Nursing Tools: The Importance of Catch Phrases
I was in my previous career when I learned about the importance of catch phrases, but having learned my lesson well, I find them invaluable in my job as a nurse. What do I mean by catch phrases? Let me explain the problem and how they can help.
Many situations in the real world, but particularly in nursing, are a surprise, ranging from a mild inconvenience to a total crisis. They often involve other nursing colleagues, but physicians and even patients can trip our triggers as well. Human nature generally dictates reaction instead of response, except for those rare and enviable even-tempered people who are by nature rarely rattled by anything, and I know very few of those people. The rest of us experience a shocking or infuriating incident and either blurt out the first thing that comes to mind or overanalyze the situation with long arguments involving how right we are and how wrong the other party is. Often these long conversations are held without the other person there, in our heads, and generally while we are trying to get to sleep (“dang! I should have said THIS! And then he would have said THIS! And then I would have said THIS!”). If any of this sounds familiar, catch phrases can help you.
Catch phrases are just that—phrases you have preselected and memorized (and practiced, if necessary) so that you can replace your kneejerk reaction with them. To use them, you have to first identify your triggers, and this probably will not be difficult (if it is, finish this sentence: “I HATE it when….”). Having a catch phrase at the ready prevents saying the wrong thing, casting around tongue-tied for anything to say, and, often, avoiding making a bad situation worse. It prevents reaction and allows response.
Here are some examples I use, or try to, in the nursing world. I had help from a wise friend who managers to appear even-tempered almost all the time. Why? Because she has her own handful of catch phrases at the ready and is never caught off guard to where she reacts instead of responding.
- “No, but thanks for thinking of me.” (Instead of, “There is no way I am coming in for an extra shift/take an extra 2 patients/stay 2 hours late!”)
- “You may be right.” (Instead of, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, and here are the reasons why.” This one is useful for all situations because it would be silly to argue back with it.)
- “You seem upset. Is there something we should talk about?” (Highly useful in a passive-aggressive nursing environment; replaces a number of less adaptive phrases, such as “what the &*^! is YOUR problem?”)
- “Could you please help me understand this?” (Useful when you’ve received an apparently ridiculous order or directive from a physician or other superior; put this way, you’re asking for help, not arguing.)
- “I’ll be back when you’re able to talk more quietly.” (I don’t like people yelling at me; it’s a fast road to a major angry reaction on my part.)
- Finally, the be-all end-all catch phrase is the simple, “I don’t know what to say right now.”
That’s about my stock supply. If I had more, they would not be on the tip of my tongue, practiced and ready to use. This whole idea sounded silly to me at first, but I actually wrote down my triggers and phrases and practiced saying them. They work, and knowing I’m prepared takes away a little stress off the top.
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