Starting your first nursing job may seem overwhelming. You have finished one of the most difficult undergraduate educations that exists, but starting to put what you have learned into practice presents a whole new set of difficulties. Thankfully, there are several things that you can do that will help you to not only survive, but to thrive in your first year as a new nurse.
Seek Out a Mentor
Experience in nursing is important and provides a nurse with a much better understanding of how to recognize and respond to certain situations than studying those situations in a textbook or in class. As a new nurse, you will not have that experience and will not be as confident or knowledgeable on how to respond to some of the situations that you may encounter in clinical practice. Finding a mentor that you can rely on and trust to provide advice or feedback can be invaluable for a new nurse. Wait at least a couple months before trying to find a mentor, as it will take you some time to learn which of your co-workers you should be trying to emulate and which may have bad habits that you would like to avoid. Be sure that the person you would like as your mentor has at least five years of clinical experience, preferably more. Approach him/her and ask if he could give you advice or feedback from time to time and if it would be okay for you to ask questions about her experiences as a nurse. Most nurses will be happy to help you develop professionally.
Find the Balance Between Being Over-Confident and Under-Confident
As a new nurse, there will be a lot of things that you don’t know, and many things that you do. It will be crucial to find a balance of not being over-confident in your new education, while still depending upon the knowledge and skills that your education has prepared you for. Over-confidence can be a problem for some new graduates, especially for those who performed better in school. Being over-confident can lead you to inadvertently fail to follow important protocols or miss important information that would have been revealed with a more thorough double check. Under-confidence, on the other hand, can lead to your providing inefficient care or failing to act as quickly as may be necessary during an emergency. While double, or even triple checking may be important, don’t let your lack of confidence paralyze your work. If in doubt, erring on the side of under-confidence is safer, because you will be less likely to make a potentially dangerous mistake.
Know Where to Find Your Resources
As a new nurse there will be many things that you do not know and will need to find out on your own. Figuring out where to find the answers to these questions will be vital to succeeding. Be familiar with the information and resources that your employer has available. If there is a computer drug database or nursing procedure guides, find out where these are located and how to access them quickly. Also be sure that you know where to access your employer’s policies and procedures. As a new nurse, your manager may point you to certain nurses to use as resource people for questions. Be sure that you ask questions and always use your resources whenever you are not certain about something or when you would rather make sure of something that you think you already know.
Ask for Feedback
Your manager and the charge nurses where you work will quickly come to recognize and know areas in which you have strengths and areas that need development. Your colleagues will also develop an opinion about you as a nurse and what your strengths and weakness are. Those around you, however, may not openly share their opinions of how you are doing and areas in which you could improve. You will have to ask for feedback to learn how you are doing and in what areas you could use improvement. Be specific when you ask questions. Asking a general question, like “How do you think I am doing here?” will not provide you with much useful information. Asking “What are the top three areas you think I could improve in?”, however, will provide you with more useful feedback that you can use to improve your nursing skills.
Remember Why You Became a Nurse
As you start your first nursing job, there will be many things to learn, classes to take, certifications to obtain, and an orientation process to get through. Through the busy process of learning and adapting to managing a patient assignment, it is vital that you remember what made you become a nurse in the first place. Nurses have a unique ability to comfort, heal, and make a difference in the lives of those they serve. As you adjust to all the nuances of the job, never forget about your patients and your ability to make a lasting impact in their lives through the art and science of nursing. If you want to succeed as a nurse, always remember and stay true to the reason that you became a nurse.