Un-Learning Fear as a Nurse

hospital hallway

I’m about to share something uncomfortable with you.  I remember the first time I felt isolated as a new nurse.  I had a complicated patient who was getting a lot of IV meds and I didn’t correctly verify if his meds were compatible before starting an infusion.  Thankfully, my patient was unharmed. However, I was reported by the night nurse and was rightly placed on a work improvement plan where my documentation was audited for three months and every charge nurse knew that.  About the same time another nurse had a patient in her care and her negligence endangered the patient’s life.  She was cross-trained to a higher level of care: to the coveted ICU. I was completely blown away.  On a personal level I wondered, did I get reprimanded harsher because I was black? On a professional level I wondered, is the nursing profession truly prepared to help nurses belong who are different ethnically or culturally?


These powerful questions led me to seek deeper insights. I spoke with nurses from administrator to t student to bedside “ How has your nursing education prepared you to deal with barriers to an inclusive environment?”  What I discovered was that while nurses often learn broadly about inclusion barriers, rarely do they learn how to address these uncomfortable issues on a case by case basis, up front and personal, face to face.  Strikingly, when it’s time to address perhaps the most painful yet pertinent issues of dealing with racism, poverty, or power and its impact on our nation’s health, nurses seem to be missing in action.  So I asked myself, as a nurse what is my role and responsibility to bring these difficult and uncomfortable  conversations to light in academia, at the bedside, and in our communities?  And even more critical; as a nurse what can I do to make sure my voice is heard on a platform where I am disrupting institutional concepts of how we perceive culture, class and ethnicity in our nursing profession for the highest good of my patient?

School Nurse

If you are still reading this blog then I know that you are probably outside of your comfort zone and that’s ok!  And if you need reassurance, know that you are not alone.  I have to push myself out of my own comfort zone to face the challenges of my profession and understand what my patients endure.  This is your opportunity to be an intentional and transformational leader.  Asa nurse, a leader who teaches nurse’s specifically  how to be effective at having uncomfortable conversations with peers, patients and leaders about sticky issues, stigmatized topics such as ones that evoke great emotion, I will prepare you to not just learn but practice your confidence to open up, to speak to issues that need greater awareness and make deeper connections with others who want to expand their nurse toolkit.  I am giving away a cheat sheet called “The Five Game Changers”,  that you can use right now to guide you into having these conversations with greater clarity. These five approaches will take you to the next level.  Pay attention to step number three, it’s really powerful!  I can’t wait to see your comments.  Please feel free to share this post with friends and healthcare professionals. I’d love to hear how your  conversations went.  You can also follow me on Facebook at Transform Nursing or find me @transformnursing.

Naresh and Nikki


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6 thoughts on “Un-Learning Fear as a Nurse

  1. Mary says:

    Nikki, your honesty and great courage denote a nurse with strong convictions, who is one with her profession. May God grant me these sterling attributes also.

    • nikkiakparewa says:

      Hi Busynurseresearch! I’m so sorry you’re having a hard time finding my “Five Game Changers”. I’m happy to send it to you. (And apologies I was on vacation when you sent this message). You can either send me your contact info under the contact tab or send it via email and I’ll get it right over to you. My email is: [email protected]. Thanks so much. Also I noticed you have a blog as well. I’m looking forward to reading yours! Nikki

  2. Tara Spencer says:

    Great article Nikki! This approach I s definitely one that is needed to transform the way we think in nursing and the “culture” that was instilled in all of us when we started the profession.

    • nikkiakparewa says:

      Hey Tara! Thanks so much. Lateral violence is so pervasive in nursing I know we can do better. That is my vision: to help us do better.

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