5 Tips For Introverted Nurses In The Workplace

8 Min Read Published June 25, 2024
5 Tips For Introverted Nurses In The Workplace

Podcast Episode

>>Listen to "5 Tips For Introverted Nurses In The Workplace With Shenell Thompkins, RN"


Effective communication is crucial in healthcare, as it can lead to better patient outcomes. This can be challenging for introverted nurses. To determine if you are an introvert, please answer the following questions with a simple yes or no.

  • Do you dread small talk but thrive in deep conversation?
  • Does being around many people drain you?
  • Do you feel overstimulated by the end of your work shift?
  • Do you tend to do things by yourself instead of asking for help? 
  • Do you tend to think before you speak?
  • Do you enjoy solitude?

You may be more of an introvert if you answered yes to more than half of the previous questions. 

 Introvert is a personality type first described by Carl Jung. He described introverts and extroverts in his 1921 book “Psychological Types.” Susan Cain quotes Carl Jung in her book titled “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”,  

“Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough”(Cain, 2012). 

In other words, introverts are more reserved, whereas extroverts are more outgoing, which is how they channel energy and thrive. It is worth pointing out that no one person is solely an introvert or extrovert. Most people fall somewhere between these two personalities and are called ambiverts, consisting of both traits. You may be an introvert in some situations and an extrovert in others. 

Statistically, one in every two or three people you know are introverts, and that’s 33 to 50% of the American population according to Cain (2012). 

“I remember being a new nurse and feeling unprepared for all the communication required to perform my job. I can remember the increased anxiety and being surrounded by so many strangers. I had to engage with everyone, from peers to physicians to patients and their families. I quickly learned to form strategies and communication skills to have a positive and productive 12-hour shift as an introvert in a busy, extroverted environment.”

5 Tips For Introverts in The Workplace

Let’s discuss 5 tips for the introverted nurse in the workplace and why you make a great nurse! 

Tip #1: Be confident in your qualities as an introvert. 

In the article 6 Reasons Introverts Make Great Nurses, Nurse.org’s staff discusses that introverted nurses are better listeners and more observant. 

  • They can keep cool in emergencies and ease the patient, family, and peers by remaining calm.
  • Introverts are generally known to be good at focusing and work well independently.  
  • You are okay with silence and make good team players once you know where you fit within the team dynamics.
  • These qualities allow you to understand the patient and their overall status better, especially when they are already facing an illness. 

Tip #2: Develop your communication style.

Effective communication must be clear, concise, accurate, complete, compassionate, and understood by both the sender and the receiver. Like the adage, "Practice makes perfect," the same is true for developing strategies to help communicate effectively with others in the workplace when you tend to want to avoid this. 

“I have been working with the same organization for over 10 years. As a Staff Development specialist, I oversee most new hires. Over the years, I have found the following 3 strategies to work extremely well for me in the workplace. I like to call them my superpowers, and they help me succeed when interacting with others.” 

The Power of Hello

As an introverted nurse, I quickly learned that speaking to others would set the foundation for me. I would smile and speak to physicians by name even if they did not know me so that I could 1. Memorize their name and 2. Make myself familiar to them. 

Here are some examples of how to greet someone,

  • “Good morning, Dr. Smith, I’m Shenell. Are you here to see Mrs. Jones?” 
  • “Good morning, Dr. Smith, I am Shenell, and I have rooms 1-6 today. Let me know if you need anything”. 
  • “Have a good day, Dr. Smith.” When I observe the Physician leaving the unit. 

If you don't know someone's name or forget it, you can simply say, "Hi, I'm Shenell. I know we've spoken before, but could you tell me your name again?" or "How do you pronounce your name again?"

It's important to remember that establishing a good working relationship with staff and providers, even if it's just on speaking terms, can go a long way. I recommend nursing students, interns, and new nurses follow this approach during clinicals, internships, and orientation to the unit.

Knocking or announcing your presence is a common courtesy when you enter someone's house. For patients and their families, make the first 30 seconds by introducing yourself to help build trust and rapport. This can be done during bedside handoff and reports.

The Power of Conversation

Communication involves more than just speaking and listening. While listening may come easily to introverts, speaking can be challenging, and you must be mindful of how you say what you say. 

Therefore, consider the following strategies when conversing with others.

  • Intentionally develop meaningful relationships with your peers. This can be as simple as acknowledging someone by saying hello. Being intuitive helps you not to take things personally, especially when you know your intentions are good. Understand that not everyone is as self-aware as you or understands boundaries if this applies. 
  • Don't be intimidated by Providers. They are like us, putting on their pants one leg at a time. Maintain professionalism, ask relevant questions, take notes, and follow up when necessary. 

“A good example is when I worked in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. I worked under multiple Cardiovascular Surgeons, and although they all performed the same surgeries, they had different preferences regarding recovering their patients. So, I noted what each CV Surgeon liked, asked questions, and followed up often.”

  • Engage with your patients in conversations beyond their diagnosis. This approach helps establish a foundation for a trusting relationship because patients are more likely to trust and appreciate nurses who demonstrate empathy and compassion. Remember, "Patients don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Introverted nurses already have good listening skills, and I utilize the following strategies in the workplace. 

  • Prioritize problem-solving and active listening over creating issues and being reactive at work. 
  • Body language is important. Smile, make eye contact, and stand tall without having your arms folded across your chest. Nonverbal communication should be considered as it can convey negative attitudes, such as eye-rolling, regardless of how nicely the message is delivered.
  • Conversations with healthcare providers are crucial for delivering safe patient care. These conversations require active listening and speaking simultaneously. For example, when receiving orders you have to read those orders back. Taking it one step further, I would ask for options.(e.g. if a patient had low blood pressure and the physician prescribed a 500 cc saline bolus, I would ask what should be done if the blood pressure stayed below 100 systolic besides holding blood pressure medications. Sometimes I got options or "Just call me back,". I felt a lot less anxious about doing so, especially if I had to make the call while working overnight.
  • Listen to what the patient isn’t saying. In addition to having meaningful conversations with the patient, I would discover that the patient was depressed, dealing with stressors, or grief which helped to clarify why the patient's health was declining. 

The Power of Thank You 

Treating peers and healthcare providers courteously and respectfully has led to many opportunities. I had an intensivist who recommended me to the CVICU manager before I even considered applying. I never had issues finding a preceptor while studying for my master's in education and had the privilege of following a prestigious cardiology group in my region. I also have the opportunity to host on Nurse Converse Podcast because of my peers and healthcare family! I am humbly grateful.

Also, don’t forget to thank your patient for entrusting you with their care. Patients are not just numbers but the driving force behind our jobs. After all, the sick need a doctor, not the healthy. When faced with situations beyond your control, you can still approach them positively because you may be the only light they experience.

Tip #3: Stay patient-focused to make socializing less draining.

 As an introvert, working in a busy environment such as a hospital can be quite exhausting, especially when you have to work for 12 hours straight, not to mention the possibility of working overtime or with short staffing. However, reminding yourself of your purpose for choosing nursing and focusing on patients' needs can help you cope with the hustle and bustle of this busy setting. 

“I picture the hospital as an organized body that relies on different systems to ensure safe and effective patient care, keeping in mind that nurses are the heart of this body. So, when faced with challenging situations, I found it helpful to concentrate on my responsibilities and strive to do my best. Rather than getting frustrated or caught up in conflicts, I would ask questions to understand the situation better and how we could improve going forward. Ultimately, my priority was and still is always ensuring the patients' safety and well-being.”

Tip #4: Take small breaks of seclusion.

Check out my previous Nurse Converse episode, How to heal from burnout and love nursing again, I went over my typical 12-hour shift at the bedside. Looking back now, I realize that I took small breaks for snacks and needed 5-10 minutes of seclusion because of my personality trait. These moments of solitude were more important than the snacks I consumed then. Those small mental breaks were necessary to recharge and push through the 4-hour increments of my 12-hour shift. 

Tip #5: How To Set Boundaries

Set boundaries to prevent feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed at the expense of everyone else. 

While you seek those quiet and intimate moments throughout the workday, remember that you don't have to work overtime every time. Don't feel obligated to do something that overwhelms you at the expense of everyone else. Remember that "No" is a complete sentence, and there's no need to explain when asked to do something that puts unnecessary strain on you. Here are 5 examples of how you can say "no":

  • “I would love to help, but I can't right now."
  • "Thank you for trusting me to help you with this, but unfortunately, I can't."
  • "I appreciate the offer but am committed to doing something else."
  • "I'm grateful you asked for my help, but I can't help you now."
  • Last but not least,  "No."

 “I’m not saying “Don’t do your job, but what I am saying is don’t over-exert yourself, so you can keep being the best version of yourself.”

In Conclusion: Why Introverts Make Great Nurses

Introverts possess unique qualities that benefit the patient. With effective communication strategies, you can communicate effectively with everyone at work. Stepping out of your comfort zone and initiating conversations can lead to more productive days and future opportunities. Hopefully, the 5 tips we discussed will empower you at all stages of your nursing journey to communicate more effectively and confidently in the healthcare world, especially as introverts.

Shenell Thompkins
Shenell Thompkins
Host, Nurse Converse Podcast

Shenell Thompkins is a blogger and registered nurse who resides in Memphis, TN. With over 12 years of nursing experience and a lifelong habit of journaling, she has worked in various nursing fields such as Progress Care Units, Cardiovascular ICU, and Staff Development. Shenell holds an MSN in Nursing Education and has a passion for helping others. You can connect with Shenell on LinkedIn and follow her All One Nurse blog on IG, TikTok, and Facebook using the username @Allonenurse.

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