We’ve all experienced the embarrassment or fear of asking a “dumb question.” It resulted in either someone else asking the question, facing that same question at home when no one could answer, or, worst-case scenario, being brought that same question during an exam. That “dumb question” cost you the points you needed to pass. Now think about it this way: You’re a new grad nurse starting on the floor out of orientation, and there is a situation that you’re not sure how to handle. That very question would be essential for taking care of your patient if there happens to be an emergency. But because you were afraid to ask the question, it costs you the opportunity to learn something new and know what to do in an emergency. This is not good!
Yes, this is cliché, and we all have heard it, but no question is a dumb question! We have all seen countless times “dumb questions” being our ticket to winning, passing, or saving a life. My goal here is to share ways to conquer that fear of asking questions with five tips I’ve used myself!
- Research it online. (Not always, though.) If you’re embarrassed about asking a question for a reminder or clarification on a subject or intervention, ask Google first (or refer to some of your nursing school textbooks)! This will allow you to gain baseline information to build the confidence to ask someone else for “clarification.” Suppose you were initially worried about going in with a question on a foreign matter to you, gathering bits and pieces of info from Google will give that push you needed to ask someone what to do further since now. In that case, you’re asking the question with a little more information. NOTE: even if you are going to use Google, ALWAYS follow up by asking a co-nurse or charge nurse, or refer to your Nursing textbook, to ensure 1) you’re aligned with your hospital’s policies and 2) you get into the habit of asking questions when you need help. (Remember, we’re trying to conquer the fear, not run from it!)
- Find someone you are most comfortable asking questions. If you see your preceptor at work, ask them! You’ve spent time with this person; this person has seen your best and worst moments and helped you through them. They should be the second brain you should not be afraid to use. Think about it this way, your preceptor was responsible for what you knew out of orientation, and if you don’t know it yet, they have some more work to do! Another person that should be there to make you feel comfortable is your charge nurse. Your charge should be the most neutral and non-judgmental person there; hence their job is described to support the staff! Utilize your charge nurse because it is their job to know what’s going on with all patients.
- Remember: “I AM STILL NEW HERE!” Please don’t go to the floor thinking you need to know it all! To be honest, nursing school did not, and I repeat, DID NOT prepare us for EVERYTHING! Some of us began nursing having started ZERO IVs, inserted ZERO indwelling catheters, witnessed ZERO codes, etc. I was lucky to have started my first and ONLY successful IV before I was a nurse. So BE CALM! You are not alone! If you want to milk the newbie card, before your most embarrassing questions, hit them with the “I’m new here, will you help me… [fill in the blank] …”. Trust me, it works. Eventually, you will have asked all the questions you needed and discover later that you can answer people’s questions with no problem!
- Stop Assuming People Won’t Help You. When was the last time you asked a question, and someone outright refused to help you? I’LL WAIT… I’m not talking about when the person cannot help because they’re busy or genuinely don’t know the answer. I’m definitely not talking about your siblings, not helping you with your chores as a kid. In all seriousness, usually, when a person asks for help in school or a professional setting, I have never heard of anyone say, “NO, I WILL NOT HELP YOU’. That fear of embarrassment stems from doubting yourself and assuming no one will help. We need to get to the point of acknowledging that we are embarrassed and nervous about asking for help and stop blaming it on our assumptions about what others might do or what they are thinking.
- You are a Nurse! I realize that this is a broad statement, but isn’t it true? We often forget what we’ve gone through to get where we are, but the truth is YOU ARE A NURSE. We all have different journeys, grades, and learning styles. But we ALL passed the NCLEX! It doesn’t matter if you passed the first time or the third time; if you passed in 265 or 75 questions, YOU ARE A NURSE! I am a product of failing at 75 and passing at 265, and I’m still a nurse. So, own it; you earned it! Conquer this fear by reminding yourself that nursing is a career-long learning experience. You do not have to know it all; you have to want to know it all. It’s okay to be new and not know, but don’t be new and not want to know. ASK YOUR QUESTION! If someone makes you feel bad for asking your question, move on to the next person who can help you. “Nurses eat their young?” NO! Nurses FEED their young in my book!
To conclude, I want to congratulate all of our new nurses and welcome you all to the NurseCon Fam! I hope this can be a safe space for you to learn, ask, and vent if you need to. I hope you remember these tips when you’re struggling in the workplace and gain confidence over time to ask the questions you have that will ultimately make you a better nurse!
Keep your head high,