Most of us have voices in our heads that attempt to derail our self esteem or throw us off our game. Those voices may harken back to a parent, grandparent, teacher, or other individual who devalued us or threw a wrench into our self-worth.
As nurses, there are plenty of signs that we're valued by society, the Gallup poll being one such measure of how the public trusts and honors us. However, nurses are also demeaned in media, treated as sex objects, and frequently portrayed as simple handmaidens to doctors, lacking any scientific or clinical knowledge and expertise of our own.
In speaking with my career coaching clients who are nurses, I often detect hints of low nursing self esteem, shadows that diminish a nurse's ability or willingness to believe in him- or herself. Nurses say things like:
- "I don't really matter in the scheme of things."
- "The doctor doesn't respect me."
- "My opinion doesn't seem to count."
- "I feel like an impostor."
What Types of Knowledge Do You Carry?
As nurses, we carry many types of knowledge. Yes, there's clinical knowledge, and that can certainly mushroom to encyclopedic proportions over time. Clinical knowledge is great, and that's the kind of knowledge that we would generally consider when thinking about nurses and nursing.
However, there are many more types of knowledge and personal genius, and these carry just as much value as clinical data or skill, perhaps even more.
Institutional knowledge is important. If you are an integral member of a facility, agency, or institution, your knowledge of the underpinnings and machinations of that institution cannot be underestimated in terms of value. Institutional knowledge allows you to navigate the organization, find resources, connect one part of the company to another, and act as a valuable liaison and keeper of the culture.
Emotional knowledge is also crucial. As nurses, we connect with our patients on an emotional/psychic level, perhaps even on a spiritual level, at times. You may be a very astute clinician, but you may also have a level of emotional intelligence or genius that sets you apart. Your insight and intuition may lead you to deep places with your patients or colleagues, and your value may lie in your ability to see into situations in a way that others cannot.
Relational knowledge and relational intelligence impacts institutional and emotional knowledge very directly. If you carry relational genius into your nursing practice, your emotional connections with patients are even more profound due to your ability to take that emotional knowledge and leverage it in your relationships. Some nurses may be emotionally intuitive but not have the innate or learned skills to communicate those emotions and intuitions to their patients or colleagues. Meanwhile, if you are a relational person with powerful networking and people skills, your institutional knowledge will be strengthened by your navigation of relationships, building of bonds, and strong abilities for nurturing bonds and connections over time.
Other types of knowledge may include so-called "hard skills" like computer programming, software design, plumbing, or engineering; previous training in other disciplines (eg: massage, Reiki, coaching, business, hospitality, customer service); or other esoteric or non-esoteric fields of knowledge.
Your nursing knowledge goes deep and spans many disciplines, and you bring all of that to the table.
If your nursing self-esteem needs a boost, how can you self-administer that vaccine? First, you can make a list of the various types of knowledge that you carry as a nurse, including former careers, subjects you've studied officially, and those forms of knowledge and skill that you've accumulated by more unofficial means.
Once you've made that list, consider how those skills impact your nursing care, and how they add value to your patient care, research, teaching, management, supervision of others, or however else you function as a nurse.
If you need support in coming up with ideas about your value, ask trusted colleagues, friends, or family members to help you. This can be a booster vaccine, and can happen whenever you need you it most. Have them fill out a questionnaire, or just unabashedly query them about how they see you. You may be surprised just how valued and "seen" you are.
You need to vaccinate yourself against low nursing self esteem; learning to internalize and embody your multifaceted value is key.