Making The Unaskable, Askable; 20 Seconds of Courage Is All It Takes

#Hellomynameis Hannah, and I am a third year student children’s nurse.

We are often told that no question is too silly, to ask when we are unsure and to ask and ask again. Often this is emphasised by the analogy of a puddle, the ‘muddy puddle becomes crystal clear’ and eventually we gain some sense of what we need to do. At Surrey (luckily), we hear the responses to such questions on a regular basis, but what happens when the questions we ask are no longer aimed at our mentors and instead, at our patients? As students, we are in a unique position to spend time with our patients, to form relationships and to ask them questions like “what did you have for dinner” (food questions are my specialty). This is our time to listen! Alongside the obligatory questions we learn to ask so fluently; to assess pain and comfort, who asks the questions that are perhaps, ‘unaskable’? To answer my own question, the named nurse most likely, which could be you.

When I asked my friends “what questions do you feel are unaskable” their responses were ones that pushed them outside of their comfort zone; ‘Do you have any support from a social worker’, ‘is there a possibility that you may be pregnant’ and ‘is there something else you want to talk about’. These types of questions are of course, out of our comfort zones, but is that not exactly why they are so important?

I always felt intimidated by these questions during my first year placements (what would I do if the answer was one I wasn’t ready to hear). I would begrudgingly make an assumption, quickly ask the ‘unaskable’ and hope that the response would be one I knew how to approach. Of course, there would always be the possibility that my assumption would be wrong, but what if I was right? Throughout my degree, the importance of these questions has become undeniable. Scenarios arose that not only required me to ask the ‘unaskable’, but also to act on the response I was given.

Becoming a third year student with much more responsibility (terrifyingly, almost qualified) with, facing scenarios that have pushed me from my comfort zone has definitely encouraged me to re-evaluate how quickly I would run through these questions. For me, I have found that a ‘20 seconds of courage’ approach helps me to take that initial step. 20 seconds is all it takes to do something courageous, something that feels out of your comfort zone; asking the ‘unaskable’ (something I had previously been so terrified of).

Those nerve racking scenarios in sim, where the patient continues to cry or becomes aggressive, make use of them, they are designed for this exact purpose; for you to make mistakes, and to learn from them. Ask your mentors how they approach these questions or shadow the safeguarding team (they are not there for decoration, use them, question them!). That way, when something pushes you out of your comfort zone you will no longer need to run through the ‘unaskable’ questions and instead, you will walk. Each step you take to find out why a patient is ‘difficult’ or ‘angry’ can be the difference between a shift you got through, and the shift you got them through. Isn’t that exactly why we are all here?

Support each other, take different approaches to the ‘unaskable’ and find a way that makes you feel most comfortable- not only will that help yourself, but also your patients. When you feel confronted with a situation that scares you, that’s okay, twenty seconds of courage is all you may need!

Author: Hannah Saunders, 3rd Year Student 

Disclaimer: This blog contains personal opinions of students only and does not necessarily represent the views of the Children’s Nursing team, School of Health Sciences or the University of Surrey.

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