What do you do when your clinical instructor is just plain rude? That’s a tough question. After all, rude people can be a real drag to work alongside on the job, and in nursing school, they can make you doubt whether or not you’ve got what it takes to become a good nurse.
So what should you do when faced with a rude clinical instructor? We recently received a question related to this topic.
Here is the question:
I am in my first semester of nursing school and I find the clinical part is very challenging. My current professor seems to be treating me exceptionally harshly. I recently completed my 4th week in the hospital clinical setting. My last day I had difficulty hearing the apical heart beat of a 91 yr man with pneumonia. My instructor was outraged. I admit I was not as prepared as they wanted me to be. My academic grades for nursing are excellent. It is just clinicals that I’m struggling with.
I thought that the instructors would be more helpful with “stupid questions,” but they really seem unapproachable. Is this normal? I am very confused and don’t know where to turn. I have already invested a year towards my RN degree, but it is very difficult to do all the reading and practicing that they are demanding.
Is this normal? thanks for your help. can you refer me to a website where i may find some support as I go through the program? The faculty do not give us much support.
Thanks for your question.
Clinicals are definitely a challenge for nearly every nursing student. I remember being so stressed out when I started clinicals, and I really didn’t know what to expect. Although I was blessed enough to have a nice clinical instructor, I definitely had my share of very rude nurses who sometimes may me feel dumb.
Towards the end of nursing school, I even had moments of doubt as to whether or not I had selected the right profession. But I’m really glad I stuck with it. I think you will be glad if you stick with it as well.
I can remember one time when we were doing clinical skills in our class room. I had a friend in nursing school, and I was trying to take her blood pressure. For some reason, I simply could not hear the arterial pulse. I tried and tried, and my clinical instructor did get a bit agitated in that moment. In fact, I got aggravated myself and snapped at my friend because I was getting so stressed (oops!). It wasn’t her fault she had a weak pulse!
We all have trouble with things like this from time to time. In fact, even as a nurse I still sometimes have an off-day. I am usually excellent at inserting IVs and get them on the first try, but sometimes people have really weird vein patterns, and I will have to repeat a stick a couple of times to get it inserted properly (and when that happens, the patient usually get very irritated very fast). I’ve been snapped at several times over the years.
Anyway, things did get better in nursing school, as I am sure they will with you as well.
Dealing with Rude Nursing Professors or Clinical Instructors
First just let me clarify something: Dealing with rude people is a necessity of life. Not only will you experience this at times throughout your nursing career, but the fact is you will encounter this in ANY career (in fact, I experience rude people even shopping at the store!). Even the most glamorous jobs: Being a model, an actress, etc.–must deal with rude people almost daily.
And since I’ve worked as a nurse for a while now, let me tell you: Be prepared for the occasional rude manager, rude co-worker, rude patient, or rude family member of the patient. It will happen–I guarantee it. It won’t happen every day, but it will happen from time to time.
The important thing is for you to have the right perspective on their rudeness. When someone is rude, it doesn’t mean you are stupid. Nor does it mean you “don’t have what it takes to be a nurse.” It simply means they decided to be rude at that moment. They could have handled it more maturely, but they didn’t.
People are generally rude because they are unhappy, or simply having a bad day. Perhaps this professor is going through a nasty divorce, or has a horrible marriage. Or perhaps some other personal things have really been bother them lately. Maybe they lost a loved one in the past year and are still struggling with it.
This is what I always try to remind myself when someone is rude to me. This helps me to have a little more forgiveness and kindness towards them.
I’ve also learned to always let things roll off my back, even though sometimes it can be really tempting to put my foot down and speak my mind. But in almost every case imaginable, you will come out better by holding a mature and respectful tone.
How to Handle Your Nursing School Clinicals
Tip #1— Try to avoid letting them hurt your feelings. I know this is hard, because as a student we are all a little insecure and unsure of ourselves. After all, we are completely new to this stuff in most cases. Nevertheless, nursing will toughen you up over the years. You will eventually have nerves of steel after working in this profession a few years (trust me).
Also remember what I said above about trying to realize that the other person may have some personal issues that are making them a little “on edge” and “snappy.” The situation you described does not exactly warrant such a strong reaction, so I would suspect he/she may have been stressed out or dealing with personal issues of their own.
Tip# 2— Keep practicing on your skills. You said your grades were good, and that is an EXCELLENT achievement. In fact, grades are usually the area most nursing students struggle. So the fact that you have this down is wonderful. But you also admitted that “I admit I wasn’t as prepared as they wanted me.”
You may want to consider working on preparing for your clinicals. If you are struggling with skills, then take out a pen and paper and list the clinical skills you are struggling with the most. Then practice them over and over and over again. Practice makes perfect.
When I was in nursing school, I’d make my husband be my personal practice dummy. I would take his blood pressure, check his pupil dilation, and all sorts of clinical skills. It really did help. So if you have a boyfriend, spouse, parents, friends, or whoever–practice on them to sharpen your skills–over and over and over again until you get it down.
Trust me, you will get better at them. Even a dog can learn simple tricks, and as a nurse, you will learn the “tricks of the trade” over time. In fact, I once read that it takes about 3 years of working as a nurse to really get everything down well.
Tip # 3–Resolve your conflicts carefully. The first step should be to ignore any insults or rude behavior if possible. Just let them roll off your back and try to be very patient and forgiving. Also try to work on any preparation you may have been lacking.
If you find you cannot tolerate their rudeness any longer, then the next logical step would be to request to speak with the professor directly about it. Tell them your feelings in a really mature way, and let them know they are hurting your feelings and/or not helping you. Also, apologize if there is anything you feel you’ve done wrong.
Lastly, if that doesn’t work, then go to their superior and explain your situation. Hopefully it won’t get this far, but this would be the last option. Sometimes you have to do things like this and it isn’t comfortable or fun. But if people refuse to act with respect towards you, then they are in the wrong and should be disciplined.
Hopefully, the instructor was having a bad day, and things will improve. If not, you now have some ideas on how to handle it going forward.
Tip # 4–I’d definitely recommend trying to make as many friends and contacts in nursing school as possible. Your fellow classmates can help you by sharing their bad experiences and being there when you need to vent. Also, if you have any questions about nursing school, feel free to submit them here. We do select as many as we can each week to answer.
Conclusion: Hang In There
You have excellent grades, and you sound like you have a tremendous amount of potential as a nurse. One day, you will look back at nursing school and it will be a distant memory to you. You will be out on your own, with a good job, and plenty of career opportunities. Nursing is a great profession, and you should stick with it.
Being a nurse is a lot different from nursing school. Nursing school will help prepare you, but it isn’t the same.
There are so many careers and specialties in nursing, that you are all-but-guaranteed to find something you enjoy doing for a living. And when you clock out for the day–no homework!! Isn’t that awesome. You can have a life again once you graduate.
I hope this helps, and God bless you!