake, especially in the life and death world of nursing, and remember that if you have a question there is a good chance that someone else had the same or a similar one.
Find a Mentor
Mentors serve a vital role in any career, but especially in nursing. A mentor can serve as a sounding board when you’re feeling frustrated, provide insights that you might not have considered, and a champion when you need one.
Even if you don’t have a formal mentor, building strong relationships with supervisors, instructors, managers, and nurses with more experience can be a great resource for learning and support. Offer to take him or her to lunch or out for coffee, and ask for suggestions for resources or advice on how to handle certain issues. Knowing that you have someone in your corner can help you feel more confident and make better decisions.
Build Your Communication Skills
Effective communicators can build better relationships, since they generally tend to be better listeners, and can share information without appearing confrontational, condescending, or unaware of the other person’s feelings. Not only do strong, productive relationships help you remain confident, but also when you know that you have the skills to communicate with others, even when the subject is challenging, you are more likely to speak up and address problems.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Nothing will torpedo your confidence faster than comparing yourself to others. While other nurses or administrators can serve as inspiration for your own career path, don’t diminish your own abilities and achievements by comparing them to others’. At the same time, do not compare yourself to others in a negative way, i.e., inflating your own ego because you know you can do something better than someone else. Overconfidence can lead to mistakes, so stay humble, and run your own race.
Even when you have been a nurse for many years, there will be situations that shake your confidence. If you stay focused on improving your skills and relationships with others, though, you’ll have the self-esteem you need to handle anything that comes your way.
Do you have tips for your fellow Travel Nurse to build their confidence? Please post your tips in the comments below.