That elated feeling of stepping onto the floor for your first shift fades pretty quick when the realities of nursing duties hit.
Long shifts, difficult patients or coworkers, calculating medicine dosages and trying to remember correct procedures are hard enough without the added stress of realizing that every decision you make is affecting a real patient in real time.
It can be overwhelming. But don’t panic. Every nurse went through the exact same anxiety and uncertainty.
That’s why we’ve gathered a list of 15 essential tips from seasoned nurses who’ve been there and done that to help you through your rookie year.
- Understand it’s OK to make mistakes
Yes, you’re going to make mistakes – that’s how you learn. Each time an unexpected circumstance or outcome happens, take the time to think about what you would do differently and how you will apply this to your future nursing practice.
Communication skills are vital to being a good nurse. This means not only communicating with your team members, but most importantly, your patients. And remember, communication is a two-way street – that means you have to listen too.
Listening is the other half of good communication. Listen to the experienced nurses. More importantly even, you need to listen to your patients. Often, they’ll have valuable insight to what’s going on with their health that will help you give them the care they need.
You’re going to learn a lot in your first year. Soak up as much knowledge from seasoned nurses as you can. Also, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to try new things, duties and departments.
Marcus Roberts, RN suggests:
“Go into an area that forces you to be uncomfortable – like ICU – because it will force you to think and learn.”
- Ask questions
Never be afraid to ask questions. You’re a new nurse, of course you’re not going to know everything. Asking questions doesn’t make you look bad – it lets people know you’re curious, willing to learn and diligent about providing good patient care.
- Ask for help
Don’t worry about looking stupid if you have a question – patient safety is your number one priority. No question is too dumb or trivial if it impacts a patient’s care. If you’re not sure about, ask a seasoned nurse. They’re remember what it’s like to be a novice nurse.
- Get organized
Being organized will save you hours of time and tons of headaches. Some tips: come to work early, prioritize your tasks, organize supplies, regularly check orders and keep your reports tidy.
- Buy good shoes
Never underestimate the value of a good pair of shoes – in fact, good shoes are a nurse’s secret weapon. You’re going to be on your feet a lot – seriously. You’ll need shoes that are comfortable, sturdy and cleanable.
- Be flexible
Don’t be unwilling to change you schedule, department or duties. The more flexible you are, the more valuable you are to your team.
- Be a team player
Just like being flexible makes you a better team player, so can a host of other attributes. Help your fellow nurses without asking. Put aside personal issues to get the job done. Go the extra mile – because if you do, they’ll do the same for you.
Anna Schrodt, APRN, FNP-C says:
“Being able to work with team members offers the not only the gift of good patient outcomes and well-rounded care, but also the gift of friendship.”
- Keep yourself healthy
Long shifts, busy schedules and stress can take a toll on you both mentally and physically. Remember, you can’t provide good care for your patients if you aren’t caring for yourself. Proper sleep, eating, regular exercise and self-care are things you need to make time for.
- Speak up
Never be afraid to speak up if you see something that isn’t right or needs to be done. If you’re feeling bullied or pressured by a coworker or preceptor, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Management is there to help you – talk to them about it.
- Use cheat sheets
Hey, you’ve already passed the NCLEX. Unless you’ve got a photographic memory, there’s no reason you can’t use cheat sheets and apps to help you remember medications, dosages, procedures, definitions and lab values.
- Don’t take it personally
You’ll be dealing with angry patients and stressed-out, yelling doctors or nurses – don’t take it personally. Stress is part of the job. Know that what’s bothering someone probably isn’t you and take the chance to use your awesome communication skills to help defuse any volatile situations.
- Be prepared to work holidays
Yes, you will have to work holidays – get comfortable with that fact. Prepare ahead of time with your friends and family to work around your schedule to celebrate either before or after the day.
You’re a novice nurse. You’re going to make mistakes, get stressed out and work long hours. Just bring your passion for nursing to work with you every day and you’ll become the nurse you want to be.
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