When you are a new nurse working in an area that’s multi-generational, communication can be a bit challenging. If you aren’t careful, you might easily offend someone and this can eventually affect the way you deliver care to your patients.
To make your working relationship a lot easier and smoother, especially with your senior nurses, here are some of the things you should never say to them.
“I didn’t know you were so old.”
If you are trying to build rapport with your older co-nurses, this is definitely not the best sentence to begin a conversation with. Age is a sensitive topic for some people and even though you aren’t trying to be rude, it may sound like it. So, before you express shock by wrinkling your nose or gasping, take a few seconds to really think of what you mean. If you’re thinking that your co-worker looks young for her age, you can just directly tell her that.
“Do you know how that works?”
Your co-workers might be older than you but that doesn’t mean that they know less than you do, especially when it comes to computer and technology. Being older is not an implication that they are less in touch with how modern equipment works. In fact, since they have been working in the hospital longer than you, they might even be the ones to teach you a thing or two.
“When do you plan to retire?”
There are reasons why your senior nurses are still working and whatever those reasons are, you shouldn’t meddle with them. As long as they can still do their job and they are fit enough to attend to their patients’ needs, you shouldn’t have any issues with them working. Gray hair, wrinkly skin and an age past 60 shouldn’t be used as basis for what makes a good nurse.
“You really talk like my grandma at home.”
Comparisons like this shouldn’t be openly discussed or said directly to your co-worker, especially if they’re unsolicited. For one, you’re not really sure if your senior nurse is already a grandparent. Second, if your relationship with your co-worker is just on a professional level, it will just sound plain rude. If your senior nurse has a good speaking voice or you simply liked what he said, comment on that and skip the comparisons.
“Can you handle that?”
Nurses aren’t new to heavy workloads in the hospital, particularly if it’s short-staffed. As a nurse, you shouldn’t question other nurses’ ability to handle their patients and their shift. Asking this question, especially to your senior nurse, might sound like you’re belittling her capabilities.
“How high are you getting paid?”
Contrary to what others believe, older nurses don’t automatically get paid higher. Like younger nurses, they still need to upgrade their skills, earn more certifications and get promoted before they can achieve that. In some cases, they may be required to get back to school. To avoid offending your senior nurse, skip asking questions pertaining to salary.
“How is your health?”
It’s illegal for employers and recruiters to make hiring decisions based on health, weight and height. Like them, you shouldn’t be concerned about your senior nurse’s health, especially if he can still perform his tasks well. Show concern only if you are seeing changes in your colleague’s health that can compromise patient safety.
“That’s a really long time you’ve been working here!”
This statement isn’t that offending. However, if you are talking to someone who’s really sensitive, it might just be. One can think of this question as a trick to figure out his exact age and, unfortunately, not all people are comfortable telling others how old they really are.
It might also trigger issues with nurses who are no longer happy at work. Instead of hearing lessons, you might end up hearing complaints for the rest of your shifts.
Tips On How To Interact With Older Co-Workers
Having a harmonious relationship with your senior nurses doesn’t always have to be hard. With the right tips and patience, you can greatly lower the chances of misunderstandings and tensions at work.
Here are some great tips to keep in mind:
Even if you know that you are more knowledgeable than your senior nurse in certain areas, never be patronizing about it. Instead, be open and willing to share your knowledge, especially if it can improve patient care.
Older nurses, in general, have more experience. They can be really helpful, especially to new nurses who are still adjusting to hospital work. If your senior nurse is sharing something valuable, make sure to listen really well. Don’t brush off their opinions just because they are older than you or you think their opinions don’t matter.
Aim to establish a more personal connection
Working with someone who is the same age as your parents or grandparents isn’t easy. And if you let that fact get in the way of your relationship with your senior nurse, things can get more difficult. Instead of worrying about age, find something that can bring you closer together. It can be a hobby, a movie or a new activity both of you would like to try out after work. Ask your senior nurse out for lunch if you can.
Engage in face-to-face interactions
Younger people are used to communicating through text or email. If you want to have a better working relationship with your senior nurse, don’t rely too much on technology and engage in face-to-face conversations at work. This can establish trust as well as respect.
Value their experience
Your senior nurses have been around longer and they’ve seen a lot and heard a lot. Recognize these things and value their experience. Let you senior nurses mentor you in your career. Show them respect and try to learn from their experiences as much as possible. Experience, after all, is a great teacher.