The Top 5 Unspoken Nursing Rules

October 27, 2023
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Nursing isn’t just about following medical protocols. It also involves adhering to unspoken rules that seasoned nurses employ daily. These unwritten guidelines are just as crucial as the formal training you receive in school. They will help you reduce stress, build relationships, increase knowledge, and advance your career.  In this blog, we will delve into five important unwritten rules of nursing and provide practical tips and examples to help you navigate the complex world of healthcare.

The Top 5 Unspoken Nursing Rules

1. Respect Unofficial Boundaries

Unofficial boundaries exist in every healthcare setting, often related to personal spaces or equipment usage. These boundaries may not be explicitly stated but are crucial for maintaining a harmonious work environment. Here’s how to respect them:

  • Tip: Pay attention to your surroundings and colleagues’ preferences. If someone uses a specific chair, computer, or workspace regularly, avoid encroaching on it without permission.
  • Example: Your experienced colleague has a favorite spot at the nurses’ station where they store essential supplies. Rather than taking over that space, ask if there’s a designated area for shared supplies or if you can store your own nearby.

2. Adapt to Your Coworkers

Nursing is a team effort, and the ability to adapt to your coworkers’ work styles and preferences is invaluable. Adaptation fosters collaboration and helps ensure smooth patient care delivery. Here’s how:

  • Tip: Observe how your coworkers operate. Are they meticulous about documentation? Do they have specific routines for patient handovers? Adapt your approach to align with theirs when appropriate.
  • Example: During shift handover, your colleague prefers to review each patient’s history in detail. To align with this preference, ensure you’re prepared with comprehensive patient information and be open to discussing any issues or concerns.

3. Colleagues Are Your Lifeline

Your nursing colleagues are not just coworkers — they’re your support system. Building strong relationships with them can significantly enhance your nursing practice. Here’s how to foster camaraderie:

  • Tip: Be open, approachable, and willing to help your colleagues. Collaboration often leads to problem-solving and better patient outcomes.
  • Example: When your unit is understaffed due to unexpected circumstances, offer to help a colleague with their tasks. In return, they may be more inclined to assist you during busy times.

4. Asking Questions is a Sign of Strength

Nursing is a profession where you’re constantly learning, and asking questions shows your dedication to patient safety and care. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance when needed. Here’s how:

  • Tip: Create an environment where asking questions is encouraged. Establish open communication with your colleagues and supervisors, making it easier to seek clarification or advice.
  • Example: When encountering a new medical device or procedure, approach an experienced nurse and ask for guidance. Your willingness to learn will be appreciated.

5. Respect Everyone’s Time

In a healthcare setting, time is precious, and punctuality is a sign of professionalism. Respecting everyone else’s time demonstrates your commitment to effective teamwork. Here’s how:

  • Tip: Arrive on time for your shifts, meetings, and handovers. If you anticipate being late, communicate this to your team as early as possible. Be considerate of your colleagues’ schedules.
  • Example: You have a team meeting scheduled before your shift. Plan to arrive a few minutes early to ensure you’re prepared and respectful of your colleagues’ time. If you can’t attend, notify your team in advance.

Nursing is more than just following medical protocols; it’s about understanding and adhering to the unspoken rules that govern professional relationships and teamwork. By respecting these unofficial rules, you can foster a positive work environment, build strong relationships with your colleagues, and ultimately provide better patient care. Embrace these unwritten rules, and they will guide you toward a successful nursing career.

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