Throughout my 20 plus years of experience in nursing, I have been inspired every day by the colleagues I work with – the skills and the care they demonstrate and the thoughtful way my nursing colleagues are with our patients, families and each other has always been clear…
Recently, I learnt so much from witnessing a colleague who didn’t hold back as they advocated for a patient: they significantly changed the outcome and treatment plan for that patient.
Whilst outcomes for our patients are important, what I really observed and appreciated was how this simple action created a ripple effect within the broader local nursing community.
In this particular instance a doctor was going to proceed with a certain course of action for a patient. My colleague at the time had concerns with the approach and hence asked what was the rationale, so they could understand the doctor’s reasoning. As a result it became clear that the original course of action was not in the best interests of the patient. So the plan of care was changed.
The thing that is very important to highlight here is the way that my colleague spoke to the doctor. They spoke to the doctor to highlight concerns, so that everyone came to a new level of understanding. It was not about proving anyone right or wrong. What was said was said with great care, knowing that the original plan, albeit not correct, was made from a place of caring for the patient and wanting to provide relief of symptoms.
Through one nurse’s choice to not hold back and action what they felt to be true, all other nurses now know that they too can speak honestly about what they are observing and what they also know to be true.
When we allow ourselves to speak up with honesty, we put a stop to sitting on the back fence, fuelling thoughts that we can’t do or say anything, speaking up empowers us and also means that there are no regrets felt for not speaking up later on.
The nurses could now also see that communicating what is needed, with care and respect at the time, is supportive for everyone involved, even if there is a difference of opinion. Nurses are professionals of equal standing with all other health professionals,and because we get to know our patients very well, we have the knowing and the ability to support not only each other but also other health professionals, whilst recognising and honouring the particular skills of each professional, and that what we have to say and how it is presented matters.
Advocating for the patient in this instance was not easy for my colleague and I observed the conversations that they were having with other trusted colleagues afterwards. With this my colleague ensured they also received the support they needed through this process.
To speak up may not always be an easy thing to do but it does allow for further communication and important considerations to be shared, and what I saw was this particular conversation has had a ripple effect across the workplace for many other nurses.
It is important to appreciate far beyond what a person has done or offered, for there is always more we may not even consider. The ripple effect means when we respond in such a way, we may never know who has been touched or inspired by our words or actions, regardless of the outcome; but we can feel solid in the knowing that we have not held back from expressing what we feel is needed at the time.