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10 Tips for New Nurses and Advice on Surviving Your First Year

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By Jamille Cañano, R.N.

It’s normal to be nervous on your first day as a nurse. With these tips for new nurses and advice from experienced nurses, hopefully, we can help you survive your first year as a nurse.

Back to when you were just a nursing student, your eyes surely glistened with hope as you imagine the dream job you’re going to have once you got through all those sleepless nights with thick textbooks. The end of the tunnel seemed so far and impossible, that you may once have thought of giving up. But now, after all the prayers and perseverance, the moment you only used to daydream about have finally come. You smile to yourself, still finding it hard to believe that you have made it and that tomorrow would be your first day at your first work as a Registered Nurse.

The moment has come when you can now put every theory you’ve learned into practice. Your first day at work is so full of promises, yet the fear of uncertainty somehow gathers dark clouds into your head.

1. It’s totally okay not to know everything.

You’re not going to master every hospital protocol and procedures at first try, and that is totally okay. Take it easy on yourself, and simply allow yourself to be a beginner. Remember that it’s your first day as a nurse, the work environment is no way similar to what you got used to at school, and you’re still learning to adapt to the transition and embrace changes. Just take a deep breath, and never let anxiety to get the best of you.

2. Be sure that the job you are starting is the right fit for you.

Observe the activities done in each area, think about the workload and culminate at the end of each workday whether the job is fit for you. I adore hospitals who mandate their new nurses to rotate on all their nursing areas during their first few months. If your institution doesn’t do this, or you’re unhappy with your area, I definitely recommend you move to a different one. There is no shame in moving from one area to another during your first year. For this new nurse tip, just be sure to find the best nursing area that fits your personality or where you think you can work best.

3. Treat every activity as an opportunity to learn more.

As a new nurse, there are a lot of things that are learned not in nursing school but in the workplace itself. “Observe how your experienced nurses would talk and move around the workplace, take note of everything they’re teaching you,” an ER nurse advised. “And it’s best if you would write them down on a small notebook,” she added.

Familiarize yourself to the equipment and facilities. It’s okay to feel confused from time to time, and your seniors would be glad to reorient you

4. Ask questions.

A great tip for new nurses is to never assume you know everything or even put some things to chance. Do not be afraid to ask questions! There are no dumb questions, especially when patient safety is concerned. Remember, it is always better to ask and learn than not to ask at all and end up doing something wrong.

5. Ask for help every time you need it.

If there are certain tasks you are not still comfortable performing on your own, never hesitate to ask for the supervision of other nurses.

Bear in mind that patient safety would always be the priority of the whole healthcare team, and your honesty could prevent a lot of unwanted incidents. “We appreciate honesty more than anything else,” my senior told me on my first week as a registered nurse. “Never hesitate to tell us and ask for our help if you are not still comfortable to performing procedures by just your own.”

It’s really quite a relief to feel how kind and willing they all are to teach me.

6. Refresh your memory.

A 20-year RN gave me the best advice for new nurses, she said: “Don’t be afraid or shy to look back at your nursing books to refresh your memory. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.” For me, I always make it a point to reread my references when I’m caring for a patient with a specific condition. Reading helps me familiarize more and see firsthand what the book was actually telling. It made more sense to me that way.

7. Learn the art of prioritization.

Know which patient needs are most critical and look for ways on how to delegate those tasks that someone else can handle. Also, take tips from experienced nurses on how they prioritize tasks.

8. Bond with your team.

The uncertainty is less frightening when you have good colleagues at your back. Have the time to get to know your workmates. You can learn a lot by listening to their experiences and know what works and what doesn’t in this institution.

It is much merrier to work with people you feel you have connections with.

Go ahead and get to know the maintenance staff, unit secretaries, or patient-care assistants, too. It is much merrier and easier to work with people you feel you have connections with.

Join in on some activities or functions that are held outside of work too!

9. Trust your struggles.

There will be times when discouragement and frustration would be almost bigger than your passion, but you just have to believe that great things take time. And so as they say, “Every king was once a crying baby” the same thing goes with “every experienced nurse was once a novice”.

And oh, recharge your batteries when you have to. Take time to de-stress, it will make you become a better nurse.

10. Step outside your comfort zone.

There will also be times that you’ll need to step a little outside your comfort zone and venture forth to the world of the unknown. This, of course, is to build up your confidence with harder skills or difficult patients. When you do this, be sure to remember tip #5 especially when things get overwhelming.

Day by day, know that you’re becoming closer to the kind of nurse you have always wanted to be. Remember, there will be tough times, but we know that you are a tougher nurse! Congratulations on your first job as a Registered Nurse and we wish that there’ll be more lives you’re going to touch.

Aside from being a Registered Nurse, Jamille is also a story-teller and a hopeful dreamer. She uses her pen to heal, travels through painting, and listens to the truth by playing her violin.

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