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10+ Unwritten Rules for New Nurses

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By Kristen Smith, R.N.

That first day at work as a new nurse is terrifying. Not only do you feel as if you aren’t prepared to care for your patients, but you’re also the “new kid on the block.” I’m sure you gathered some standard advice in nursing school about keeping your nose clean after graduation. But here are a few unwritten rules for new nurses to help make the transition a little easier for you.

1. Don’t sit in the clerical chair.
Also, don’t use the clerical computer. Figure out which chair and computer this is, and don’t use it. It’s a good way to start out on the wrong foot.

2. Your computer will only crash when you’re super busy.
Seriously, don’t get frustrated. It will only go slower. On a slow day- there are no problems. Super busy day with short staffing– computer systems crash. Never fails.

3. Don’t say the word’s “QUIET” or “SLOW.”
Someone will smack you in the mouth. Because, inevitably, something horrible will happen because you said one of those words. Also, be extra cautious during full moons.

4. Don’t announce your breaks.
You won’t get one.

5. Respect your coworkers. 
You can’t do your job without them.

6. If you don’t know something, ask.
You aren’t expected to know it all. But you ARE expected to ask questions. People’s lives are at stake.

7. Use common sense when paging doctors.
For example, don’t page a physician at 0700 before morning rounds to request a PRN stool softener. You want to start out on a good note with the docs.

8. Make friends with the interdisciplinary team.
Make friends with everyone, including PT, OT, ST, patient transport, case management, pharmacy, central supply stockers-you name it. Not only will you meet some great people, but it will make your workflow so much better.

9. Listen to your preceptors and learn from them.
Everything from nursing hacks to how to approach certain doctors can only be learned through your fellow nurses.

10. Don’t take work home.
You can’t always keep them separate. But, do so as much as possible. Home should be a place to relax and unwind. Leave work at work.

11. Never say “oops” in front of a patient.
Instead, replace it with a soothing word or hum during the procedure. Same effect for you…and less fear for the patient.

12. Do not run!
Doesn’t matter if a code is called, just walk very fast.

I hope that these unwritten rules for new nurses help you get started out on the right foot in nursing! Feel free to add a few more. Good luck and keep your chin up! You can do this!

I am a full-time registered nurse, wife and new mom. I've recently started writing part-time and I love it! My family is my life. I enjoy spending time with them in my free time.

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