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'How can I ask questions without feeling stupid?'


Can you advise this student nurse?

“I’ve just started my first placement, and am often a bit too shy and scared to speak up and ask questions when I have them. 

“A lot of the time I feel my questions are too stupid or obvious – that it’s something I should already know.

“I know people say that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but I really don’t want to look stupid in front of my mentor or the other students.

“Any tips for working up the courage to ask questions when you’re afraid of looking stupid?”

Please use the comments section below to share your advice


Readers' comments (6)

  • There are not stupid questions. As student nurses, only asking questions we will learn and is better to ask than pretending we know.... if your mentor doesn’t know the answer try another staff nurse or check on internet....Good luck with your nursing training!!!

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  • Apparently there's no such thing as a stupid question!
    If there is something that you don't know then you should ask. If someone makes you feel 'stupid' when you ask something, then they are not the person to ask next time!
    What about carrying a notebook in your pocket and if you are able jot down any questions you might have (only if the time is appropriate, not in the middle of medication round of course) maybe you could share these with other students or staff on your placement and get answers that way.
    When I commenced my nursing career (as a mature new starter) I did actually 'do my mentor's head in' with the why's and how's.
    I am more than happy to answer any questions for students and newly qualified nurses as we all should.
    The majority of mentors will be glad you asked that 'stupid question' and how on earth are you supposed to know all the information on your first healthcare placement?
    Enjoy you nurse training and carry on questioning!

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  • I am a mentor for a very long time.I always have time for my students and encourage them to ask questions ,that is the only way you will learn and build your confidence.

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  • As the others have already said - there is no such thing as a stupid question - no student nurse would know everything on their very first placement. On my first placement, and as a much older (mature) student, I felt at my age I should know everything but as I had never worked in the healthcare sector before, I had loads of questions. Abbreviations, jargon etc. I would jot down things like routines in my notebook. I think it shows interest and willingness to learn to ask questions - also ask the questions that just confirm your understanding of things. Seriously, there won't be a lot you're mentor hasn't been asked before you by other students. I would come home and rewrite any learning points of the day - any incidents of good or bad practice will help you when you come to do a reflective piece of writing.
    Believe me, your mentor will be expecting you to inundate them with questions of all kinds - this will show them how willing you are to learn. Good luck - and please ask questions for your own nursing education. You will be glad you did and in future you may be able to answer them for another student nurse, or even a healthcare assistant who is covering a shift on the ward. You'll feel so proud you passed your newly acquired knowledge on.

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  • This was exactly how I felt as a student nurse and also as a newly qualified nurse. I felt very much like there were so many things I should know that that by asking about them, my mentor or my colleagues would think I was incompetent and “not cut out to be a nurse”. Now that I am looking after student nurses and teaching them myself, I realise this couldn’t be further from the truth. I LOVE getting questions! I wouldn’t have come into the job if I wasn’t passionate about it and it’s great being able to pass on that knowledge to others, and asking questions shows you are interested in the job and keen to learn. Also don’t feel like you’re being tested when your mentor asks you questions - another thing that used to stress me out as a student. I ask students questions now to feel out where the gaps in their knowledge are just so I know what to focus on the most so students can get the most out of it. You’re not being judged! You are also at an advantage in your first year as no one expects you to know all that much - ask as many questions now so you can wow them all when you’re in second and third year with your amazing knowledge!

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  • I think its really wise to ask questions ! its important to understand both facts and someones decision making process. Its also important to know when the appropriate time is to ask a question, this is usually away from the bedside.
    Asking questions shows you are being dilligent and responsible. Good ways to ask a question could be :

    "Could I just check that I have understood correctly, I need to check the bp and then document this on the tranfusion chart?" , this type of question shows you have been listening but want to clarify.

    " Earlier, when doing the wound dressing for Mr E, you chose ABC dressings rather than XYZ's , why were they better than the others in this situation?"

    Rather than grilling your mentor on policies and procedures ( i frequently ask my kids if I look like Google), ask where to find/access trust policies, read them first and then ask questions if you need to. Also, invest in The Royal Marsden book. Its invaluable and allows you to read the correct way of doing things , great for backing up a days learning.

    Mentors appreciate feedback too! if they have explained something brilliantly, tell them !

    Those that don't ask questions either are uninterested or feel they know it all already. Always be willing to learn !

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