This story has been updated.
Nursing is a career that requires not only education but also a vast amount of on-the-job learning. Having the medical and practical knowledge needed to care for patients can seem overwhelming at first, but each nurse eventually grows more confident in their abilities.
This may happen gradually over time, or, in some cases, with a defining moment or patient that helps a nurse gain confidence.
The following four metro Atlanta nurses shared the stories of when they first felt confident as a nurse:
Terri Goudy, WellStar Cobb Hospital:
Goudy described how she became more confident in treating the person, not just the disease. Her defining moment came with a patient who had a mass on his lower back, and she had encouraged him for days to take a shower. Finally, one day he proudly told her, "Terri, I took a shower," as his eyes teared up. "He was so happy to tell me," Goudy said. She knew it was important for his physical health to be able to accomplish this task that we usually take for granted and that it would give him a mental boost as well. He used this small step to start walking from the bed to the shower and then down hallways before he was able to go to rehab. Goudy said she loved playing a part in supporting and encouraging this patient and others. "I meet them right where they are," she said.
Macie Richards, Emory Johns Creek Hospital:
"Very early on as a nurse, confidence was something I really struggled with,” said nurse Macie Richards. But there was one cancer patient who made Richards feel like nursing was made for her. “Because this was early on in my career, I experienced many firsts alongside her,” Richards said of the patient, who has since passed away. “We learned together [and] I haven't forgotten her. I am so grateful that she allowed me to battle alongside her, and she has shaped how I care for each patient every day."
Ellen Jatta, WellStar:
Jatta explained that she's gained confidence by becoming more experienced in communicating with patients, family members and doctors over time. She's learned how to defuse situations where families may be concerned or scared. Experience has also taught her when to call in Rapid Response. "These days I can really tell when my patient is going down in terms of vital signs. You can usually call the doctor and summarize in like a minute." As a result, she's built up confidence with doctors, so they feel, "When Ellen calls, you better go."
Johneasha "Nicole" Saddler, Emory Johns Creek Hospital:
"After about two years of being a nurse, I realized I was able to care for my patients in a more proactive way rather than reactive. I was less task-oriented. Around this time, I could actually see the patient as a whole, not simply the diagnoses they were admitted with. I was beginning to precept newer nurses around this time as well. It dawned on me that I could provide these nurses with explanations and demonstrations that included rationales. The information was second nature. I was confident in my skills and knowledge."