By Elaine Bruner, RN, MSN, CMGT-BC

Why am I talking about failure in my nursing and professional life? Isn’t failure a bad event? Honestly, if you are 100% perfect, you are not human. Undeniably, there are moments where perfection is needed: like the 1969 moon landing, but there were plenty of failures that NASA encountered before that momentous event.

What mistakes formed the nurse I am? Well, let’s start with high school grades. My guidance counselor consistently told me I was not performing to my potential and would never attend a BSN program. I admit I was happy with a “B” average. That was not going to get me where I wanted to be. Less extracurricular activities with more library time resulted in acceptance to my BSN program.

Lesson one: Failure is motivation to improve.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Learn from your mistakes,” but what does that mean? Admitting you’re wrong requires humility and courage. As a new nurse, I worked in an academic, safety-net hospital where many patients were uninsured, and they did not speak English as a primary language. I struggled to connect with the patients and families, especially when offering discharge instructions. During a work shift, while writing out instructions, the unit housekeeper, Juanita, shared additional information regarding the patient I was discharging. She said I needed to ask more about the support of their family support. Then, patients would appreciate my understanding of their cultural preferences. That was a learning moment… I thanked Juanita and took her advice.

Lesson two:  Be humble and accept lessons from all sources.

How many times have you been asked to join a project, write a professional article, or have been invited to be a speaker? What held you back? Lack of knowledge? Concerned that you were not equal to the task? This is the time to gather yourself and go forward. The colleagues who asked for your participation see something and you will too. Ask all the questions. Write a gazillion sentences till you get the right (write) one. Practice in front of a mirror. This is not failure; it’s growth. Growth is stretching beyond your comfort zone and embracing challenging opportunities.

Lesson three: Fail better, there’s no growth in perfection.

Time is running out! Don't miss your chance to network and learn from the best in Case Management at the 2023 CMSA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Register here:

Bio: Elaine is an experienced nurse, case manager and educator. Prior to entering case management practice, Elaine worked in diverse settings including oncology, nutrition support, home health, and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. Case management offered Elaine opportunities to join transdisciplinary teams in cardiology, critical care, and ambulatory care. Since 2008, she has been associated with American Nurses Credentialing Commission, contributing to the Nursing Case Management (NCM) certification review products. She co-authored the 4th edition of the NCM Review and Resource Manual, with Peggy Leonard, and was the faculty for live workshops and webinar presentations. In 2008, she received the CMSA Award of Service Excellence. Elaine embraces her educator role, authoring manuscripts in CMSA Today, offering continuing education presentations, and coaching case managers to certification success. She is on the editorial board of CMSA Today and serves on the CMSA Military/Veteran Education Committee. In addition, Elaine is the Education Chair for the Virginia CMSA chapter. Currently, Elaine's case manager role is with the US Navy which offers daily challenges, keeps her skills sharp plus offers a smooth transition to retirement.