You’ve done it. You’ve taken all that knowledge from the NCLEX exam review, put it to the test, got your certification and landed your first job as a nurse. The hard part is over right? Now you just have to survive your first year as a nurse, right?
Well, yes and no.
You have achieved something you should be really proud of but that was just phase one. After the difficult job of getting through nursing school, now you have the difficult job of actually being a nurse. An extremely rewarded job, but a difficult one none-the-less.
Here are a few tips to remember during your first year as a nurse.
Does the NCLEX Prepare You For The Real World?
It prepared you for the decision-making process you will have to face, and the new Clinical Judgement Model will do a fantastic job at that. But you will now be dealing with the human element of the medical profession which is something all nurses have to figure out for themselves.
You will be dealing with patients, with other nurses, with doctors and with family members. The human element is very real and it will take a few months or even your first full year to really find your rhythm.
Remember that you will not know all the answers and that’s completely fine. You can rely on other nurses for help.
Things to Do
– Listen and Learn from Experienced Nurses
Perhaps our most important piece of advice for nurses in their first year is to listen and learn. As we mentioned before, you won’t know all the answers, but you will have access to a tremendous resource: other nurses.
Nursing is a career, not a job. You are in the fortunate position to be surrounded by coworkers that have spent their lives in this profession and they are willing to give as much advice as you are willing to take.
– Be A Team Player
Nurses tend to stick together. The good ones do and you should too. When things get a little crazy you will lean on your fellow nurses for help, encouragement, and advice. Be ready to give them the same, even if that means doing it first. Don’t work on a system of “me first”. Help other nurses in need and you will reap the benefits of a covered shift when needed.
– Take Time to Recharge
Think of yourself like a cellphone battery. If you are at 5% and need to get to 20% charge for the day, plug yourself in for 5 minutes: take a moment to breathe, walk around the hospital, grab a glass of water or cup of coffee.
If you are at 5% and you need to get fully charged and back at 100%, plug yourself in overnight: make sure you are getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night and eating a good meal.
Your body and mind need to recharge consistently. Find the time for short bursts and also the time to get back to 100%
– Leave Work at the Door
A bad shift as a nurse can and sometimes will follow you home. You will feel like you failed a patient, failed a family or disappointed a doctor. You will think that you made the wrong call, or that you made a decision that could have been better.
Stop. Peel that baggage off. Leave it at the door.
Nursing is an inherently human profession and your emotions will be affected by what you do. That’s fine, its okay to have bad days, but it’s not okay to bring that home. Some days will be better than others so keep your baggage out of the house and wait for it to pass.
Things to Avoid
“Measure twice, cut once” is a cliché you’ve probably heard before, but it’s a cliché because it’s true, and it’s especially good advice for nurses. You have one shot at administering medication, listening to patients, and taking notes from the doctor. So, don’t rush. Take your time and ask for clarification during your first year as a nurse.
You will see frequent flyers (patients who come in often) and patients with embarrassing ailments. We recommend you avoid any judgement. If not for the sake of the patients,then for the sake of your own mental wellbeing.
– Losing Confidence
Don’t doubt yourself in front of patients because they will notice and lose confidence too. Remember to develop an assertive attitude when you are sure of your answer and to show doctors that you are a competent and well-trained nurse.
– Answering Without Thinking
Answering confidently and assertively is one thing but you better be giving the right answer. For nurses, it’s difficult to take back what you have said in most scenarios so pick your words carefully and think about your answers.
Let’s Talk About Burnout
As we mention in the “Take Time to Recharge” point above, it’s important to remember that you need to give your body (“battery”) bursts of charge throughout the day and a full charge overnight. That is a fantastic short-term stress management tip for nurses, but it won’t help in preventing nurse burnout for the long term.
Nursing is a demanding job physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For everything it gives you, for all the incredible lives you touch every day, for all the people you save from their most trying times, it will drain you from time to time.
There is no avoiding nurse burnout, there is only preparing for it and proactively dealing with it.
- Take vacations
- Get a hobby
- Take time to be alone
Find a Mentor
Finally, life as a nurse is much better with a mentor. A nurse that can show you the ropes and act as a confidant in your happiest and most challenging times.
The best person to listen to, to get nursing advice and life advice from, is another nurse; someone who understand your profession and role in the medical field. Find a mentor to guide you as you grow in your career as a nurse.