But I haven’t started my first IV yet!

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve only started an IV on a manikin and are wondering when you’ll get a chance “in real life”. The ability to start an intravenous line on a client is the holy grail of nursing school.

iv soft skills‘Man, I’m never gonna get to start an IV!’ 

‘The nurse got in there and started the IV before the instructor and I were even out of the supply room!’ 

‘How can they let us graduate and be nurses when we haven’t even started an IV yet?!’

ACE that interview and Keep the job!

The person who interviews you for your first job, or any nursing job, for that matter, will not ask how many IVs you have started, how many urinary catheters you have placed, or if you can detect a probable pleural effusion with your excellent auscultation skills. Hopefully, you can do all of those things and many more, but it does not matter “in real life” when it comes to securing a nursing position or even when it comes to keeping that dreamed of nursing job.

Hospital administrators are now hiring based on personality. You read that right. Personality. Health care institutions want the flexibility to teach their new hires how to do skills their preferred way, and weed out any inconsistencies or out-of-date practices that might have occurred during a nursing program, no matter how minimal those differences ought to be. The stance of nursing administration is that any new nurse can learn the needed skills for bedside nursing. A study performed in 1982 and cited by Johnson and Johnson (1990) stated that 90% of employees are not fired for poor skill performance.

They are fired for poor attitude.

If you have heard an ‘experienced’ nurse say, “that’s not my patient,” that is the precise attitude to which this is referring!

When applying for a position, nurses fill out a lengthy personality test alongside their application. This lets the hiring managers know if the person is trainable, accepts criticism, has a positive attitude, presents for work when expected, is honest, exhibits empathy, and will function well as part of a team. Further pushing the idea that personality is a key indicator of job performance – Medicare reimbursement hinges on client satisfaction scores!

The good news is, this is a relatively short list of skills. By comparison, the clinical nursing skills book on my desk has 19 pages and 34 categories in the table of contents!!! The hard skills are important to nursing care, clearly, but it must be said, all you really need to know, you learned in kindergarten!

Assess which skills are currently in your toolbox, which need to be acquired, and which just need some polishing.

Positive Attitude

There is little difference between the written words, “I cannot do this” and “I can do this;” however, there is a big difference in what this will mean to the team you work with. The mental boost in stating, “we can do this together” is phenomenal; likewise, the collective mental drain in saying, “will this day never end” is impressive. Be ready to demonstrate in all of your interactions that you can inspire, think constructively, maintain realistic optimism, and recognize opportunities rather than dwelling on the challenges.

Related imageEmpathy

The importance of empathy in providing nursing care can never be overstated. Clients will know if they are just the ‘patient in room 660’ or if you know who they are and what they need. A genuine gift of self from the nurse to the client is an incredible interaction. Additionally, there is literature that states that clients will not sue a provider or caregiver they like. Clients value being treated like a human and feeling that they have been listened to more than they value efficiency and correct skill performance. Empathy for your coworkers goes a long way, too. Coworkers will rescue someone who has demonstrated caring towards them, but if you are the nurse who takes care of just their assigned clients and clocks out, be prepared to sink or swim on your own!

Being a Team Player

Empathy dovetails on being a team player. Many people will place the words ‘team player’ on their resume without being able to provide a solid example of how they are a team player. Can you provide an example of a time that a coworker or manager seemed to be ‘out to get you’ and how you handled that? Does your ability to cooperate work both ways – do you give as much as you receive? It is nice to have a fellow nurse who assists when there is a code by grabbing the IV tubing out of the crash cart. Even better is the nurse who provides care, medications, and toileting to your other assigned clients so you can focus on the client in cardiopulmonary arrest.

Initiative

Are you the person who walks past the trash on the ground, or are you the person who stops, bends over, picks it up, and places it in the trash can? Everyone wants to work with the latter. Be self-directed, the self-starter, the one who notices when a thing needs doing and just does it.

Communication Skills

“Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult situation at work or school.” Are you the type of person who avoids conflict at all costs and refuses to “rat” anyone out? This might be something you’ll want to work on. Being able to talk to someone using professional language about an interpersonal issue is important, whether that issue is with a client, a client’s family member, coworker, health care provider, manager, or personal friend. However, it isn’t all about conflict resolution. An error free, well-written resume is a positive indicator of someone who pays attention to detail and is articulate.

duck on waterWorking Under Pressure

This could be the definition of nursing, right? But students often lack this critical skill.  Dealing with circumstances that are life-threatening and out of your control are everyday happenstance in the hospital. You may also not yet have all of the training and knowledge needed to handle the circumstances. What to do? Run around in a circle like a dog chasing its tail?

NO, of course not! Well, what then?!

Repeat after me: BE THE DUCK. Whether the issue is the computer didn’t save your assessment (again!), a fellow nurse had to leave work to tend to a sick relative, or an IV blew in the middle of a conscious sedation procedure, be graceful, be calm, be professional. BE UNFLAPPABLE.

Emotional Self-Control

A common interview question is something like… “Tell me about a time that you were really frustrated about your job and how did you handle that?”

The answer you offer should demonstrate that you have a high tolerance for frustration and the ability to handle frustration in a professional manner. The secret of the Incredible Hulk is that he is always angry. Let your secret be that you are never angry. Things go wrong, people yell at you, patients die. Take that event, learn from it, do not take it personally, and move forward.

Strong Work Ethic

The work ethic that a nurse exhibits can make or break a team. Will you be the nurse that fails to show up every scheduled Saturday? Will you be the nurse that always shows up 15 minutes late because of ‘traffic’? Will you be the nurse that strolls in and fixes a cup of coffee while the rest of the nurses are performing shift change reports? Your sense of ownership for job performance, quality of care delivered, discipline to complete tasks, and general integrity affects everyone on that shift.

Humility

Remember the story about the teacher who gave the students a pop quiz asking the janitor’s name or the story where the interviewer sends the applicant home to demonstrate how he achieved his dream off someone else’s sacrifice? Every team member is important, having a degree and a license secures your position on the team, but it does not make you a VIP.

Time Management

Nursing is a profession of the clock. “What would you do if multiple tasks were due at the same time?” PRIORITIZE, right?!

A concrete example might be how to prioritize medication administration on four clients or how to prioritize a phone call, a client call light, a visitor in the hall, and a pain medication ready to administer in your hands. But the NCLEX is over. What resources can you creatively use to solve this time management conflict? Can you delegate or ask for help?

Flexibility

Along the same vein as time management, demonstrating flexibility is key. How do you handle situations where priorities and needs change? Will you complain all day that a nurse was pulled to another unit in the middle of the morning or will you pull up your boot straps and get the work done?

Self-Confidence

Do you ‘know what you don’t know’ or do you suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect? The confidence to say, “I will find out that answer” is crucial. No one expects that you have all the correct answers. Ever.

Even the NCLEX essentially assumes you will be incorrect half of the time! The ability to use professional resources effectively is essential to good nursing. It takes a confident person to admit they need to gather more information.

Off with their headsDealing with Criticism

Do you own your mistakes or offer excuses stating you will try harder next time? Saying ‘I am sorry’ is much more effective than saying ‘I was too busy’ or something similar. This is true whether the criticism comes from an angry client or a fellow staff member. Taking criticism for what it is worth, not taking it personally, and gathering perspective is difficult and necessary. Determine what is true about the criticism offered, own that, and make a plan to correct it.

Critical Thinking

Haven’t you heard this so often that it doesn’t have meaning anymore? “Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information?” might be one interview question that addresses this. Critical thinking is this: Can you interpret the information presented to you, analyze what is meant or inferred, evaluate statements for their truthfulness or validity, explain information clearly, completely, and simply, and seek resources to ensure a positive client outcome? Basically, can you gather what is needed to complete the job when the information and tools are not given to you? Critical thinking IS nursing in a nutshell 🙂

Good luck !!!!!

Resources:

Carrington College (2014). Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in Health Care. Retrieved from http://carrington.edu/blog/student-tips/careers/top-10-soft-skills-needed-health-care/

Bika, N. (2017). How to Assess Soft Skills in an Interview. Workable. Retrieved from https://resources.workable.com/tutorial/soft-skills-interview-questions

TheCommuter (2016). Hard and Soft Skills. allnurses. Retrieved from http://allnurses.com/nursing-and-professionalism/hard-and-soft-898866.html

Page, M. (2017). How to Evaluate a Candidate’s Soft Skills. Michael Page. Retrieved from http://www.michaelpage.com/advice/management-advice/attraction-and-recruitment/how-evaluate-candidates-soft-skills

Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. (1990). Social Skills for Successful Group Work. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4198/b0e20d2cac6566c0e51fac842b52733ab384.pdf

Tilus, G. (2012). 6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now. Rasmussen College. Retrieved from http://www.rasmussen.edu/student-life/blogs/main/critical-thinking-skills-you-need-to-master-now/

wikiHow to Deal with Criticism. Retrieved from http://www.wikihow.com/Deal-With-Criticism

Careers Centre (2017). Working under Pressure. Employability Skills. Retrieved from http://careerweb.leeds.ac.uk/info/4/make_yourself_employable/202/employability_skills/13

Crowley, M. (2017). People Don’t Sue Doctors They Like. Retrieved from http://markccrowley.com/people-dont-sue-doctors-they-like/#sthash.nCcekIF4.dpbs

Sasson, R. (2017). The Power of Positive Attitude Can Change Your Life. Success Consciousness. Retrieved from http://www.successconsciousness.com/positive_attitude.htm

Jenkins, A. (2017). 5 Factors that Demonstrate a Strong Work Ethic. Chron. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/5-factors-demonstrate-strong-work-ethic-15976.html

Image credits:

IV start: http://www.ujcy.com/video.php?vid=cy12VHpRa1VRZDg

Paddling duck: http://web.stanford.edu/dept/CTL/cgi-bin/academicskillscoaching/why-does-the-duck-stop-here/

Attitude thumb: https://www.tes.com/lessons/TH6zuls-Q7OCJw/attitude-grit

Maya Angelou quote: 5linx.com/wellness/people-will-never-forget-made-feel/

Posted by Catherine MSN RN

Catherine is a nursing subject matter expert at Higher Learning Technologies, the producers of awesome Mastery products. Catherine worked in medical-oncology, hematology-oncology, pulmonary, progressive care, intensive care, medical-surgical, step-down, and hospice. Catherine taught clinical, classroom, and simulation in ASN, BSN, and RN-BSN programs. Huge fan of Alice in Wonderland quotes and brilliant quotes in general. Spare time fillers include craft festivals, camping, and raising 5 boys in TN. #BoyMomma #ICanStudyAnywhere #SixImpossibleThings #IsItMayYet #NursesRock <<Never be afraid to do something new. Remember amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic. - Anonymous<<

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