The other day I heard on the radio that a large snake at a local pet sanctuary died from kidney failure. I did not know snakes had kidneys! What else do I not know about snakes, I wondered? I searched on-line and found out that snakes not only have two kidneys, they also have many of the same organs we do. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. But as nurses we don’t have to. But there are things we do need to know. So how do you know when you don’t know what you don’t know?
1. Realize you don’t know everything.
When I first got out of school and early in my career, I thought I knew everything about nursing. That was youth and ego and inexperience talking. The older I get the more I realize there is so much I don’t know, and what I used to know has changed. That’s why there are books and the Internet. So you can look it up.
2. Avoid making assumptions
How old is the knowledge you have about a subject? What you think you knew and what used to be true, may not be any more. If the information is not recent, check your facts. The dorsal gluteal site was where I was taught to give IM injections in nursing school. That is not the best practice anymore. Now the ventrolateral site is recommended for IM injection administration.
If a peer has a different opinion about a subject, don’t assume you are right and reject his ideas right away. Don’t waste time arguing. Look it up together. If you don’t know something, don’t ask someone else. Look it up.
3. Analyze your sources
Where did you get your information? How reliable was it? It is not unusual for people to repeat things they heard only to find out, the information is incorrect. Just because something is published, don’t assume it is true. What research do they have to back up their statements? Years ago I read a pamphlet that said that women with fibrocystic breast disease were more likely to get breast cancer. I could not find any studies that confirmed this statement. When I wrote the publisher of the pamphlet, he said he could not find where he obtained this information and would take this statement out of the pamphlet.
4. Actively seek new knowledge
Read nursing and other health related journals. Go to in-services and conferences. Listen to people who are knowledgeable about a subject. If you want to know more about yourself or the effect you have on others, listen to their feedback. You don’t have to agree or do anything about what they say, but you may learn something that surprises you.
So next time a subject comes up that you think you know everything about, ask yourself, how old is my information and where did I get it from? Then, you guessed it, look it up! Continue to learn and seek out new information about yourself, nursing and the world around you. Only then will you be able to find out what you didn’t know you didn’t know.