What I Wish I Knew As a New Nurse

Hi loves! This year will be my 4 year anniversary of being a nurse! I cannot believe how time as flown by and how much I have learned. In just 4 short years I have experienced many different nursing specialities ranging from neurology, medical/oncology, geriatrics, cardiology, surgery, and most recently, observation. With National Nurses Week coming up I want to share my top 10 tips for soon-to-be new graduate nurses as they embark on their very first year. 

1: Night Shift Isn't So Bad

Really, it isn't. My first year as a nurse I worked a day/night rotation at a .8 FTE. If you ask any nurse they will more than likely tell you about how they had to start off working night shift. Rotating between day and night shifts eventually started to burn me out and I wanted a change. I then worked straight evening shift for a year and a half before eventually working straight nights. The most common question I get is, "Do you really like to work nights though?" I can see what brings people to ask that question. However, I have grown to love night shift. Personally, I like the slower shift (though, not all nights are like that), I am able to spend more time with my patients, I have more autonomy overnight, more flexibility with my social schedule, and I work with some incredible people. Most new grads start on nights because it is an easier transition into their new profession. So, if you're not so sure about working the graveyard shift, give it a try! You can always switch it up. 

2: Speak Up!

Do not be afraid to speak up if you have a different opinion about your patient's care. No one is perfect and often times the nurse is the last person to make sure the patient is getting the correct care. I once had a doctor chew me out over the phone when I questioned his Sodium Bicarbonate order. Turns out he ordered it on the wrong patient. Even though you may not feel like you know much or feel intimated, never feel like you cannot speak up! 

3: Be Confident

Have you ever heard of the phrase, "Fake it until you make it"? Well, that has been used in nursing for many, many years. First time putting in a foley catheter? Your patient does. not. need. to. know. I made the rookie mistake of telling my patient I had never put in a NG tube right as I was going to put it down her nose. It took a lot of back peddling on my end to convince her to let me do it. She's not the only one who needed a Xanax after that! There will be so many firsts as a new nurse and it is important to be confident in your skills and ask for help when needed! 

4: Journal Your First Year

I cannot tell you how much this has helped me during my first year as a nurse. Not only did it help me decompress from bad days it helped me celebrate the positives. I occasionally look back at what I had written when I need a good laugh. In one post I remember writing how I cried when I came home after a patient yelled at me. Oh how far I have come. Give it a try! You won't regret it. 

5: Expect the Unexpected

One of the hardest things I had to adjust to was how unpredictable my shift can be. One minute you can have everything organized, all your patients are stable, and then suddenly you have one go into septic shock while the other one needs emergency surgery for a perforated bowel. Every shift is different. The trick is being able to keep your cool when you have those unexpected bumps in the road. My mom, who is also a nurse, always tells me, "No matter what happens, you are going to be the calmest person in the room". This tool has helped me overcome some less than lovely situations. Be easy on yourself and go with the flow! 

6: Follow Your Passion

As I had mentioned earlier, you will more than likely want to spread your new grad wings and try a variety of different specialties. New nurses can be reluctant to changing positions because of losing good coworkers or fear of the unknown. Your first job may not be your end goal so it is OK to change positions and try new specialties. I would suggest staying in your first job for at least 6 months to a year. This helps build your confidence and allows time for you to get your feet wet. 

7: Stay Connected

Some of the best friendships I have made have been during nursing school. Think about it, you're all tortured by high grade expectations, tests, work together for hours on end studying, and you probably spent more time with them than you did your own family. Keeping those close nursing school friends helped me cope with the struggles that my first year brought. There is something comforting about being able to talk to someone who knows exactly what you're going through. Staying connected also widens your professional network as your colleagues will more than likely get jobs at different organizations. After all, getting hired as a nurse is a lot about who you know. 

8: Laugh At Yourself

This one should be at the very top of your list! If you're not able to laugh at yourself you're more likely to face burnout. One time I was irrigating a 3-way foley and there was so much pressure that the syringe came popping out and my nursing assistant and myself were sprayed with bloody urine (thank goodness for protective eyewear)! My patient busted out laughing and after a few seconds of being stunned, we joined in. 

9: Take Care of Yourself

This one is simple. You will spend 8, 12, even 16 hours at a time where you're handling the needs of others nonstop. It is easy to forget about your needs since putting others needs before your own is part of the job. All the more important to making time for yourself! On my days off I love to get breakfast or happy hour with friends, take epsom salt baths, spend time outside at the lakes, or catch up on my Netlix shows! It's all about balance, what's yours?

10: Set goals!

Once you've completed your first year as a new nurse, first, celebrate yourself! You did it! It wasn't so bad, right? Maybe by now you have decided that you'd like to go work in labor and delivery or head back to school for an advanced degree. Nursing is full of endless opportunities, it is just up to you to go and get it! 

Whether this is your first year as a new grad or you have been practicing for 20+ years, thank you for your passion and continued work!

Cheers!

Sarah