How to Get Better at Asking Other Nurses for Help

Nurses asking for help- yikes! While we, as nurses, find ourselves in the helping profession- sometimes we are the worst at asking other nurses for assistance when we need it.

For example- if you work as a clinical nurse on an inpatient unit at a hospital- does this sound at all familiar?

The charge nurse comes up to you and says, “Hey, how are things going? Do you need any help?”

What do you think is our immediate answer?

“No, I’m fine. Everything’s all good here…”

Meanwhile, you haven’t taken a break. You are extremely hungry. And you cannot remember when the last time you used the bathroom was. What’s going on here!? You obviously need some downtime. Why not let other nurses help you out?

In the book, Stop Nurse Burnout, the author describes five major “flavors of conditioning” which are:

  • Workaholic
  • Superhero
  • Emotion-free
  • Lone ranger
  • Perfectionist

If you don’t believe me, think about how the general public sees these unique features of nurses. You can hear it in their language as the non-nurse describes how we are: “Nurses care for everyone but themselves. It’s just how they are.”

Well, what if I told you that there was a better way?

And, what if we realized that together we could do more? Help more patients. Care for more people. Work efficiently to produce safe outcomes and quality care.

It’s called helping each other out! And what’s more- we need to recognize when to ask for help and the very fact that we may need it from time-to-time.

So, how do we get better at asking for help?

I have one easy, sure-fire way to improve our ability to ask for and receive help as nurses. Want to know what it is?


That’s right. Simply practice.

Grab a close friend, a loving family member, or even a trusted colleague at work and practice.


Create a script and practice saying the words out loud. Sure, it may feel strange. But guess what? Until you feel comfortable saying the words, your brain and mouth will not use them.

Here’s what you do.

Have the other person come up to you and say, “Hey there… how is it going? Do you need any help?”

Again, this may feel weird. But you literally need to practice- out loud- to get better at this skill. OK, so your response is: “I am doing (tell them how you are really doing). And, yes. I could use some help with (pick one thing to ask for help about).”

Yes, it seems overly simple. But it’s not! Or else you would be doing it already!!

Try out some other scenarios, too. Maybe the nurse manager comes up to you and says, “Hey there… how are things going for you here? Is there anything that you’d like to discuss or do you need help with anything as it relates to the unit?”

In this case, (again, we’re just practicing here) you may respond with: “I am doing well, thank you for asking. You know what… I have been wondering about the policy related to (fill in the blank). Do you think that you can help me figure out what it is saying and how to follow it in my role?”

There are so many ways that you can practice asking for help. In fact, setting up partners at a staff meeting or other workplace in-service is a great idea to suggest to your team.

If you are having trouble asking for help- I can almost guarantee that there is another nurse working side-by-side with you who’s struggling to do the same.

And what’s more? By you asking for help- you let another nurse provide that help to you! We’re the most helping profession, right? Why not ask another nurse- who is helpful and giving in nature- be there to help you when you need it?

Because guess what? When he or she needs help- and asks for it- you get to speak up and come to their rescue in return.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! How have you asked for help in nursing? What worked or when did it fall short? Can you practice this strategy with your coworkers? Tweet me at @ElizabethScala and let me know how it goes! 

Elizabeth Scala

Keynote speaker and bestselling author, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurse’s Week ‘Art of Nursing’ program, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and a playful pit bull.