On the anniversary of my first nursing job, I sat in a tiny folding chair in my supervisor’s office as she reviewed my performance “report card.” She was professional in her remarks and she was praising my work.
I felt great!
In fact, I was feeling so good about myself and my skills I almost made a joke reflecting how I wished we could have these little talks more often.
Oh, brother! Glad I didn’t.
If you haven’t guessed already, that was the first job I had with a formal performance evaluation. Not a minute after ringing my own bell in my head, my supervisor got to the “room for improvement” section—better known as opportunities for growth.
Yep. I think you know where I’m going here.
It wasn’t pretty.
Why were there so many checks in these sections?
I was miffed that she couldn’t see past my lack of experience and understand that I should exceed in every column. I graduated with honors from the nursing program.
Didn’t she know? Did I need to pull out my transcripts? I mean, really, where could a first-year nurse improve?
But no matter how I plead my case, the boxes remained checked. I was stubborn and I remember blocking out the rest of the conversation, taking away only the things she said I had done wrong.
Seventeen years later, I want to tell my younger self to sit back in that chair and listen. I want that girl to be grateful to be new and have the gift of seasoned nurses and nurse supervisors willing to guide her. I want her to see how they want her to succeed and that when they are saying she isn’t perfect…well, it’s because none of us are. Not even them.
We can all improve.
Fast forward to the present (2018) review time. I still received checks in the opportunities for growth section.
Did I freak out? A little. In my head. But I stayed calm and thought it through.
I’ve been working on looking at evaluations in a different way. In fact, I’m becoming far less interested in how well I am doing and more interested in how I can improve. Don’t get me wrong, I like to get great reviews as much as the next person but I can also see how that doesn’t help me grow.
What I love to see is a box for improvement move up into the “you’ve got this down” section. That gets me all giddy and excited. That is growth.
Of course, I also expect my evaluation to reflect my actual progress, not just a tally of how well I am liked or disliked at work or a bunch of boxes checked equally across the board because it makes it easier if everyone has the same evaluation.
If done correctly, evaluations can be one of the most useful tools in nurse growth. It allows us to challenge ourselves, no matter how long or short we’ve been nursing.
We certainly don’t want to be as naive and easily offended as I was, but we also don’t want to come in unprepared or freeze up and then sign something we don’t agree with simply because we don’t want to make waves with the boss. The key is to be prepared, professional, and positive.
And with a few helpful hints (listed below) perhaps we may actually, or maybe just a little, enjoy our performance review.
1Make yourself familiar with your facility’s evaluation tool
Take a look at one of your past reviews. If you are new to the facility, ask for a copy of the tool ahead of time. This way, you won’t be surprised by the expectations or what is coming down the pike.
Apart from that, this is a great job interview question for new nurses to consider: “What are the expectations for a nurse in this position at this facility?”
2Come in with an “I’m at an interview for my dream job” attitude
This means you’re not coming in cold. You’ve had time to think about what you have done well over the year and where you see you need improvement. And dress to impress, even if it’s just your best pair of scrubs.
3Set goals for yourself and work toward achieving them
Keep a record of what you have done to meet your yearly professional goals.
What goals do you have for the next year? The next five? Bring this with you.
4Keep a copy of awards, kudos from patients, and anything else that can show how amazing you are
Bring them to the review. This is the time to brag about you!
Did you make the Healthy Eating board in the break room? Did you volunteer outside of work in a nursing capacity? Are you back in school? Did you precept a new grad? Did you come up with a new workflow that makes your job easier or safer?
Everything counts here!
5Know when your review will be held
Ask ahead of time so that you can prepare. Make sure your management team knows you are anticipating the event, too.
6Don’t accept an “in the hallway” or “It’s all good stuff, just sign here” review
I’ve had that dropped on me a few times in the past and let it slide. Yet each time that happened, I came to regret signing and wished I had stuck up for myself and had asked for time to review first.
7Ask for explanations and examples from the reviewers
Evaluations are not written in stone. Just remember what I said about opportunities for improvement, though. Be open-minded about growth.
8Realize that your supervisor is not a mind reader
She/he is not around all the time to see all the awesome work you do on a daily basis. They are doing their best with the limited information they have available.
9Now, you’re ready
Build yourself and sell yourself. Go in with your file of awesomeness and knock ‘em dead!
Christine Shultz, RN-BC works in Family Medicine. You can find her blog and check out the latest posts at rnliving.com.