New Nurse? Then You Need Tips From This Old One

Okay, you're done with nursing school, and you're feeling pretty darn proud of yourself.  "Yeah, I'm a freaking nurse, at last," every cell in your body is screaming. 

You land your first nursing job, and you feel like you're about to live your dream, finally.  But your first day at your new job as a real, live nurse completely sucks, and you've never felt so dumb in your life. 


You can't find your way around the place, it's like spaghetti junction. You feel completely stupid because some of the equipment that's used there is not the same as the equipment you learned on.  You're beginning to wish you were back in nursing school were you at least had other dumb people with you, instead of feeling like the only dumb, new nurse in the world. 

When you think things can't get any worse, in walks Nurse Ratched.  She's been a nurse for 95 years, and you can feel her beady little eyes piercing through your clueless body. It's almost like she has x-ray vision, can see through you and knows you don't know what you're doing.  "So, you're the new nurse, huh?"  You want the floor to open up and swallow you whole, so you don't have to face the cranky old bag. 

If any of this sounds familiar to you, then the best advice I can give you is to relax. Yeah, I know you're thinking, "well, that's easy for you to say."  But, trust me when I say that we've all been there.  I know it's scary, but you'll get through this and you come out feeling confident about being a nurse.  

Most nurses eat their young. It's not because they hate you, it's just that there is a certain amount of trust that you must build with seasoned nurses before they consider you part of the team.  You cannot possibly expect to just jump right in and be their best buddy on your first day. If you feel as if they're watching you like a hawk, that's because they are.  They want to know how well you'll perform in critical situations; they're learning about you, just as you're learning about them.  So you can't possibly expect to prove yourself to them overnight. Give it time. 

Now, the worst thing you can do as a new nurse is be a smart-ass, know-it-all.  As the old saying goes, "you can catch more bees with honey than you can with vinegar."  If you give them attitude, you may as well resign yourself to the fact that they will make your life a living hell.  If you're humble, they will go out of their way to help you.  So whatever you do, leave your attitude at home. 

If you make a mistake, own up to it.  Admit that you did something wrong and do everything in your power to correct it.  People are relying on you to do the best you can, and it's okay to make mistakes, but you need to be accountable for them. 

There's an unwritten rule in nursing: If you say you're gonna do something, do it! Don't lie.  Nursing is voted the most trusted profession year-after-year. That's because people trust nurses.  Don't let the whole profession down by not carrying through with your promises.  If you don't know the answer to something, find it. 

If you don't understand something, ask.  This goes back to the know-it-all thing again. You're dealing with people's lives here. So be honest with your colleagues and tell them when you are confused about something or need clarification. 

Think before you speak. If you're asked a question, don't just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Think about the best way to say it without offending anyone or being incorrect. 

As with any job, there are always negative people. Try your best to avoid these people and stay positive.  

Try to take care of yourself. It's so easy when you're a new nurse to neglect your own needs while you're caring for others.  Take your breaks. Most new nurses are so dedicated to doing a great job that they don't take their breaks.  What they fail to realize is if you want to be a good nurse, you need break time.  You need to eat, drink and enjoy some time away from your work, so you can go back feeling refreshed.  

Above all, don't be so hard on yourself.  Nursing is hard enough without being your worst enemy. You're new to all of this, and there's no way you could have been prepared for what you have and will encounter.  Every day you'll see and learn new things.  The more practice you get, the more confidence you'll feel and before you know it other nurses will begin to trust you.  Who knows, maybe one day you'll be the old nurse on the floor.  Hopefully, the new nurses won't refer to you as "Nurse Ratched."

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