Nursing studies

How to handle negative feedback

The desire to do well in assignments and practice placement can make criticism hard to take. Here’s how to cope – and accept less favourable comments as an essential part of the learning process.
negative

The desire to do well in assignments and practice placement can make criticism hard to take. Heres how to cope and accept less favourable comments as an essential part of the learning process

It is worth spending time reflecting on the expectations you set yourself. Hopefully, your aim is to be the best nurse you can be. But there is a reason that your course is the length it is. The skills and aptitude needed to become a proficient nurse take time to master, therefore it is only to be expected that you may not get everything right first time.

When you put pressure on yourself to achieve top marks in everything you do you are setting yourself up to fail. This is especially true in healthcare, as

...

The desire to do well in assignments and practice placement can make criticism hard to take. Here’s how to cope – and accept less favourable comments as an essential part of the learning process

negative
See feedback as a way to help you grow as a professional. 
Picture: Getty Images

It is worth spending time reflecting on the expectations you set yourself. Hopefully, your aim is to be the best nurse you can be. But there is a reason that your course is the length it is. The skills and aptitude needed to become a proficient nurse take time to master, therefore it is only to be expected that you may not get everything right first time.

When you put pressure on yourself to achieve top marks in everything you do you are setting yourself up to fail. This is especially true in healthcare, as even the most experienced nurses are still learning. Not only that, but the chances are you may act defensively to any perceived criticism. As a registered nurse, you will have a professional duty to use feedback for reflection and to improve your practice. So, before you beat yourself up or lash out defensively, think for a moment of how you can maintain an open mind as well as high standards. 

Refocus

No one likes to be criticised, yet if you only received positive or complimentary feedback how would you really advance your skills as a nurse? When someone takes the time to point out where you are going wrong you have choices: to ignore it and assume they were mistaken, to chastise yourself for not doing better, or to see it as an opportunity to deepen your knowledge.

Giving feedback is in itself a skill, and not all nurses get it right. However, this part of the equation is outside your control. You need to de-personalise the feedback and remember that, for example, your mentor is not having a dig at you as a person – if you really believe they are then you need to seek support from senior nurses or tutors. Instead, they are trying to help you grow as a professional.

These tips can help:

  • Listen carefully: Listen to what is being said and to your emotional reaction. Ask questions if you are unclear, but avoid reacting defensively. Take time out to reflect on the content of feedback and your response to it. Are you putting barriers up to your learning? If so, what would help you to be more open?
  • Watch your motivation: Try not to brood over what you could have done simply to get a better result. Put your patients first and plan what you could do differently in future, and how this would improve the care you are able to give.
  • Accept: that ‘to err is human’: You aren’t perfect, despite the expectations you put on yourself. Yes, poor feedback may hurt, but use that vulnerability as fuel to keep improving and move on.

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

 

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs