As I blankly stared at my numerous nursing resources, an experience I had in nursing school came into mind. I remembered how I was during my very first day of psychiatric nursing clinicals.
CyNurse (to herself): I'm scared sh@tless! I might as well go home. What if one of these patients attack me? They all look violent to me.
Male Patient 1 (looking at CyNurse's nametag): Hi, Ma'am CyNurse. Can you be my student nurse?
CyNurse: Huh? I...I guess so (obviously scared). Slowly backing away from the patient.
Clinical Instructor: CyNurse, you will care for Male Patient 2 . Remember to stay close to your patient.
CyNurse (to herself): Oh snap! It's unfortunate to be assigned to care for a male patient. Most of them are violent. I sure hope this guy's not violent!
Remembering that very stressful day of psychiatric nursing clinicals made me decide to blog about SELF-AWARENESS. Because looking back, I must admit that I reported to my first day of psychiatric nursing clinicals ill-prepared. I was judgmental, prejudiced, and guilty of stereotyping my patient. I was not a tad therapeutic. Simply put, I lacked self-awareness.
Self-awareness is defined as a person's ability to recognize the nature of his own attitudes, thoughts, biases, beliefs, emotions, behavior, strengths, and limitations. Understanding oneself will enable a person to deal with challenging situations and respond to people and the environment in a more positive, confident manner.
Self-awareness helps a student nurse develop a therapeutic relationship with her clients. By understanding her own limitations and analyzing her feelings, emotions, and behaviors, she is able to respond to her client more effectively and in effect, render improved quality of care.
In my case for instance, if only I had time for self-reflection (assuming I knew what questions to ask myself to enhance self-awareness) before my exposure at the psychiatric ward, then I wouldn't be so stressed out. I would've realized that a half-day orientation, a brief discussion about the Johari Window, and an overview of mental health nursing didn't prepare me well for my psychiatric nursing clinicals. I would've expressed my concerns on my safety to my clinical instructor. I would've been therapeutic.
How, then, is self-awareness developed? Self-awareness is developed in many ways. You may think of a certain situation and reflect on your feelings and behaviors and think about how your responses to that particular situation affected you and other people. You may maintain a journal and express your thoughts and feelings freely. You may ask significant others as to how they see you and reflect on their responses in relation to how you see yourself.
A helpful way of developing self-awareness, especially for student nurses on clinical rotations, is to be honest and be able to ask oneself stimulating questions such as:
Who am I?
What are my strengths and weaknesses?
Am I anxious? Why?
Am I prepared for this task?
Do I have concerns I need to bring up with my clinical instructor?
What are my learning goals in this specific activity?
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
As a nursing student, when was the last time you were anxious during clinical rotations? What did you do about it? Did you consider asking your clinical instructor for guidance? Why or why not?