How to Handle Criticism as a Nurse Practitioner

If you’ve been a nurse practitioner long, chances are you’ve received some form of criticism at work. The feedback may have related to a clinical decision or, it may have been in regards to your efficiency in treating patients. Your boss might have delivered his or her comments constructively and professionally or, they may have come across as more of a personal attack. Whatever the case, finding yourself on the target of criticism as work is inevitable as a nurse practitioner. Here’s how to handle it.

Read Between the Lines

No one likes to receive negative feedback about their job performance no matter how minor. So initially, criticism even in the most constructive of forms, can bite. Next time you feel yourself getting defensive in response to an assessment of your abilities, take a step back and listen. The comment may be well intended and helpful for boosting your professional skill set. Listen first, pause second, and react last. Maintain an openness to others’ opinions so that you can effectively apply helpful feedback.

Seek First to Understand

If you feel your nurse practitioner job performance has been unjustly criticized, seek to understand the opposing perspective. Ask questions. You may simply be dealing with a miscommunication or an insignificant issue. Asking questions can also help keep you from getting defensive which shuts down conversation. Engaging by asking questions in response to feedback shows a willingness to change and adapt – a must as a team player.

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Consider the Criticism Style

Some of us as nurse practitioners are motivated by a ‘tough love’ type mindset and respond favorably to criticism delivered without warm fuzzies attached. Others of us prefer a softer approach.

Receiving criticism in a style that doesn’t mesh with your motivational tendencies can be difficult. Think objectively about the tone behind the criticism you receive. Is your coworker prone to communicate in a style you find difficult to relate with? If so, take a step back as you analyze the conversation.

If the preferred feedback styles between you and your boss differ greatly, let him or her know. This way your boss is better positioned to help you succeed.

Maintain a Professional Mindset

Naturally, nurse practitioners are prone to take on-the-job criticism personally. We work long hours. We interact with an exhausting number of patients. A lagging performance once in a while may follow suit. In such cases, the tendency is to view critique as a personal affront. A misstep at work doesn’t reflect your overall character. Accept that you’ll mess up or under perform on occasion and use the feedback as an opportunity for professional growth.

Avoid Venting to Coworkers

Receiving criticism may leave you reeling. If your next inclination is to dish about the situation to your fellow nurse practitioners or other coworkers, stop. A conversation with even your most trusted work confidant can be overheard. Not to mention, you may propagate a negative and divisive work environment. Venting is best saved for happy hour with your BFF.

Learn from Feedback

Criticism has a negative connotation, but if delivered appropriately may help you excel as a nurse practitioner. Feedback on your clinical skills and work performance helps you increase your medical knowledge and meet the expectations of the practice where you work. Negative feedback lets you know how and where you are falling short. If you aren’t getting feedback you may be underperforming without your knowledge. Use criticism as a chance to turn things around.

What kind of criticism have you received as a nurse practitioner? How did you respond?


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