I might be able to hold my own in running a trauma. They might trust me enough to precept a new (to the ER) RN. I might be able to manage my group on a hellaciously busy Monday night. I might be turning into a competent nurse.
But I am inexperienced. There are still so many things I have never seen, and I am lucky to work in an ER that recognizes that fact - and is willing to teach me.
The other day at work, I was up at the main nursing station waiting to get some discharge paperwork signed. It was busy, the docs were busy, I was busy, and trying to get stuff moving so we could clear the waiting room. In the midst of all this, one of the docs yells across the station at me. "HEY SHRTSTORMTROOPER! You ever seen a copperhead bite before?!"
I shake my head no, and he goes "well then get your ass over here!"
Obviously I oblige, and head into the room with him. I got a three minute impromptu lesson on how to recognize different types of bites, what to do for this one, and what we'll need to monitor. It wasn't my patient, and I was busy. But I will never, never pass up an opportunity to be taught.
While that doc is very genial, there is another doc that I am still terrified of. She is freaking smart, fearless, experienced, and probably the single most intimidating person I've ever met. While in the break room recently, we were all joking about who in the ER is scary and who isn't. In the midst of the joking atmosphere, I tell the staff that seriously, I'm still scared of this doc. One of the grizzled nurses starts in on a lecture about how she is scary, but only wants people to be confident and the best they can be. So with that in mind, I sucked it up and went to her regarding one of my patients on the next shift.
"Dr. H, I've got a question for you..." I start. She looks and me and tells me to spit it out. "I'm just wondering...why are we doing this?" I ask.
She looks at me for a second. I start to sweat. She looks at her watch. I start wondering if I have a change of pants in my locker. She looks back to me. I open my mouth to say never mind, I'm sorry to bother you and I'll never make eye contact again - when she cuts me off, pulls out the chair, and goes "I'm really glad you asked. Have a seat, let me explain, and I'll quiz you on it later."
She isn't any less scary after that, and I'm still waiting for the quiz. But you know what? I'm a better nurse because of asking, and if I keep that up I'll only continue to improve.
Because no matter how highly administration might think of me, and trust me with orientees, the real measure of a good nurse is whether or not I can take my uncertainties or deficiencies and learn, improve, and use that new information to take better care of my patients.
And there will always be room for improvement. Always.