Christina Purpora, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions. She has 30 years of hospital nursing experience.
by Steve Robbins/Flickr Creative Commons
I wonder whether any of my nurse colleagues can recall having said or done something less than kind to a peer at work. Looking back over 30 years of nursing, I am aware of times that I could have been kinder. Not too long ago, the way that Emily—a less experienced nurse who was new to our unit—conducted herself in response to my reaction to her request for help taught me that I ought to consider a better way to act.
Request for Help
I was walking out of a patient’s room when Emily greeted me by name, then said, “Ms. S has one of the new IV pumps and the alarm keeps going off. I can’t figure out what’s wrong. Can you please help me?”
I felt annoyed at her for making one more demand on my time when I could barely keep up with my current assignment. Rolling my eyes, I curtly replied, “Emily, I think you can handle it. You had the in-service like everybody else.”
Seemingly unrattled by my terse retort, Emily stood her ground. “Yes,” she told me, “I used the troubleshooting tips I learned. But there’s still a problem. I’m concerned about Ms. S. and I’m uncomfortable that I’ve missed something. I think this is a safety issue.”
I recognized Emily’s use of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) TeamSTEPPS “CUS” words: Concern, Uncomfortable, and Safety, a tool designed to clearly communicate that a patient is at risk for harm when a first attempt to get a safety threat across to a member of the health care team doesn’t work. The initial irritation I’d felt turned to embarrassment, and I answered Emily’s explanation with, “Okay, let’s go see Ms. S.”
I followed Emily to her patient’s room where, together, we figured out the problem. Ms. S. was unharmed. Outside of the patient’s room, Emily thanked me and asked what she could do for me in exchange for the time I’d spent helping her. When nothing came to mind, she reiterated, “Please let me know if something comes up, because I’d happy to help you.”
My embarrassment grew in the presence of Emily’s team approach. With the potential safety threat averted, we carried on with our respective patient care responsibilities.
Reflect and Amend
For the rest of the shift, I couldn’t stop thinking about my outburst, which stood in glaring contrast to Emily’s professionalism. When I realized that a patient could have been harmed while I was resisting my peer’s call for help, I was horrified. I wanted to apologize to Emily. Read the rest of this entry ?