A Nurse’s Notes on New Year’s ResolutioNs
By Fidelindo Lim, DNP, CCRN
It’s the most promising time of the year. A clean slate ahead and a chance for a fresh start. There is no doubt nurses are making New Year’s resolutions like everybody else. I sometimes wonder how it would be like if I could hear or read the unspoken declarations of all the nurses for the coming year? I bet it will be a cacophony of oaths to do better, reflections on missed opportunities, obstinate desires to excel, and plucks to get things right among others.
As nurses, we are assumed to be good in planning (care plans anyone?). To prove this point, I’d like to propose an approach on how to make evidence-based (don’t we just love this phrase!?) resolutions for nurses. A basic template would be the SMART acronym on how to write goals we learned in Fundamentals of Nursing. High-quality resolve needs to be specific, measureable, attainable (or has an action/verb), realistic, and has a time frame. Yes, they make sense, whether you are naughty or nice. Smartly written resolutions have ring of success around them, a certain formality that begs your attention.
But, here is the disclaimer - I personally don’t prepare New Year’s resolutions (e.g., make a list). This doesn’t mean I don’t think about them. What I find amusing or enlightening is hearing other people’s resolutions. This taught me a lesson – one of the surest ways to unhappiness is to compare oneself to others – so I stopped asking. At year’s end I do a little life review, not the your-whole-life-flashing-at-you variety but a quiet and lazy conversation with myself, to ask the “so, what’s the plan?” types of questions. This exercise exhausts me while horizontal on the sofa! And I was quick to pronounce a nursing diagnosis of “activity intolerance” for the last days of the year.
On my first year as a nurse in the U. S., I used to list the areas of improvement I wanted for myself in relation to my performance at the bedside. The background to this is that I was told I was not meeting expectations (I was not told which ones) while on orientation and was running the risk of getting terminated or fired, after merely four weeks on the job! Written on a yellow pad paper, I affixed this list on the fridge door. Periodically, I’d pick up this list to draw a line across the ones I have already met and add new ones to the list. Looking back, I realize that I was making New Year’s resolutions, asynchronous to the passing of the year. On a weekly basis I was refining my skills by resolving to improve each time I encountered a deficiency. I regret now I did not keep that list as it would be revelatory to see what changed and what stayed the same in my practice. Since I am no longer a bedside nurse, I would like to imagine my top ten resolutions if I were a staff nurse at a hospital in 2014. Here they are (in random order):
- Arrive 30 minutes early for work
- Perform hourly rounding hourly
- Tie the back and neck straps of the isolation gown every time
- No matter what the rush, I won’t forget to flush those saline locks and CVLs
- Turn patients every two hours and not just document the task
- De-clutter the bedside before leaving the patient’s room
- Be nice to the nurse educators when they come around to give in-service
- Know where the location of the fire extinguisher even if JC is not around
- Answer the call bell promptly – in 3 minutes or less
- Always do hand hygiene before, in-between and after patient care
SMART aren’t they? Will I be able to keep them? Let’s save that question for the next life review. The essence of resolutions is the promise to do good work. Nurses’ need not wait for the end of the year to examine their resolve. The handoff during change-of-shift is our twice daily opportunity to make these covenants lived realities for our patients, for ourselves.
Happy New Year Nurses! And keep saving lives!
Fidelindo Lim, DNP, CCRN
Fidelindo Lim is a clinical faculty at NYU College of Nursing and a per diem nurse educator for NYP Weill Cornell and Hospital for Special Surgery.