Nursing Talk

Dear Cassandra,

A business magazine recently had an article about “soft skills.” The article listed the following ten qualities that make someone a good employee: (1) having a strong work ethic, (2) a positive attitude, (3) good communication skills, (4) time management abilities, (5) problem solving skills, (6) acting as a team player, (7) self confidence, (8) the ability to accept and learn from criticism, (9) flexibility and adaptability, and (10) working well under pressure. The point was that many individuals have the license or degree, but the “soft skills” are critical to success. How does this apply to nursing?

—Thinking About It in Evanston

Dear Thinking About It,

Say you are sitting at a beauty shop. The work stations are equipped with pink and black blow dryers, electric shears, scissors of every size and type, and combs in jars of disinfectant. Orange, yellow, blue, and green plastic rollers of graduated sizes fill the portable trays. Bottles of shampoo, conditioner, styling gel, and hairspray line the shelves near the appointment desk.

The beauticians are talented individuals. Each is up to date on the latest fashion trends in color, perm, and style. They create a warm, friendly, welcoming atmosphere at the shop.

Most of the customers are regulars, men and women with standing appointments. A few customers are walk-ins. Tonight an unusual customer comes in.

Although she is a walk-in, she demands to be taken next. She uses foul language. She makes vulgar and obscene comments. Her hair is long and matted. Her clothes are dirty, and she smells bad. When she is seated in the chair, she pulls out a picture of a beautiful woman with an attractive hairstyle. She wants to be like that person. You can anticipate the outcome of this situation. No matter how talented the beautician is, she cannot transform this flawed individual into a beautiful magazine model and a good customer. She cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Although some nurses possess the license and the technical skills, they lack the “soft skills” essential to success at work. They are confrontational, repeatedly call off at the last minute, repeatedly “run late” for work, sleep on the job, neglect the client, and use foul and abusive language to parents and supervisors. The families of the clients soon request that these nurses not return.

Some nurses are a perfect silk purse, while some need to be reminded how their “soft skills” directly impact our clients and families. Thus in turn directly impact their career with AHHC.


Note: First published on American Home Health's news, June 2011.

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