A Good Nurse Needs a Voice

ShoutWe think one of the number one traits of a good nurse is the ability to speak up. Good nurses have to know when to speak up and stand their ground.

Agatha from Scrubs Magazine says, “As a nurse, you need to be able to put your toes on a line and say ‘No,’ to be able to push a recalcitrant MD to take action.”1

We realize that sometimes this can be easier said than done. But, speaking up and calling out errors you see is extremely important in the field of nursing.

Speaking up is important.

Dr. Tom Muha from Nurse Together tells us a story about a nurse, Samantha, who was afraid to speak up. “Samantha’s SICU patient needed an emergency central line inserted. The doctor rushed into the patient’s room and asked Samantha to hurry up and get him what he needed to do the procedure. She observed the doctor start the process while the patient was still sitting upright in a chair. Samantha knew this wasn’t the proper procedure, but she was afraid that she didn’t have the power or authority to speak up.”2

What is really scary about this situation is that the patient later died from complications associated with inserting a central line wrong.2

Speaking up can prevent fatal situations.

According to the Journal of Patient Safety, “Over 400,000 preventable deaths occur each year as a result of medical errors.”2

That is a pretty large amount of deaths that occur because of medical error. This is exemplified in Stephanie’s situation. It is important to know that such deaths are preventable.

When a nurse notices medical errors in their workplace, speaking up can be the difference between life and death for the patient.

There are reasons nurses don’t speak up.

Many nurses fear speaking up because they are afraid they might incur the doctor’s wrath.2

Nurses also fear speaking up because of the possibility of being wrong, calling out someone with a higher rank than them, being criticized by their colleagues and a myriad other reasons.

Workplaces need to change to prevent medical errors.

Dr. Tom reminds us “with a cohesive and strong team, your unit can make the right choices, avoid medical errors, and save the lives of millions.”2

Dr. Tom has created a strategy called PROPEL to help medical workplaces become safer and increase medical staff engagement.

Here is what the PROPEL plan looks like:

  • Passion – generate a passionate vision of what satisfaction and success will look like
  • Relationships – learn how to have great connections at work and at home
  • Optimism – recover quickly from setbacks by learning lessons about achieving a goal
  • Proactivity – determine the strengths that enable teams to be at their best
  • Energy – replenish yourself with daily rituals for your body, mind, emotions, and spirit
  • Legacy – make a meaningful difference in the world to achieve the highest level of satisfaction!2

While PROPEL may not solve that entire problem, it is a good step in preventing deaths caused by medical error.

When the entire staff has a shared vision and the workplace is more welcoming, an environment is created where nurses don’t have to be afraid to speak up.

Dr. Tom says “by empowering RN’s to PROPEL their units, we are crusading to stop the problem before it arises.”

Nurses that use their voice are extremely important to ensuring safety. If you see a problem and are afraid to speak up, remember that medical errors can lead to serious problems down the line for patients and for your workplace.

Have you ever spoken up in your workplace? How did you handle the situation? Tell us in the comments below!


  1. http://scrubsmag.com/the-1-trait-of-a-good-nurse/
  2. http://www.nursetogether.com/medical-errors-why-dont-nurses-speak