|And furthermore, those black bobby pins securing
your cap are most unprofessional. Use white pins!
Nothing exploits the fault lines of professional nursing quite like the annual performance evaluation. The assorted dynamics are varied, but always divisive; the young vs. the old, BSN vs. diploma, 'Mericans vs. foreign born, neat fanatics vs. free spirits, and at the root of all conflict, the nurse office sitter academic/administrative complex vs. the lowly bedside nurse.
The rigid, authoritarian nurse administrator doing the evaluation was once a member of the bedside nurse cohort but ascended the administrative ladder as a result of being totally unfit for direct patient care and also holding anyone who is good with patient care in contempt. Basically, it's a cabal of malcontented busy bodies whose primary mission in the nursing world is proving their power and mettle at the expense of the lowly bedside nurse.
I love the optimism of naive, young whippersnapperns who think it's possible to come out of performance evaluations with an honest assessment of how they are doing on the floor. Nurse Buff even has a blog post titled, " 8 Ways to Knock Your Performance Evaluation Out of The Park." Maybe things are different today, but in my experience, the nurse is far more likely to get knocked out of the park in this nursing administration world of bureaucratic incompetence and legendary bullspin. It's a no win ballgame.
The fur licking, scratching and hissing so common in nursing office settings is like a magnet for administrative minded folks. I once received an evaluation that noted I had zero potential for administrative advancement and considered that a high complement. Sitting in an office with these other worldly creatures would have been like a prison sentence for me. Not everyone wants to climb the so called ladder of success when it involves joining the ranks of administrators.
One of the inherent problems with nursing evaluations is that good patient care is simply not narratable. Long time bedside practitioners develop a 6th sense based on pure instinct. I've worked with nurses who could smell impending death and could assess blood pressure without a syphgmomanometer by applying variable pressure to the radial artery. Long time neuro nurses can actually visualize that pre seizure aura and take appropriate action to nip the convulsion in the bud. A good bedside nurse is indescribable, but you know one when you see one in action.
The philosophical bifurcation between administrative nurse and bedside care giver is enhanced by the use of lexicon hijacked from the business world. Office sitters have loads of time on their hands for the black art of word play. In the age of corporate driven medicine the use of high minded sounding goobledegook has flourished. We have phrases like poor time management, customer service, inappropriate consolidation of resources, best practices, building consensus, core competency, paradigm shift, mission critical, or matrix structure. Wow, talk about a tower of Babel.
Here are few of my time proven strategies for dealing with nursing performance evaluations. The first rule is to simply avoid any specialty or area that has a high density of nursing offices. The operating room was a perfect refuge from office sitting navel gazers and misfits. There were no nursing offices in the OR suite and supervisors, like my long time nemesis, Alice, rarely sat down. Her evaluations carried supreme weight and her theory was "If you don't hear from me, you are doing a great job."
It's also good job security to excel technically so that your services are valued by the surgeons. That way you have an advocate from the top of the hospital food chain to back you up when the inevitable hits the fan. My favorite general surgeon, Dr. Slambow would body slam just about anyone giving me the business. I had earned his respect through our late night meetings over some gosh awful trauma that we usually managed to turn the tide on.
Demeanor counts big when on the receiving end of evaluations, so never, ever, back someone into a corner who is meaner than you, and that accounts for 95% of nurse administrators. Practice this one in front of a mirror. Your facial expression should assume a beacon of baptismal innocence when the dreaded document is being reviewed. Take some measure of control over the situation by signing the blasted thing and making a hasty exit with a broad smile plastered all over your countenance. This is a game you cannot win. Simply grin and bear it then rapidly forget all about it.
abomination administration genuinely wanted to improve patient care they would provide units with adequate staffing, pay nurses a livable wage, acknowledge circadian rhythms when scheduling, and maintain supplies of equipment to get the job done. Evaluations are small potatoes when striving for better direct patient care.
Although, I've tried to limit my tales of personal woe, there is one evaluation experience that will always haunt me. I was hospitalized with the mother of all Crohn's disease exacerbations and had not been able to eat for weeks. Thankfully, hyperalimentation was initiated and as I was surrounded by beeping monitors and several infusion pumps a cheery, young nurse popped up at my bedside with news that there was a piece of mail for me.
How nice I thought, some kindly person from work was sending me get well wishes. Upon opening the envelope, I was dumbfounded, it was my annual nursing performance evaluation sent by Helene, my head nurse. I guess she figured that I was never going to recover and return to work so she might as well get it over with. Nursing can be a cold business and, yes, I did return to work just to spite her.