BY VERONICA CHEPAK, MPA, BSN, RN
The quest to finding confidence has been a long-complicated journey. When I was asked to write about confidence, the shy eight-year-old inside of me jumped for joy. I was not born with innate confidence. My confidence developed over time with experience and some introspection. As a young child and even as a young adult, I was quiet, shy and very unsure of myself. Some of it was because even though I had been born in the United States, English was not my first language. I learned to speak English in school, and I spoke with an accent. I was painfully shy and was self-conscious about standing out or speaking in front of others. We moved frequently to accommodate my father’s job. We had moved four times before I was in 6th grade. The shyness and self-conscious at times became paralyzing. You may wonder, what changed? Rest assured; it wasn’t a sudden moment of epiphany. It was a slow, gradual progression of events and experiences in which I learned and developed my skills and a strong belief in myself.
For most people, confidence is a sense of self-assurance. Self-assurance is appreciating and valuing your own abilities and qualities. This can be difficult or impossible for most of us to feel in ourselves or achieve long-term. I will discuss some of the steps I took to become a confident person.
Setting a Goal and Achieving It. Confidence is built on a series of successful life experiences. You need to set both big and small goals. Daily work toward short-term goals will help you feel better and motivate you to move forward on your long-term goals. As a young girl, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. My mother worked as a nurse’s aide. She talked about her fellow nurses with such respect and admiration that it inspired me to be part of that profession. I researched what was required to become a nurse. I was steadfast in my focus. Like a sponge, I absorbed all I could about the profession. Regardless of my academic excellence, my high school guidance counselor advised me that I would be better off becoming a secretary. It was my first roadblock, but I ignored his suggestion. I persevered in pursuing the academic knowledge I would need to reach my goal. While I was accepted and offered admission to several colleges and universities including the University of Pennsylvania, I chose to attend a college accredited nursing program that offered the best financial package and graduated with a Baccalaureate of Science nursing degree and successfully passed my boards. I realized my first long-term goal.
Know Your Value. I have worn many hats during my nursing career. However, I had not become involved in my professional organization. I had the misconception that to be involved you had to be more business-minded. When I was asked to run for the board of directors for my local chapter, I was reluctant based upon my understanding of what it entailed. I was intrigued and honored but unsure what I could contribute, but I said yes, nonetheless. Interestingly, as I transitioned from a director of my local chapter to president, I learned that all the skills I had honed over 20 years of nursing enabled me to contribute as a valuable member of CMSA. I learned that we all have a unique voice and understanding of the needs of case managers but also how we can work together to move our profession forward. As I got involved, I met and worked with others with their own distinct voices and contribution. Slowly, I began to understand that my value was beyond my titles and position but in my voice. When Kathleen Fraser asked me to join the National Board of Directors, I enthusiastically embraced the opportunity. I knew I could effectively contribute.
Stand Up For Yourself. All of us in the healthcare profession are valuable members of the team. Each one of us brings a skill set to the care and assessment of our patients. Early in my nursing career, I worked on a research oncology unit at a major teaching hospital. Many of our patients would come in monthly for their treatments. During one of my morning rounds, I met one of our usual patients. He was very irritable, which was contrary to his normal demeanor. I started to review his labs, flow sheets, etc. I noticed that his urine output was low and some of his labs were borderline low. I suspected he was either having a reaction to the therapy or becoming septic. I spoke to the resident, and he listened but downplayed my concerns. Sadly, I felt like he was being dismissive. I decided to follow up with the attending physicians. They immediately assessed the patient and discovered that the patient was in the early stages of sepsis; antibiotics and other treatments were initiated to stabilize the patient. Later that day, the resident returned to assess the patient without reviewing the chart. He loudly reprimanded me at the nurses’ station for not administering the medications he had ordered. As I explained that I had informed the attendings of my findings, he interrupted me to again verbally chastise me. At this point, one of the attending doctors who had been sitting with the head nurse in her office came out and informed the resident of his error of not listening and not understanding changes in a patient’s condition. This experience illustrated to me to trust my knowledge and my skills and to speak up, even if someone else dismisses my value to the team.
Pay It Forward. On this personal journey to being confident, I had help and support from others. These people had a positive impact on me as an individual and on me professionally. I encourage you, as you meet and get to know other professionals, to be supportive and share your knowledge and experience with everyone freely. You might be surprised to learn how much you might help others. After my experience with my local chapter of CMSA, I decided to pursue a master’s degree. Many of my classmates were 20 years younger than me. I got to know many of the students as we worked on projects. One student was a young man who had no previous healthcare experience, but he was enthusiastic, smart and eager to learn. I asked an assistant vice president at my employer if we had internships available. She asked for his resume, met with him, and he became an intern at our company. He recently sent me an email thanking me for helping him eight years ago in getting an internship. He continues to work for the company and has progressed into a managerial position of one of its units.
All these steps contributed to my believing in myself and feeling more confident in both my professional and personal lives. Emulating confidence will draw people to you and you can encourage them to see their value, achieve their goals, stand up for themselves and then pay it forward.
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