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Wise Word of the Month: Credence

What does giving credence to imposter syndrome mean? How can nurses overcome self-doubt and insecurity in leadership? Here we unpack the historical usage of credence and its application to nursing.

The wise word for September is credence. As explained by Michelle J Kidd, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CCRN-K, FCNSI:

“Every human being has a unique perspective on healthcare based on their experiences. My perspective is unique to my region, my occupation as a nurse, and my generation. It is for this reason that imposter syndrome should be given no credence: individuality is what makes your voice valuable to a board, not prestige.”

Kidd is illustrating the importance of diverse voices in the boardroom, particularly in a hospital boardroom. The more people from different backgrounds who can bring a variety of new perspectives to a board, the more effective the board will be, as a wider variety of people and ideas will be represented. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “credence” as: “The condition of deserving, or of being considered to deserve, confidence; trustworthiness; credit, good reputation.” One of the earliest uses is from Rolls of Parliament: Henry VII in 1489: “They shall not be in his favour but taken as men oute of credence.” 

In other words, “credence” is accepting something as being true. If someone gives credence to something, they acknowledge it as correct or accurate. 

As Kidd explained, in the context of nursing, no attention or credence should be given to self-doubt. The more people in a boardroom, the more perspectives and backgrounds are considered regarding hospital policies. All perspectives are welcome and necessary to create effective policies that work for the nurses and any patients who come through the hospital doors. 

What often holds many nurses back from speaking up is imposter syndrome or the feeling that everyone around you is smarter or more skilled and you did not earn your right to work alongside them. In a field where stakes are high, and mistakes can take a patient’s life, it can be difficult to feel sure of yourself and trust yourself when another person is in your care. 

A study from 2019 by Dena M. Bravata et al. explores imposter syndrome across different groups. They conclude that “impostor syndrome is common among African American, Asian American, and Latino/an American college students and impostor feelings are significantly negatively correlated with psychological well-being and positively correlated with depression and anxiety.” (Bravata et al., 2019). According to the study, more frequent feelings of imposter syndrome are more likely to occur in people of color. And although these statistics were found in college students, we can also extend the implications outside of the college environment.

In addition to increased levels of imposter syndrome among people of color, the study also surveyed nurses and physicians. It concluded that people with imposter syndrome tended to “aggressively pursue achievement while not being able to accept recognition when success is achieved” (Bravata et al., 2019) and were more likely to burn out and less likely to be a leader

To secure the patients' safety and the hospital staff's well-being, Kidd says it best: no credence should be given to feelings of inferiority and imposter syndrome. Everyone deserves a place to express their opinion and have a say in a hospital boardroom. Nurses work hard to achieve their demanding and rewarding careers, and it is only fitting that nurses trust themselves and pave the way forward in modern medicine with confidence. 

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