I can still remember the day I got my acceptance letter almost 4 years ago like it was yesterday. It was a crisp fall day when that letter arrived in my mailbox. While in many ways it feels like just yesterday, in reality it was almost 4 years ago. Since then I’ve finished my masters, gone through an accelerated nursing program, and now have 2 years of nursing under my belt. Every day I am still learning a ton, but there a few things my now “experienced” nursing friends and I wish we had known when we first put on those scrubs and proudly put on that badge saying boldly and loudly “RN“.
1. If you feel like you are going to puke before every shift or drive to work in tears… don’t worry you aren’t alone. Same thing if this is what happens after your shifts. You are most definitely NOT alone.
2. Don’t accept just any job. While it is hard as a new grad to find experience, you will be spending A LOT of time there it is ok to wait for the right fit.
3. On that same note though, your dream job may take time, but a good fit is a GREAT place to learn.
4. Confidence in yourself. It takes TIME. And that is ok.
5. Sometimes SBAR isn’t all you need to tell the MD, PA, or NP.
6. Those silly code runs that are fake and make you feel ridiculous. They actually are REALLY helpful!
7. The field of nursing is wide and broad. Don’t limit yourself to just bedside nursing if it isn’t your passion, that is ok.
8. You DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING. It is ok to say “I don’t know” and learn for next time.
9. Asking questions doesn’t make you a bad nurse or make you stupid, it makes you SMART. That is the absolute best way to learn.
10. Every place has its own “Policies and Procedures”. Realize that how you learned something in nursing school may change during your first job… and your second… and your third… and so on.
11. You aren’t going to like every patient you take care of and that is OK. You just have to give every patient the best quality care you can.
12. Driving home from work… crawling into bed after a long night shift you’re going to realize “OH MY GOODNESS I DIDN’T CHART THAT 300 mL OF URINE!”. You aren’t perfect. If it is something that needs attention you can call in to the nurse who followed you, but if it is something that can be let go… let it go. Learn from your mistakes of not charting in the moment and figure out a system of remembering that works for you.
13. You have to come up with your own system of writing things down, charting, doing assessments, and managing your shift. It is perfectly ok if it isn’t like anyone else’s as long as it works for you and you can get everything done.
14. The first few shifts on your own you’re going to feel like a truck hit you and you’re never going to make it. But you will.
15. Don’t be afraid to go in the bathroom, sit on the toilet, and take some deep breaths. In the end every nurse has taken extra time in the bathroom just to catch their breath for a minute.
16. When possible…. waste the medications that needed wasted right then and there. That is just something you don’t want to even chance forgetting.
17. You are your patients’s ADVOCATE. Don’t be afraid to stand up for them. And if you’re wrong… oh well… at least you can leave knowing you fought for your patient.
18. Keep your social life.
19. Try as best as possible to lead a healthy lifestyle outside of work. 13 hour shifts are brutal.
20. If you’re in MedSurg… we feel your pain. But know this. YOU ARE GOING TO LEARN A TON!
21. There is a person beneath that rude and frustrating patient. Do the best you can to find that person and care for their soul too.
22. Find hobbies outside of work that help you unwind.
23. This is a 24 HOUR institution if you are in a hospital. Leave the patients with the other nurses. They are trustworthy and capable :-).
24. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. You went to school for this. You’ve done your training. You’ve come this far. You don’t need to be walked all over.
25. As you learn your area of specialty things will really start to fall into place. You’ll understand things better and you’ll be able to tell earlier and earlier when something is wrong in a patient. Never underestimate the little things. They can in the end be warning signs for something much much bigger.
26. You are only one person. Do not be afraid to ask for help! And one of the best things you can learn how to do is delegate appropriately… but don’t forget to double check that things that have been delegated are done.
27. When you’re tired, warn out, smelly, dehydrated, not sure what is on your shoes, and squinting at the sun light as if you were a vampire know this. YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT! You are an incredibly intelligent person who has fought hard to get this far in your dream. Keep running after it with your whole heart! And don’t be afraid to try a few different areas until you find your passion (but make sure you give each area an ample amount of time before moving on).
We hope this helps,
Some slightly more experienced nurses
P.S. It is true the more you know… the more you realize you don’t know anything :-).