Career advice

Be brave and ask for help

Nurses are often reluctant to admit they are struggling, but asking for help is a sign of self-awareness, not weakness.
help

Nurses are often reluctant to admit they are struggling, but asking for help is a sign of self-awareness, not weakness

I dont think anyone could fail to have been moved by the efforts of Londoners following this summers horrific fire at Grenfell Tower. It was quite astonishing to see how the wider community pulled together.

Nothing could take away the pain and shock of what happened at Grenfell, but the immediate offerings of hands-on support provided some comfort at a time of overwhelming need. In addition, contributing in a practical and emotional way gave locals a much-needed purpose.

So, if reaching out to others can be of benefit both ways, why is it so hard for us to ask for help?

Redefining strength

Its in

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Nurses are often reluctant to admit they are struggling, but asking for help is a sign of self-awareness, not weakness

help
Admitting you are struggling and asking for support shows self-awareness and courage.
Picture: iStock

I don’t think anyone could fail to have been moved by the efforts of Londoners following this summer’s horrific fire at Grenfell Tower. It was quite astonishing to see how the wider community pulled together.

Nothing could take away the pain and shock of what happened at Grenfell, but the immediate offerings of hands-on support provided some comfort at a time of overwhelming need. In addition, contributing in a practical and emotional way gave locals a much-needed purpose.

So, if reaching out to others can be of benefit both ways, why is it so hard for us to ask for help?

Redefining strength

It’s in most nurses’ blood to look after others. The powerful combination of your training, experience and intuition allow you to recognise when someone needs care and attention, and to offer it without judgement.

Yet how good are you at turning this level of awareness inwards – can you spot when you aren’t coping and how easy is it for you to reach out for support? So often the barrier to asking for help comes from within.

Our inner critics like to feast off vulnerability, so try to be mindful of how you are judging yourself or the statements you believe to be true, such as ‘I should be able to cope with my workload’ or ‘asking for help is a sign of weakness’.

Regardless of whether you need a helping hand on the ward or at home, this does not make you a bad nurse, partner, mother or friend. In fact, admitting you are struggling and asking for support from those around you shows self-awareness and courage, both of which are valued qualities in nursing. And remember, most people like to feel needed.

Doings things differently

There is an ongoing debate over who first said, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got’. However, there’s no doubt that the sentiment remains true.

If you find yourself regularly overwhelmed on shift but struggle on, your feelings won’t lessen and you risk getting burnt out or delivering a poor standard of care. The immediate reality is that what’s happening on the ward isn’t going to change, but you can alter how you deal with it.  Asking for appropriate help can be the first step:

  • Know yourself: watch out for early warning signs that you aren’t managing or coping
  • Don’t bottle things up: even though it may be hard, try to talk to someone
  • Stay calm: clearly state what you need help with
  • Don’t take it personally: if someone can’t help you don’t take this as a rejection. Instead ask someone else
  • Switch channel: make a conscious decision not to listen to those critical inner voices

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach

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