What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do (RN)

by Elizabeth Russ, FNP

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    00:01 So you're in clinical, and you were asked to do something by your clinical instructor or by a nurse that you're working with.

    00:07 But you have absolutely...

    00:10 You don't know any of the words that came out of their mouth, right? You don't know what they're talking about.

    00:13 Let alone how to do the things that were actually asked of you.

    00:16 And it can feel really, really hard to say: "Actually, I am, I have no idea what you're talking about." Right? Because you don't want to seem uninterested or like asking you as a waste of time or that you will always say no or, you know, you don't want to be perceived as incompetent. But remember what we discussed in the previous module? Literally any decent human in the clinical world will not see you as incompetent because you are literally there to learn.

    00:42 So try to just scratch that worry off of your list if you can, and let's troubleshoot a few different ways that you can say you don't know how to do something, while still emphasizing that you are totally down to learn how.

    00:56 Because it is totally okay to say that you do not know how to do something.

    01:00 It's why you're there.

    01:01 And you'll be learning, you'll be learning new things forever in health care.

    01:06 This won't be the first thing you don't know how to do.

    01:07 So you might as well get really used to saying, "I have no idea how to do that, but I would like to find out now." And that right there, actually, the last sentence we said, "I don't know how, but I'd like to find out" that is...

    01:17 That sentence is totally, totally acceptable.

    01:19 That's a fine way to express that you don't know how to do something.

    01:22 I personally didn't feel confident enough to be so up-front until many years into my clinical practice when I was much more fine just saying, like: "actually, I don't know how to do that. Will you show me?" There are easier ways in the beginning when you're newer and less okay with admitting, like, full out that you're just clueless on a topic.

    01:40 And we're going to cover those now.

    01:41 Here are some examples. "I would love to help you with that, but I am unfamiliar with the process. Could you show me so that I can tackle it next time?" That's going to show you more of, like, "I want to shadow here." Then we have: "that's actually on my list of things to learn this semester, so I haven't quite done it yet, but do you have time to show me?" "I've actually never done that, but I would love to learn if you could show me how." "So I want to do this, but I'm not exactly sure how to do it.

    02:08 Can you point me to someone or could you maybe show me, so you can just guide me through it or have someone else help me?" Any of those are going to work, or whatever feels comfortable to you.

    02:19 It'll be okay, I promise.

    02:20 And practicing saying these things at home, finding your one phrase, is actually going to be really helpful before you even get to clinical.

    02:27 So it can just like roll off your tongue, right? Because you're going to be scared. And if it just falls out of your mouth the moment that you're asked this question, it makes it a lot easier.

    02:35 I promise it's totally normal.

    02:37 Even the most experienced nurse has to have lots of these moments where they're like, "I have, I have no idea", or they have to go look something up.

    02:45 I have always, always said to my preceptees when I'm training them as new nurses, that the things that they don't know, that doesn't scare me.

    02:52 What scares me is when they say they know how to do something, and they actually don't . Never, ever avoid asking for help out of concern for feeling dumb or being a burden. You are not a burden.

    03:03 You are a student.

    03:04 But if you don't speak up and let people know that you need help, that is when things get complicated, that's when frustration will set in, and that's when you can become a burden and cause problems.

    03:13 You will always be learning new things in nursing, so you might as well just embrace it, practice it now.

    03:18 Ask the questions.

    03:19 Learn and grow! Grow my nursing babies.

    03:22 Remember, you can only control how you interact in a learning environment . By being honest and upfront at knowing, like, "Hey, I don't know how to do something", but showing the willingness to learn you are doing your part as a student.

    03:36 If someone is disappointed that you do not know how to do something or is giving you any kind of attitude about them, I need you to know that that is like them being grumpy and that's their problem.

    03:47 That is not a you problem.

    03:48 You did not do anything wrong.

    03:50 You are enough.

    03:51 You're doing the hard things.

    03:53 Okay, friends? Go you.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do (RN) by Elizabeth Russ, FNP is from the course Succeed in Clinical (RN).

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Say that you don't know how to do something.
    2. Embrace not knowing how to do something.
    3. Be honest and upfront.
    4. Only ask questions once.
    5. Be better prepared if you don't know how to perform a skill in clinical.

    Author of lecture What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do (RN)

     Elizabeth Russ, FNP

    Elizabeth Russ, FNP

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