Claire Harries has a questioning mind and penchant for high standards - she asks ‘is that such a bad thing?’
I was informed by a recent mentor that I have a ‘questioning mind’
At university, we are frequently reminded that now is the time to ask questions, make mistakes and simply be a student. We are told that we should ask our mentors and other qualified staff for advice and actively seek learning experiences when on placement. But how many of us actually feel confident enough to do this?
Do qualified staff feel able to ask questions of each other? Are questions welcomed or met with apprehension?
The provision of healthcare is continuallly evolving and I believe that questioning existing practice is, or at least should be, a pre-requisite of modern nursing. Patients and relatives are now more informed than they have been in the past. Wards and waiting rooms are full of people using their smart phones to research their condition, procedure or prescription. This has impacted on the nurse by making it even more important to remain up to date with legislation, guidelines and current affairs.
We have to be sure we know what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Evidenced-based practice is a must, and within nursing, is achieved by developing and supporting patient-centred approaches using the most current evidence.
I was informed by a recent mentor that I have a ‘questioning mind’. I asked her to elaborate on this and was told that she didn’t mind in the slightest and would happily guide me as best she could. She then added that that some of the younger, newly qualified nurses had felt intimidated by me. This is a strong word, and I would hope that I never make anybody feel that way. I only ask questions because I’m interested. I understand that a nurse can’t possibly answer everything, especially one that’s only been qualified a year.
As students, we attend placements to learn and soak up information like a sponge. We strive to prove our competence, but how do we do this without appearing overconfident? Nobody wants to be remembered as the student who thinks they know it all. Equally, I’m sure there won’t be many who’d like to be remembered as the student who doesn’t know anything. I’m now a little dubious about showing my abilities in practice, as a result of being asked if I was asked if I was a ‘spy’ whilst at a placement in my first year. Apparently, I knew too much to be a student! This, combined with being 30, meant I met the criteria for being an NHS spy! I wonder if it pays well?
The NMC clearly states that nurses should act as advocates for their patients and do their best to ensure their wishes and needs are met. How can nurses do this if they are unable to confidently express their own thoughts inter-professionally, for fear of offsetting the equilibrium? We need to encourage a questioning approach from students and let them flourish now so that when they are qualified, they are able to critically evaluate the practice of others, and their own.
The key to powerful thinking is powerful questioning. When we ask the right questions, we find the right answers and information must flow in all directions for a system to benefit. My questions are not driven by ego - I’m simply a student, trying to find out what’s best for the patient, best for my education and best for the future of our health service.
Claire Harries is Student Nursing Times’ learning disabilities branch student editor