A new nurse faces a formidable set of challenges when walking onto their first job. Sadly, nursing schools do not truly prepare the new nurse for the shock of caring for patients and the responsibility that goes with it.
A new nurse may have excellent preparation on a theoretical level, but this is a far cry from the daily grind of patient care. Having to learn the complex daily routines of a floor or specialty care unit, along with numerous drugs used, dealing with family members, and problem-solving can overwhelm a new nurse.
So, how to cope? First, take a deep breath. Be ready to make mistakes, because you will. Forgive yourself. Try to limit mistakes, and not repeat them. But do realize you are human and have realistic expectations for yourself.
Next, try to emulate those nurses you find to be efficient and effective. Ask questions. Offer to assist them, so you can learn by watching and doing. Hopefully you are given a preceptor who is used to working with new nurses. It helps to have someone who is experienced as a trainer, and who is patient. Overly-harsh nurse trainers only help to blow potentially good future nurses right out of the field. If you find yourself with such, do not be afraid to ask your nurse manager for a change in preceptors.
Organize! Get experienced nurses to help you compile a list of what you do daily, and in what order. When you first come on duty, what do you need to do? Make a list: 1. Take report. 2. Assess patients. 3. Check for new orders. 4. etc. etc. You should include all daily activities, and set a level of precedence for them. Making a med list, with times for each patient to get their meds, is an example of particular items to have in hand. You will want a sheet which lets you check off what was given to whom, and when. Such worksheets should be as concise and simple to use as possible. Many units, or individual nurses in the unit, already have very good worksheets you might be able to just copy and use. Complex forms may look “professional” and complete, but may just be difficult to work with effectively. Simplify! (when possible).
Never stop learning. There are few jobs in the modern world where you can get a degree and/or complete training, and work until retirement with only what you just learned. Nursing certainly is not one of them. You should always strive to learn more, and become faster and more efficient in your practice. Actively looking for ways to perform in a more efficient manner will help you to find ways to become a better nurse.
Become involved in organizations which are related to the nursing area you are working in, and subscribe to nursing magazines which are appropriate for your area. These are loaded with information, and help you stay up-to-date on current developments. Shoot for getting a specialty certification in the area you work, – whether it be a certification in med-surg nursing, oncology, or a CCRN certification. Education and continued dedication to bettering yourself as a nurse can only help you. It will help you become more comfortable with your knowledge base, and make you more marketable in our ever-changing health care system.
There are an almost infinite number of things which could be addressed. We have covered some of the main topics. Lastly, I would encourage you to take care of yourself. It is hard to take care of others if you yourself are a train-wreck. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Exercise. The big three even our grandmothers told us about. Most just don’t bother to follow through. Look at most nurses as they walk into any hospital in America, and ask yourself if you want the caring for you or your family. Too many can barely crawl in the door. They do not take the time and energy necessary to care for themselves. Personally, I do not want their advice if I am a patient. It’s like asking for championship body-building advice from the skinniest guy on the beach. It is also important if you want to not only survive, but thrive in the nursing field. You must take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally if you want to enjoy your career and not just become another nursing burnout.