Welcome to Episode 37 of Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor. Today, you’ll be hearing from Nurse Keith Rischer, a nursing education innovator AND founder of KeithRN.com, who will share how to effectively deal with disrespectful nursing colleagues so that you don’t end up feeling constantly angry. And remember, you are still a nursing colleague even when you are a student, so this will be a super helpful tip you can use to deal with any difficult people you encounter in nursing school!
But before Keith shares his tip, I wanted to let you know that this is the twelfth in a series of expert tips for new nursing students. So subscribe to the podcast to get notified when each new tip is available, and be sure to go back and listen to the beginning of this series, starting at episode 26, so that you don’t miss any of the other expert tips for new nursing students.
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Links from Episode 37:
VIP Tutoring Membership: www.YourNursingTutor.com/VIP
Transcript for Episode 37
By the way, if you don’t already know me, my name is Nicole Whitworth, and I’m a Registered Nurse who failed my very first nursing school quiz in an Accelerated 2nd Degree Bachelors Program…then went on to discover a BETTER way to study so that it would NEVER happen again. And it didn’t! In fact, I did so well that my school actually hired me as their official nursing school tutor by the end of that very same semester.
It’s been a loooong time since I graduated with my BSN, and I’ve worked in several different nursing roles in the meantime. But I always wanted to return to my first love, which is tutoring, mentoring, and supporting the next generation of nurses…YOU!
Now I’ve been a professional nursing tutor for over 12+ years. I’m the founder of Your Nursing Tutor, which features the VIP Tutoring Membership, and I specialize in training nursing students to study in a way that teaches you to think like a nurse WHILE you’re still in nursing school, and to do it in a way that doesn’t require you to put your entire life on hold until graduation.
Now it’s time to introduce you to my guest expert for today, Nurse Keith Rischer. As I mentioned before, Nurse Keith is a nursing education innovator and founder of www.KeithRN.com. He is a Ph.D. trained RN, author, nurse educator, and expert clinician with more than 35 years of experience. He specializes in helping students AND instructors bridge the gap between theory and practice so the students can improve critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and be better prepared for both NCLEX and nursing practice. And that is a goal that is near and dear to my heart as well, because it is what I strive to do for my own business with Your Nursing Tutor, as well.
You can find Nurse Keith online at www.KeithRN.com, or through his Facebook Page.
Here is Keith’s tip for you today:
“My name is Keith Rischer and I have been a nurse in practice for 36 years in a wide variety of settings including ER and ICU. And I have encountered incivility.
And what it looks like for me typically, is disrespectful behavior. When you have been disrespected in an encounter, and it typically is a pattern where it happens more than once, you know that you have an incivil encounter.
And so one of the strategies I want to share with you is having a prepared response. You know, when that incivil encounter happens, you need to have a sense of like, oftentimes you have a response after the fact, of, “I wish I would have said that!”
Well, you know what? When it comes to practice, have that prepared response!
So when I have experienced an incivil encounter in the ICU, and I was giving report to another nurse who was a float, I mean that I was the float pool, she was the seasoned ICU nurse, but I have plenty of experience.
I was giving report, and she disrespected me the entire time I was giving report by giving me a grumpy cat, and refusing to write down anything that I would share. And she looked at the floor, Grumpy Cat, and wouldn’t even engage me as a nurse colleague.
I was infuriated. And I went home angry because I never saw this before and I had no idea what to do.
Well, it happened a second time, but I was prepared because I thought about it and said, if this happens again, I’m going to speak directly to her and say this instead: stop report, look her in the eye and say this, “It appears by the way you’re looking at me you have something you would like to say. Please speak directly.”
Well, I spoke my truth when that did happen a little bit later. And when I spoke it, she said, “No, we’re good!” And you know what? It went on.
I was respected and I was thankful that I spoke my truth and you can do the same.”
Thank you, Nurse Keith, for your guidance on how to deal with nurse incivility in a respectful AND effective manner.
Now I’d like to add a few thoughts of my own about Nurse Keith’s tip that he shared today.
I have been very fortunate in my career that I haven’t had very much direct experience with incivility. Largely, that’s because for many years I have worked for myself as a Professional Nursing Tutor…and if I act like a jerk towards myself, then there’s really no one else to blame!
But thinking back, I believe that the most serious experience of incivility that I can remember happening to me was actually with a surgeon, back when I worked in the operating room.
At my particular hospital, nurses were cross-trained to work both as the circulating nurse AND as a surgical tech. However, we also employed a lot of really great non-RN surgical techs, so those of us in the OR training program didn’t actually get a ton of chances to train in that role ourselves.
Anyway, one day I WAS training in the surgical tech role, and the surgeon reached back to hand me the scalpel she had just finished with, and as I reached out to take it…she TOSSED it at me. And made a rude comment about me not grabbing it fast enough.
Ooooh, you can imagine that I felt pretty ticked off when she did that…IF I had actually been “too slow”, as she claimed, it was only by seconds, since my hand was already halfway to hers when the bloodied scalpel went flying into the air. Luckily, I was able to yank my hand back out of the way to avoid getting cut. So other than being angry and embarrassed, there was no physical harm done in that situation.
But at the same time, I was also so shocked by her unprofessional and downright dangerous behavior that I was absolutely speechless. So I didn’t say anything in the moment. I also knew that this particular surgeon had been going through some pretty significant personal issues recently, because she was generally very vocal about how they were affecting her mood and attitude.
Now, when I was a little girl and I would complain about how my friends would be mean to me or any of those little things that seem silly once we’re an adult but are totally serious when you’re a kid, my mom would always turn to me and encourage me to give them the benefit of the doubt, and think about what might be going on in their life that could be causing them to act out that way.
So that’s sort of become my natural default now that I’m an adult, and so it’s often how I approach dealing with others as well.
So I always try to understand why a behavior is happening. It’s also probably a big reason why I originally went into Clinical Psychology before becoming a nurse, and I still use a lot of those skills to this day as a nursing tutor.
Anyway, in this situation with this surgeon, I actually DID have that little bit of understanding as to why she might have behaved this way towards me. But at the same time, it was clearly a significant safety issue, as I could have been cut by a contaminated sharp. And that was definitely NOT okay, no matter what other issues were currently going on in her life.
Anyway, after the surgery was complete, I decided that I would give her the benefit of the doubt that day, mostly since she wasn’t a surgeon I frequently worked with AND because I didn’t often work in that surgical tech role, either. So I didn’t know for sure if this was a habitual behavior of hers, or if it was simply one bad day.
But at the same time, I did exactly what Nurse Keith suggested: I decided that I would be prepared with something to say if it EVER happened again.
So I proactively came up with a plan to address the surgeon’s behavior if it continued in the future. I determined that if it happened again, I was going to speak to her directly, face-to-face after the surgery, and calmly say, “I wanted to tell you that I don’t appreciate having sharps tossed at me. It’s unprofessional, and unsafe. If it happens again, I plan to report your behavior.”
As it turned out, I never had to have that conversation with her after all because I ended up leaving my OR job after giving birth to our son not long after that happened. Looking back, I have sometimes wondered if I should have spoken to her about the incident anyway, since it’s very likely she could have been tossing sharps at other trainees as well.
However, after hearing Nurse Keith’s description of an incivil encounter as being a pattern of behavior that happens repeatedly, it actually makes me feel better and more confident that I chose the right course of action for the situation at the time. I knew that she was under a lot of personal stress, so I think it was probably okay that I let that single incident of incivility slide by, even if it was a bit of a safety issue. But I definitely wouldn’t have let another incident happen without addressing it. I think my preparation struck a good balance between giving the benefit of the doubt in the moment, while also being prepared to address the issue in the future if it turned into a pattern later on.
As a nursing student, though…you’re not going to be dealing with very many surgeons. But you MAY still have to deal with the occasional incivil professor, preceptor, or simply another healthcare colleague you work with during clinicals.
I was actually talking to one of my VIP Tutoring Members about this sort of thing just this morning. I won’t say her name, because she was describing how her nursing school was “all over the place”, meaning it felt very disorganized, which is unfortunately a VERY common experience. And can really end up making you feel you’re literally going crazy…or maybe more accurately, like you’re the only SANE person in a crazy house! She happens to be a non-traditional student, and I think this is a surprising experience for a lot of non-traditional students because you’ve been an adult for a while now, and you kind of expect a certain level of organization and communication in a professional situation like nursing school…but then you don’t always get it.
Luckily, one of the benefits of the VIP Tutoring Membership is that I can provide support and mentorship that you didn’t even realize you needed, and you probably didn’t even realize was available for situations like this.
So I was able to normalize her experience for her so that she didn’t feel as insecure, wondering if something was wrong with her instead of with the situation. And when I say “normalize”, I don’t mean that it’s normal for nursing schools to be disorganized, just that it’s very common for nursing schools to be that way. And while I couldn’t magically fix that problem for her, I WAS able to explain the reasons why it happens, and a little bit about the history behind how we got to where we are, so that she had some perspective to help her understand why. Because I find that when I understand more about the situation, it’s often easier to LIVE with it.
And we also talked about how she could be an advocate for herself if things ever get TOO crazy in nursing school, and how to approach her professors and administration respectfully and in a way that will be most likely to result in a good compromise. That can be a really tough line to navigate, especially when you’re a student, because there’s this power differential, and if your grades are borderline then that will make you extra nervous! Because you might be afraid that if somebody doesn’t like what you have to say, then your grades might suffer as a result. And even though I don’t hear about that actually happening a lot, it’s an extremely common worry that I hear from nursing students in this situation.
All that to say, one of the benefits you get from the VIP Tutoring Membership is that you don’t have to navigate this advocacy and interpersonal stuff alone in nursing school. You can take advantage of my 12+ years of experience working with students, professors, and nursing schools to decide the best course of action for your particular situation. You can attend my live Tutoring Sessions, or post in our private VIP Facebook Group whenever you are not sure how to respond to something that happens in nursing school. Maybe rules change unexpectedly, something is going on that doesn’t feel right, professor’s not following the syllabus, and you’re not sure what to do about it…maybe you’re not even sure if you SHOULD do anything about it.
And we can talk it through! I can provide perspective from both the student AND the professor side of things. Think of me like a nursing school COACH in addition to being a tutor. And I can help you determine if an issue requires advocacy, OR if it’s something more minor that you should probably just overlook for the moment. Either way, in the VIP Tutoring Membership we can work together, hand-in-hand, to develop a plan that will be most likely to get you a good outcome.
And I should mention that THIS particular student I was talking to didn’t even join the VIP Tutoring Membership FOR that kind of mentorship! Because like most of you, she didn’t know she needed it, and didn’t know it even existed before joining. She actually joined because had an upcoming Dosage Calculations Exam in a few weeks, and if she didn’t pass the first time then she would be forced to withdraw from the whole semester and start again. So she was kind of freaking out, because she had to learn to do it using dimensional analysis, and her only experience with dimensional analysis was back in her chemistry pre-req.
Let’s just say it didn’t go well back then. And I think this is a pretty common experience for students, too.
And THAT’S how she came across me through Your Nursing Tutor, and the VIP Tutoring Membership. THAT’S why she signed up for the free 7-day trial that’s still available at the time of this recording. And then once she went through ONLY 2 or 3 of my videos on how to use Dimensional Analysis for Dosage Calculations, she was like “Okay, let me try to see if I can get this by myself”…and discovered that she could!
So the way I teach, doesn’t have to take very long at all. I mean, she was only a member for about 2 days when she sent me a message telling me that Dimensional Analysis and med math finally made sense to her after hearing the way I explained it. She wasn’t even off of the 7-day free trial yet, but she had also purchased the optional 1 on 1 Zoom call with me when she joined. So she scheduled an appointment and we met, and she still had 1 question for a type of dosage calculation that was still confusing her. And I was able to personally answer her question, walk her through how to handle it, which left us plenty of time to chat about those other mentoring issues in nursing school that she didn’t even know I could help with.
So whether you’re only struggling with Dosage Calculations, or you’d like some more “coaching” like support to guide you clearly through nursing school, then there really is no reason not to try the free trial, because you really CAN feel confident with your med math in less than a week. Often, it only a few days, really. So if you want to learn more, then you can go to www.YourNursingTutor.com/vip
All this to say, mentorship and guidance is extremely important, especially as a future nurse. And so I want to take a moment to thank Nurse Keith Rischer for his guidance on how to deal with incivil behavior in a professional AND effective way. Nurse Keith’s guidance will be something you’ll want to refer back to frequently. And if you’re “old school” like me, you might like to have another reference besides a podcast to refer back to, as well. In that case, I highly recommend Nurse Keith’s book, “Think like a nurse! Practical Preparation for Professional Practice”.
It’s useful for all phases of your nursing school journey, with sections for pre-nursing, beginning students, advanced students, and even new grads preparing for your first, real nursing job. It’s such a great resource that you will find yourself referring back to over and over again. And it really lines up with my personal tutoring philosophy of focusing on HOW to think, versus just what to think, as a nursing student.
Now as I mentioned earlier, Keith’s tip is the twelfth in a series of tips for new nursing students from over 2 dozen different experts. On our next episode, Nurse Ashley, who is the founder of the “Nursing Meme Only Page” Facebook Group with over 11,000 members, will tell you the most dangerous thing you can do as a nursing student…and what you can do to avoid it.
You can hear her tip, along with other essential advice from experienced nurses and nursing students who have been in your shoes (and lived to tell the tale), by subscribing to this podcast to be notified when the next episode in this series goes live.
And another thing…I work hard to provide valuable free resources to help you through nursing school, so could you do a quick favor in return? Would you please take a moment to go to Apple Podcast, and leave a rating and review for the “Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor” podcast? It won’t take you long, and would mean SO much to me…in fact, you might even get a “shout out” on a future podcast episode if you do!
And remember…sometimes you don’t even know what kind of help you need until you get it, so how can you be expected to figure this stuff out on your own? Don’t waste your limited time “wandering around in the dark”, feeling stressed out about how to be successful in nursing school. Let me show you the easier way to study so that you can understand the nursing information more quickly, and have time for the other important things in your life, too.
The VIP Tutoring Membership provides solutions for the most common nursing school challenges, as well as mentorship and a community of future nurses who know exactly what you’re going through. Using live tutoring sessions via Zoom, targeted trainings, and a private Facebook group, you will have a safe place to ask all your questions anytime, day or night.
Don’t put your life on hold for 2 years simply because you’re in nursing school. Instead, learn how to work smarter, NOT harder, and make nursing school a better experience today by joining the VIP Tutoring Membership at www.YourNursingTutor.com/vip
Until next time, good luck on your nursing journey!
Nicole Whitworth is the founder of Your Nursing Tutor. She has a BSN and an MA in Clinical Psychology, and has been a professional nursing tutor for over 12+ years. Nicole specializes in getting nursing students through school confidently and calmly so that everything finally “clicks”. She is also the creator of the Silver Bullet Study System, an easy-to-follow study method that automatically trains your brain to become a nurse at the same time that you study for your normal nursing classes.