Being a new nurse on the floor can present many terrifying, wonderful and insane experiences (usually all in the same day). Any nurse would be lying if they said that their first year in the workplace was a walk in the park. Sometimes there are ups and downs, often times there are patients that test you, and invariably, there are days full of learning. The unit might not be an episode of Bear Grylls or Mantracker, but it sure is a jungle out there. Having trekked my way out relatively scar-free (and no machete necessary), I have comprised a short list of tips to help you survive your first year of nursing. Enjoy!
New Nurse Survival Tips
- Ask Questions. Being curious, clarifying instructions, and verifying actions not only makes you more confident in your practice, but also gives confidence to those nursing around you. This also allows you to provide safe patient care and is the most effective way to learn. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.
- Don’t act like you know more than you do. You are new. You are wide-eyed. You are transparent. I know this because I was you. Every other time I walked in a patient room I’d hear the question, “So, how long have you been nursing?”. Admit that you are relatively new to the career, but your passion for quality care and the availability of resources are abundant. You don’t have to know everything, but you absolutely cannot fake it. “Fake it ‘till you make it” doesn’t really apply when lives are on the line. Which brings us nicely to…
- Never be afraid to tell a patient/family member “I don’t know.” It is always okay to admit that you are unsure of something, but ensure that you commit to following-up with the answer. Nobody knows everything, and on that note…
- Come prepared and know your resources. There are endless resources available to you, from hospital policies, to pocket drug guides, to charge nurses. The support is there if you know where to look.
- Be aware of your learning curves. So you’ve never hung an inotrope before and your patient’s pressure is dumping? Make this aware to your charge nurse and partners as soon as you see the situation unfolding so they are able to support you however necessary. Afterward, reflect on the situation and determine what you need to revisit in your training in order to handle that situation more effectively in the future.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself! You will make mistakes, but remember that everyone has been in your shoes once. I hope for your sake that they remember that, too.
- Be a helpful team member. Like any other job, you are building a reputation in your first year. Nobody likes the person who sits while everyone’s running, or sits idly by when your partner is in need of a little extra help. The only way for a unit to work effectively is through teamwork. Even if it’s not your patient crashing, next time it might be, and I’m sure you’re going to need the help.
- Take advantage of learning opportunities. You will learn everyday until the day you retire, or so I’m told. Managers and educators are constantly sending emails for conferences and skills fairs- take advantage of the free resources to better your practice. Trust me, you’ve got a long way to go.
- Find a nursing role model in the unit. Or more than one! Find a senior nurse whose care you admire and try to learn from them to help develop your own practice. It’s also nice to have a mama bear on the unit for those tougher days.
- If you don’t drink coffee, start. Seriously!
If you take anything away from this, know that you will be facing a rather large learning curve for the better part of the next five years. Remember that you were hired for a reason and that degree you earned is more than a piece of paper (despite the jokes at graduation). You worked your scrub-covered bum off for this role, and rewards of patient care will overwhelm the more challenging days. Keep your chin up and when the going gets tough, there is always wine.
About the author:
Samantha Rowe RN, BScN is the creator of an upcoming nursing blog, I’ll Be Your Nurse Today. She is currently working in the early stages of her career as an RN in a Neuro Intensive Care Unit in Ontario, Canada. She uses a blend of humour and knowledge to educate nursing students and the public alike about hot health topics and what it is to be a critical care nurse. If you are interested in hearing more from Samantha, check out her blog at Your Nurse Today.