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Managing Your Career
A Confidence Booster
5 reasons you’re exactly where you need to be.

“No, these results are not normal. We know what’s normal.”

The words of Tommy’s parents dripped with condescension.

A second-year nurse on the peds floor, Anna was gaining confidence every day. But this was a blow. Her patient Tommy, who suffered from Nephrotic Syndrome, had been tested. Anna assessed that the results fell within a normal range. Years of dealing with the chronic illness, however, had made Tommy’s parents the experts. Anna, in their opinion, was incompetent. While her training told her that she was right (and the physician on duty ultimately agreed with her evaluation) Anna began to question her judgment.

While most nurses experience some level of self-doubt during the first years, you need to remember that you have tools to find and exude confidence.

Act It – Even When You’re Not Feeling It

While you may not feel confident, remember your educational institution certified you and that the hospital that hired you regards you as competent. That is why you are there—because they believe you are capable. You wouldn’t have been hired if you didn’t have the training and knowledge. So respect yourself—affirming what you know—and carry yourself with confidence. The more you practice acting confident, the sooner you’ll begin to feel it.

No Fear of Fear

There is a great saying: “If you’re not afraid, you’re not learning.” On a daily basis, a new nurse faces situations for which the textbooks don’t prepare you. When you’re in this unfamiliar territory, it’s okay to be afraid; that means you’re learning. Fear is a great motivator. It raises your awareness of what you don’t know and is a reminder to ask questions. However, if it prohibits you from making decisions, then you’re letting it run you.

No Dumb Question

There will be instances when you’re not going to know what to do or why things operate a certain way—and in those moments you shouldn’t be afraid to appropriately ask a question. But remember to package your question. There is a difference between running around alarmed and saying, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do” versus collectedly saying, “I’ve looked at this. This is what I’m paying attention to. Here’s what I’m thinking. Do you see it differently?” You can set yourself up as a flake or as thoughtful. Bringing your facts, thoughts, and solutions is very different from panicking.

Responsive Advocate

A leader pays attention, is responsive, and takes initiative. These qualities take root when you become your patient’s advocate. You speak for your patients when they can’t and procure the best care for them, even in the midst of conflict. For instance, a Patient Care Technician (PCT) might not respond to your directives. As your patient’s advocate, you can confidently let them know that their unresponsiveness is getting in the way of patient care. Your patient’s well-being is always the bottom-line and can help lead to conflict resolution. Being an advocate also gives you a boost of confidence around doctors. Because you’ve been with the patient, you can help the doctor understand things that they aren’t purview to during their six-minute consult.

Armed with Allies

When you're feeling like a misplaced newbie, reach out to the people around who want to support you. Ask more seasoned nurses, “What is the best way to ask a question? and “Who is the best person to answer this question?” It’s a matter of identifying your allies. Your allies are usually those who are nicest to you and act respectfully toward you. While there are some people who merely want to prove they are smarter than you, there are also people who genuinely want to help you succeed. The key is to find those people and utilize them.

Rose Hollister is principal of Hollister Consulting (, teaches strategic change at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and is a RealityRN senior advisory board member.

Read more Managing Your Career articles

2 Responses to “A Confidence Booster”

  1. Debra Says:

    great advice , I’ll use it.

  2. Melody Says:

    I am a 2 month old licensed practical nurse about to pursue my AS-RN degree. And this website has been a great confidence booster. I am going to send it to all of my classmates. The reality of nursing has hit me hard. Every area that your website has covered is exactly what I am going through. I love my job, it has high challenges. Thank you for all the advise it has strenghen me to continue to be a nurse that can pull all the ends together for the good of everyone in my life spectrum.

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