Criticism, Criticizing and being Criticized

I remember the first time I got reprimanded at work.

I started my first nursing job in November, and I got called into my supervisor’s office in March. I had no idea what to expect. There were two people behind the desk. They told me that my patient had been hospitalized for a stroke and I should have noticed and reported the symptoms. I was shocked and horrified that I had missed something so important. I asked a couple of questions about the details and then signed my write up. I couldn’t stop crying and had to desperately try to hide it because I had things to do before I left the office. When I calmed down I took a look at my calendar and realized that the dates that I was supposed to have noticed the client’s decline were dates that I did not have a scheduled visit. I was being reprimanded for symptoms that started after the last time I had seen the patient.

This was clearly not my fault. I didn’t know who to talk to, I tried talking to my supervisor and it didn’t help. Finally I called the in-house recruiter who had hired me. He was very sympathetic and listened to my complaint about their complaint. He even followed up with me. I appreciated that. I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. My supervisors and managers didn’t care about me. They only cared about covering their asses.

It was years before I was reprimanded again.

The next time it was a complaint made against me by a nurse from a facility. I was too aggressive, my attitude was pushy. My supervisor was wonderful. She consoled me and was very kind and understanding. I apologized and promised I would work on it. This complaint was made against me 3 more times over the next year and a half. Sometimes it was a patient, sometimes it was a referral source, but it was always the same complaint. One actually called me abrasive. My supervisor was always non accusatory. The last time she brought me into her office I actually got teary. I was genuinely embarrassed. Even through my tears I was grateful to my supervisor for being gentle with me. I promised her it wouldn’t happen again and I made a conscious effort to be more careful.

I have been at my new job for almost 6 months. I have been interviewing, hiring, reprimanding, and counseling from (literally) the first day. I have no experience being on the other side of the table in these situations. My only preparation for this role was my past experiences. As usual I have tried my best to learn from my previous encounters. As a result I am very deliberate with my tone, verbiage, hand gestures and body language so that the person I am speaking to feels the respect that I know I would want.

First, I now know not to talk to anyone while I am angry. Of course, in order to come to this realization I had to reprimand someone while I was very upset. Yes, it went badly. I don’t know what I was expecting when I called the nurse. Its true she dropped a non-ambulatory patient that was not supposed to be transferred. It’s true that she was disrespectful to the client and to the other nurse. Its true that she was defensive from the moment I got her on the phone and started yelling at me. But I never should have called her while I was so upset and embarrassed by what she had done.

I also know that each interaction that involves a reprimand should be clearly documented. I have a patient who lives at a facility that is super particular about dress code for our home health aides.I met with a home health aide at this facility and she was wearing a sweater over her uniform. I asked her take it off and her response was “Why? No one said anything to me about it.” I asked her again and she said “Are you serious?” I assured her that I was and that as her supervisor it is my responsibility to ensure that the dress code is adhered to. She made several other unprofessional and disrespectful comments. A couple of months later we had another issue with this caregiver and I used this incident as a president for her lack of professionalism. The absence of clear documentation from the previous issue meant that I had not followed policy and could not use it against her.

I recently had an incident where I needed to terminate a caregiver. This was the first time I ever had to do this. I promised myself I would be patient and respectful even though I was incredibly disappointed with the caregiver. I explained to the caregiver what her infractions were and why we weren’t going to be able to employ her. I was calm and direct. She asked to speak to the vice president and I gave her his number. I felt that I was fair. I hope that I was.

I need to talk less and really listen to the other side of the story. I need to document clearly and objectively. I need to put my opinions away and consider what the caregiver is saying.

The other new experience since I have been at my new job is being reprimanded by the patients’ families. I am the person that gets the call with any complaints.

In my effort to be empathetic I have done my best to validate the complaint and agree with the patient. A patient’s daughter recently told me she appreciates my eagerness to agree with her but it isn’t helpful. So I stopped agreeing when people called me to complain. Instead I decided to just listen and apologize. Then I either offer an immediate solution or tell them I will call them back shortly with a solution. I am trying really hard to stay with this plan.

My last blog post generated my first negative comments. I have truly honored that someone felt so strongly about what I had written. I was glad that I was able to read the comments for what they were and not take them personally. I don’t think that my writing is juvenile and I know that the stories I tell are meant to illustrate my points but are not exact replicas of what actually happened…so…I wasn’t insulted by the comments

I hope I am on my way to learning how to respectfully accept criticism and offer criticism. I hope that I can continue to learn from each experience and improve my techniques. I hope that I can listen honestly to what is being said to me and what I am saying to others.

The good news is I have plenty of opportunities to practice.

Lessons I’ve Learned:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Document, document, document
  3. Just Listen
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