Day 1 Reflection: Asking for Help

Yesterday, as we were watching the Lewis Blackman film, a question flashed across the screen that immediately resonated with me. It was, “How do we create a culture where calling for help isn’t a sign of weakness but safety excellence?” As a new nursing clinical instructor, I think about this question often. There are only so many lessons or words of advice you can impart to your students in the short amount of time you have with them, but asking for help is one lesson I’m quickly learning is essential to teach. When students approach me with a question that I don’t know the answer to, I’m honest about what I don’t know, but direct them to resources we can use to find the answer. This requires incredible vulnerability and humility. It’s scary to reveal that you don’t know the answer to a question, especially to people who look to you as a mentor or deem you the expert. Sometimes, revealing your vulnerabilities feels like you’re opening a door for people to question all your abilities. It’s the ultimate confidence deflator. I think this is why clinicians often pretend to know everything or get incredibly angry when they don’t have the answers. Because not knowing forces us to reevaluate our self-conception. It forces us to accept that we aren’t omniscient beings, which is terrifying to admit in healthcare where ambiguity isn’t embraced or appreciated. However, I’m learning that how we handle situations where we don’t know something is a true mark of our maturity and personal strength. So, I model for my students the vulnerability I want them to show in their practice. I tell them that I don’t expect them to know everything, because it’s impossible for us to know everything, but I do expect great assessment skills and a willingness to find the answer, either from a resource or from someone else. Normalizing not knowing as we socialize students to their professional roles is the first step to creating a culture where asking for help is viewed as a sign of strength.