How many times, over the years, have I seen the same old tug of war:
Patients demand more. Don’t some of them always do that?
Busy nurses try to save time, i.e. try to give as little as possible. What else can they do, they’re so busy!
All involved bitch and moan about each other, and the struggle continues.
No one’s satisfied.
Yet it continues.
Here’s an alternative.
If you think it’s crazy, I doubt you’ve tried it, or read enough about how real humans actually think.
I’ve done both, LOTS of both, and I can promise you it works.
It makes patients happier, AND it saves you time, effort, and grief.
Simple really: imagine a tug of war. That’s where most nurses are now: patients pull for more, nurses pull back. Otherwise they’ll run over us with infinite demands, right? We HAVE TO SET LIMITS, right? Give an inch, they’ll take a mile, right?
WRONG, WRONG, and WRONG!!!!
It makes intuitive good sense to set limits this way. There’s only one problem: it totally ignores how people think and interact. Every time we act, the patient REACTS. That’s why the results are so poor, so unsatisfying.
We can do better – much! – with just a little finesse, savvy. Knowledge: power!
I can’t do this stuff justice in one wee post, but here’s the gist:
Instead of pulling back, trying to set limits and supposedly avoid work, do the exact opposite for a change.
Push forward, wade in, embrace the demands, INVITE THEM. Often!
Offer help BEFORE the requests come. Whenever possible. Think of it as a safe investment.
Most importantly, the very first time you meet any patient, lavish time on them, more than any other other time you see them.
That sets your identity in their mind: you’re not an enemy, withholder. No: you’re a friend, a giver, a good guy! It sticks over time.
It makes a HUGE difference for the rest of your relationship. Magic.
I’ve done all the above for at least a decade now. I get requests, sure, plenty of them, but when I’m too busy patients give me a free pass: they understand and forgive. They ask for LESS because I offer MORE. Humans don’t act on logic, but on feelings. When they feel secure and safe, when they trust and respect you (earned!), their natural politeness kicks in. They don’t want to make unreasonable demands of such a REASONABLE, CARING nurse. (If you stay that withholding meany in their mind instead, you WILL pay for it!)
If you’ve played the cards as I described, demands drop off, even from the neediest, least considerate, ‘worst’ patients.
I’ve taken on those patients routinely for years, in fact, and we usually get along just fine: great in fact.
Keep in mind, it’s not about being better or worse than anyone else, right or wrong.
It’s all about doing better and better each day, improving the odds of ease and success. Work gets better that way. Better!
Because I manage patient psychology well, I have an easier time of it. I can get more done, faster.
When I’m too busy, I say so, and they ACCEPT IT. Imagine that!
At least, they accept it far more readily, and far more often, than they do for all those around me doing the traditional “nurse sets limits” routine.
Setting limits has its place, certainly, but most nurses use it in a way that’s state of the art for a century ago.
In this way, they make their own weather at work: BAD weather, storms and miserable rain. Interpersonal weather is real. Patients REACT to your every action! That’s what determines much of the weather you see. Reactions. To YOUR actions.
When we do better, our patients benefit, and WE BENEFIT. We make the weather better, every day. Nice!
That’s how a savvy understanding of normal human psychology and social psychology plays out:
IT WORKS BETTER FOR EVERYONE.
Try it, and keep me posted, please!
Enjoy the nicer weather!