How To Give Feedback – Aussie Nurse

May 26, 2022 | Aussie Nurse

Many years ago I remember once working a shift that was after hours and there was a nurse who was upset. A misunderstanding regarding how care was to be delivered had happened, a senior nurse decided to send out a global e-mail to all the nurses on the ward about the situation

One of my work colleagues, a nurse who was involved had read the global email and it became clear that they were not given an opportunity to explain what happened, they wanted to give their own perspective as it was different from what was reflected in the email.

The team saw the nurse suddenly becoming more uncomfortable, they become so small in themselves and in the surroundings. The mix of emotions were rising and the nurse actually shut down – quickly we all recognised this and gave the person time to leave the work environment just to breathe a little.

Giving feedback can be hard and considering how the feedback will impact the person receiving it takes some thought, especially with the example above the nurse felt this personally. They knew that they were involved and their intentions were good yet a global email was a shock to them, the impact was visible as it affected both the persons self-esteem and confidence.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand… They listen with the intent to reply”

– Dr Stephen R. Covey 

It seems that giving or even receiving feedback is difficult and they are very much two separate ‘beasts’. How feedback is delivered to a person actually matters, the opportunity to learn was totally missed with a global email.

What makes us human is that we all make mistakes sometimes and learning is a constant, a way to give or receive feedback is by ‘putting ourselves in another persons shoes’ and to remember that feedback is subjective. 

Receiving feedback is about improving but accepting feedback can be difficult as it feels like our work is being criticised and that feels like disapproval. Maybe thats the difficultly with feedback, when it’s done badly it can make you feel attacked or massively misunderstood.

There are many ways to gain feedback, one way we are all used to is managers giving us feedback usually with a one on one approach that is often formal and in a separate setting like an office. Feedback is a two way exchange, it isn’t just for one person to listen and be given directives, although it can feel like we receive feedback only after a problem has happened.

As feedback isn’t just for when you are in trouble it can be used in a positive way too, when nurses are given the space to share their perspective many learnings can be gained especially in areas where a workplace difficulty occurs regularly, theres so much to be acquired from these insights.

When in mutual conversation receiving information that is valuable can help us by identifying gaps and with time our work only gets better, learnings from feedback improves our practice and we grow professionally too.

An informal way of receiving and giving feedback often happens during our shifts, in passing from our peers. Examples of when peers exchange feedback are- when we’re in the drug room shaking these vials of antibiotics and catching a moment to have a quick chat, in random conversations during our breaks or even at the end of a challenging shift, a positive ‘pat on the back’ may be delivered to one another (we survived!!). 

Informal feedback delivered in this way during the work day is helpful as the situation is currently being experienced in the present time. Also positive feedback can give us a boost, it’s encouraging especially as our effort is recognised. 

I feel as nurses we learn a lot from one another when we are talking in the work day, so much information is swapped. As feedback is a two way exchange maybe thats the aim to give information that is specific and clear- for the listener to understand something in the same way that the speaker gives meaning to it.

Feedback with purpose either formally or informally will require thought, here are some tips for the  preparation of giving feedback-

  • Giving Advance Notice – If you are giving the feedback, beforehand prepare the person receiving it as to not make them uncomfortable 
  • Concentrate On The Information – Focus on the specifics and why this is important, clearly identify the situation/event
  • Stay Objective, Not Subjective – Focus on the actual issue, not the person
  • Maintain A Safe Place – It’s important that the environment is safe by creating a healthy and safe area for feedback to be delivered. Feeling safe can reduce the person feeling no control and becoming defensive
  • Work Together – Both the giver and receiver of the feedback are given opportunities to respond and express their views and form mutual strategies for improvements to be made if needed
  • Ending The Discussion With A Recap – This avoids misunderstandings and ensures mutual understanding of the constructive feedback by both the giver and receiver

Once constructive feedback has be given, both parties may find it helpful to reflect when away from the conversation afterwards, some suggestions are –

  • Giver Of Feedback Reflection – Has awareness been achieved? Was the feedback helpful? If not how would you do things differently next time?
  • Receiver Of Feedback Reflection – Thoughts on what to do with the feedback? Do you need to change anything in your practice or pursue some further learning? How are you feeling?

One role in nursing I can think of where feedback is constantly given is in education, especially when students are on placements and are trying to transfer what they have learnt in the classroom to the practical work setting. Educators often share from their own work experiences by explaining different things in nursing in a way that each individual student understands and  identifying any learning gaps that the student needs to improve on.

Constructive feedback is bringing awareness to a situation, this allows nurses to learn by growing professionally and this is why feedback needs to be available to a person in a safe and fair way.

Thanks for reading- Aussie Nurse

(Photo by Canva)

‍”The best feedback is what we don’t want to hear”

– George Raveling

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