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Jane Bates: Well-being is on trend, but no one’s talking about fear of failure

For many of us, learning from our mistakes seems merely an expression, not an option

For many of us, learning from our mistakes seems merely an expression, not an option


Picture: Alamy

I recently helped to run a fundraising quiz and afterwards found myself obsessing that I had made a mistake.

Never mind that everyone had a rollicking good time and that we made pots of money for charity, it was the failure rather than the success that stayed in my mind.

‘The slightest deviation from perfect affects us deeply because it impacts on other people, and it matters’

Why do so many people drop out of nursing? Many of the reasons are well-documented, but one that is rarely touched on is failure.

No room for ‘failure’

Nurses are highly conscientious, otherwise we would not be fit for the job. The slightest deviation from perfect affects us deeply because it impacts on other people, and it matters.

In other walks of life, failure is part of the journey; ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again’, as the song goes. Individuals are counselled to learn by their mistakes.

As Winston Churchill is often quoted as having said, ‘success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts’. But none of this applies in nursing because everything we do is so crucial.

Add to that the pressures of working in the NHS, which leaves us no mental wriggle time to order our thoughts. No head space to recover from that onslaught from an aggressive patient or colleague, or from the sadness of dealing with bereaved relatives.

It takes its toll on our concentration, meaning we are more likely to make mistakes, more likely to fail.

Well-being means more than healthy eating

And when we do get something wrong there are plenty of people to rub our noses in it, when we are already beating ourselves up.

I have just filled in a questionnaire about nurses’ well-being – ‘how many pies did you eat at Christmas?’, that kind of thing. Surely if nurses’ physical fitness is a concern, our mental health should be too. 

The fear of failure is an issue we can’t ignore.


 

 

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 


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