A Preceptor’s Example
AJN’s Transition to Practice column is designed to help new nurses in their first year at the bedside. In this month’s column, “The Art of Saying Yes,” Amanda Anderson explains how as a new nurse she learned the benefits (to herself and her patients) of going the extra mile at work. She describes the surprising personal and professional benefits that come from “the times you choose to say yes when you might just as easily have deferred.”
Anderson paints a vivid picture of her first days on the job as a nurse: The fear of making mistakes, the feeling of being a useless novice, the shame of not always being able to keep up with seasoned staff. She was fortunate, though, to have an expert mentor in those early days. Her preceptor was an experienced nurse who modeled the art of saying yes—an art that might be described as a willingness to leap in to help when not required to do so: to take on a housekeeping task, for example, or pitch in unasked to help another nurse whose day is spinning out of control.
“There is no term for this concept in the literature,” writes Anderson. “Fundamentally, this desire that compels nurses to perform outside the realm of their title falls under Florence Nightingale’s description of a ‘calling,’ a quality of those nurses who take precautions and extra steps to ensure their patients’ health and safety—not because someone is looking over their shoulders, but because they feel truly satisfied when they give high-quality care.”
Benefits of Jumping Into the Fray
This young nurse quickly realized that other staff respected her extra efforts. She also found that jumping into the fray brought immediate personal benefits. She learned new technical and organizational skills, and grew more quickly in her professional role. Saying yes became a way to face her fears of all she didn’t yet know—a way to grasp learning opportunities that are always there for the taking in a busy clinical environment. Saying yes always carried with it the potential for failure, but the commitment to go “above and beyond” more often resulted in a new confidence and ease in her work.
We Instead of I
All of this is not to suggest that saying yes should be a solution to chronic understaffing, or that our willingness to work hard should be exploited instead of rewarded. But in these days when the demands of our profession make some of us feel isolated or even victimized at work, saying yes also promotes the essential perspective of “we” rather than “I,” and solidifies the formation of strong, high-functioning, and supportive teams.
Whether we are new or seasoned professionals, saying yes is a way to support each other through taxing and difficult times. As Anderson points out, this mutual support inevitably brings both personal and professional rewards.