HiveLife: Real Nurses, Real Stories

HiveLife features real women and men on the front lines of healthcare. Get helpful nursing tips and hacks, valuable advice and share in the personal stories from nurses who are passionate about what they do.

We spoke with first-year ER nurse Zack Stavrou, RN. A native of Dallas, TX, Zack attended the University of Tulsa where he played soccer and was on the Academic All-American team. He graduated with a BSN degree and currently is an ER nurse at Ascension – St John Medical Center in Tulsa, OK. He talked about his experiences, why he chose the profession and gave some great advice on getting your first job, surviving your first year and the benefits of residency programs.

Why He Chose Nursing

I knew from the start that I wanted to be an ER nurse. I knew I wanted to be on the front lines, that last chance for critical patients. I didn’t want to just save lives but improve them for the people I am serving, no matter what.

Advice For Getting Your First Nursing Position

I was never the smartest in my nursing class. I didn’t have all the externships – I just knew what I wanted to do. All your teachers and experienced nurses you talk to will give you advice on how to start. Some will say “Start in med-surg for some clinical experience” or “Don’t start in a specialty area or it makes it harder to transition if you want to move”. I say go with what fits you and your learning style. Do what you want to do so you can become the kind of nurse you want to be.

When you go for an interview, ask about the culture of the nurses. Ask if you can shadow the nurses on the floor, paying attention to morale. Look at the staff to patient ratio of the floor and check how critical the patients are. I also strongly encourage going to a hospital that has a residency program. A residency program allows you the opportunity to get to meet people from different departments who are also new grad nurses.

On His First Year As An ER Nurse

Being an ER nurse has been an amazing experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my nursing career. The experiences, stories and people have made it way more than I could have hoped for. I quickly learned that an ER nurse never knows what’s coming. I mean how was I supposed to expect a pandemic in my first year as a nurse?

How To Survive Your First Year As A Nurse

My advice to new nurses on getting through your first year is to find a place that fits you. Your first year as a nurse is hard and can feel lonely at times. A residency program gives you a space to speak with people who are going through the same struggles you are. Having people around you to bounce ideas off, who respect you and want the best for you is very important. I personally had two other new grads start in the ER with me and I don’t know what I would’ve done without their help.

Residency programs provide you with a preceptor who is an experienced nurse there to help guide you along. I lucked out with a great teacher who listened to me, cared about the kind of nurse I wanted to be and taught me the way I needed to be taught to take in all the information need to be a good ER nurse.

I got lucky. Some of you may not be as lucky. If that is the case, be honest with your preceptor, management and yourself about what you need as a new grad. Most importantly, you need to identify your weakness and strengths so you can develop your strong points and improve on problem areas.

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