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My shyness is stopping me from becoming the nurse I want to be


Do you have any advice for this student nurse?

“Let me just start by saying that I love nursing and want to help people. But my confidence with other people has always held me back.

“I hate myself for feeling like this. I want to show how enthusiastic I am but I find all the staff on placement so daunting that I barely dare ask where the toilet is. No joke.

“I’m a bit better with patients when I know the answer to their questions but my shyness really holds me back from being properly compassionate.

“Please tell me someone else feels this way? How can I get some confidence? Finding a different career is not an option.”



Please use the comments section below to share your advice


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Readers' comments (7)

  • You have to relax and put yourself in the position of the patient or family member. They are real people first. You have the knowledge to help them. If they ask something you don't know say that. I don't know or I'm not sure. Let me get clarification. I will get an answer for you. Older nurses have a wealth of knowledge use them. Most times they are happy to answer questions

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  • In addition to the wise advice in the comment above, you might like to have a look at John Adair and his books on Wikipedia on subjects such as leadership, teamwork and communication. He is a management guru and although some of his books are now quite old I think it was he who gave to tip* to imagine anybody who impresses and frightens you in the nude. it helps you realise they are little different from everybody else and we all have the equal right to respect and fair treatment and to offer our opinions and ask questions. Since learning this technique I have never looked back and now speak to all sorts of people I used to avoid unless spoken to first and realise my contribution is as valid as theirs.

    We can all hide behind several masks in our daily lives and it is worth reading up on personality types. Don't be put off by arrogance, these may be people who are as shy as you are hiding behind a shield which can make them appear aloof and rather unapproachable.

    don't fear people who you think know more than you do. we all have different life experiences and some have been around or in the field much longer than others and those who have confidence in their knowledge and skills will be open, usually more friendly and welcome your questions and own input. those who lack confidence in themselves and their knowledge may act more defensively.

    *This was the book I read and if my memory serves me right this tip was here
    Effective Leadership (New ed.). Pan. 1988 [1983]. ISBN 0-330-30230-2.

    Books such that on social intelligence at work might also be helpful in ideas for building greater confidence. Aiming for excellence in communication is the A&O.

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  • Please don't think your shyness stops you from being "properly compassionate". Don't buy into that whole confidence thing, that if you are not out there chatting and being super smiley you area crap nurse-because its not true. Although the above advice is wise you might be a natural introvert which means its hard to force yourself to "relax and be yourself" so please don't beat yourself up over this. I know tons of wonderful introvert nurses. I would rather be looked after by someone I could have one meaningful conversation with about my concerns than a bunch of superficial small talk. The confidence will come as you progress, you find ways of coping and you will be great.

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  • You don't say where you are in your course...experience is one factor, and confidence in yourself will develop. Working with people can be daunting as everyone is an individual, as are you! Treating those you are caring for as you would like to be is a good skill, your compassion will shine through, especially with the advice offered above Use your mentor (s) to help develop your confidence. Try keeping a journal and evaluate specific situations, review and action plan to support future interactions. Have faith in yourself, good luck.

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  • I'm sure more of us have been there than would like to admit! Some people mask it better than others...
    Bad news is, you'll probably feel exactly the same when you qualify and start your first job. Good news is, no one expects you to start out being the best student/nurse that you will eventually become.
    Experience, confidence and security only come with time, patience and a willingness to embrace each stage of the journey for what it can teach you. Confidence for confidence' sake is a flimsy and short-term solution that is almost impossible to sustain for any substantial period of time.
    In the mean-time, you're getting unique insight into how service users might feel when receiving care in an unknown environment, surrounded by people looking busy, stressed and unapproachable (be that true or not!). What things do you think would help you feel less shy? Are there any ways you could apply those things to your interactions with patients?
    The fact you're voicing this concern in the first place shows that you have good self-awareness and that's a quality to be proud of and a good place to start developing the rest of the skills you would like from.
    Keep going! It gets better!

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  • Elaine Francis

    Lots of great points already made, I completely agree that you should be proud to have your self-awareness and strength of character to challenge yourself to develop, I imagine some people never learn this.

    One practical technique that's helped me is to visualise and run through possible scenarios in advance - and practice out loud - which'll likely feel strange! As already mentioned, a journal could help you reflect on a particular situation and work through how you could have approached things differently. Even better to then put what you've learnt into practice...

    You've mentioned that your confidence with other people holds you back, perhaps you could practice stepping outside your comfort zone in less challenging situations - such as (safely) starting a conversation with a stranger? Or in a supportive environment such as becoming part of the Care Makers network?!

    You're not alone!

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  • good suggestions from Ms Francis

    out of your comfort zone is a good idea

    two examples of exercises a psychotherapist set for me and maybe there are more on the Internet

    1. go into a bar in the evening, sit at the bar, order a drink and chat to people around me. I had to do this in two separate bars and was very reluctant to try as a lady in my mid-50s but it worked and all such little exercises help increase confidence and lead to further similar situations where one gradually developing more courage to talk to others.

    2. go into an expensive boutique which is not your style and where you would never dream of buying anything. take your time to try on four or five different outfits and then decline politely and walk out without buying anything. I was there about an hour trying on various things with the assistant hovering over me, chatting about this and that and telling me how great I looked and as some of the clothes fitted well and did suit me there was really no reason not to buy them but I managed to decline tactfully and get out feeling rather guilty.

    In both these situations the aim to is analyse all of your feelings and reactions and how others reacted to you and how you felt afterwards.

    If you were interested you could create similar non-threatening situations of your own making them progressively difficult for you and getting nearer to everyday situations you will have to face and find difficult. Involve a friend, colleague, mentor or even your patients.

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