A nursing student was desperate to interview a practicing nurse for a paper he was writing for his class. I volunteered and was surprised to learn that I knew more than I thought I did about the subject. Here's the transcript:
“1. What role do the areas of communication, argumentation and debate play in your nursing job?
As a nurse manager, it is important that my staff and I have two-way communication. They tell me what is going on with our patients and when they need help from me. They give me input when I need to make a decision. I tell them about new policies and procedures that they have to know. When we are discussing patient problems, we debate possible interventions.
2. To what extent do you have to utilize informative and persuasive approaches to communication on the job?
Every single day. My staff usually needs to understand the reason behind new policies and procedures to begin to accept and follow them. I usually use both written and verbal approaches. If I know, I explain how and why the new policy / procedure came about. If there is a problem with the policy / procedure that will directly affect the quality of care of our patients or the ability of my staff to do their job, I will give that feedback to my supervisor. Ideally, I like to talk with staff about a policy / procedure while it is still in the planning stages.
When my staff and I are discussing patient problems and looking for interventions, we each state our opinions. To solve the problem, we look at the literature to see if there is an evidence based solution. If there is none, and I have specific reasons for choosing a certain interference, I will decide which direction we take. When I think a number of interventions may work, I encourage my charge nurses to make the decision.
3. Are there any particular problem areas in your nursing job that may be traced to problems of poor argumentation skills?
I do not get into many arguments. When my staff and I have discussions, I say what I want to say about the subject. I expect my staff to then say what they need to say. Because I have developed trusting relationships with them, they are not afraid to give me their opinion.
If someone feels strongly about a subject, they can get emotionally charged and raise their voices. If this is not handled well, the person can escalate and cause dissension among the rest of the staff. I recognize their feelings and let them know that those feelings are going to be taken into consideration in the decision. I make sure to go back to that person afterwards and see how they feel once the decision is made.
4. What particular aspects of argument do you feel most prepared to handle?
I am an expert at following the nursing process. I enjoy teaching nurses how to gather the information, use critical thinking skills to obtain more data, make the nursing diagnosis and create interventions. I make sure that we do not miss any information we need and that we follow-up to make sure our interventions are working.
What particular aspects of argumentation do you feel least prepared to handle?
I like to solve problems. What is difficult for me to handle is when I have given my opinion and the other person will not give their minds, but just agreements with mine. Then I hear that they have another opinion, but just went along with mine. If I go back to the person and tell them what I heard, they often deny it. This is passive / aggressive behavior on their part. I do my best to avoid people in the workplace who I know do this. To combat it, I will do my best to state my position in a way that lets others know I am open to what they say. I also watch their nonverbal behavior and ask directly for their opinion if they do not say anything.
5. What recommendations regarding argumentation and communication would you give to nurses or someone pursuing nursing?
Work on developing positive trusting relationships. It is much easier to debate and disagree with someone in whom you trust and with what you have had a positive relationship with.
Listen first to what the other person has to say and repeat it back to them until you are sure you understand what they are saying. Then state your case. Clarify until you are sure you both understand what each is saying.
See what you agree on first.
Then see what you do not agree on.
Avoid compromise. Instead, try to come up with another solution that meets the need. My teen son and I wanted to see a movie together. When we looked at what was playing, we could not agree. He wanted to see a violent one. I wanted to see a love story. I came up with a couple possible compromises: Each see the movie we wanted and meet afterwards or see the movie he liked this time and next time to see the movie I wanted to see. My son suggested a better solution: Find a movie we both liked.
Agree to disagree. Sometimes you can not find a better solution. You just have to realize you are not going to agree. That is OK. You respect their opinion, and they respect yours.
Know when not to debate. Sometimes there is no way your input is going to change the situation. You are told that the decision is final. You just have to accept that is the way things are and move on. You save a lot of energy that way.
Pick your battles. Not every subject has to be debated each time. Coming to mutually agreeable solutions can be fun. But trying to do this all the time can be exhausting. If the subject is not that important to you, consider agreeing with the other person.
When you find out you were wrong, apologize. Then correct yourself. ”
Hopefully, these strategies I've developed over my 38 year nursing career will help you in your current nursing position.