Doctor and surgeon rushing to see their patient

Surviving Your First Weeks As A Nursing Grad

Starting any new job can be stressful. Starting a new job where people’s lives depend on you can be downright terrifying. But every year, over 150,000 new nurses do just that. They pull on the scrubs, tie on the no-slip shoes, and push past those first few weeks of training and orientation to begin making their mark in one of the fastest growing career fields in the country. And if they can do it, you can do it. You just have to remember a few key pieces of advice.

  1. Get Everything You Can Out Of Orientation – You have to go through orientation one way or another, so you might as well make the most of that time and learn everything you possibly can. This should come naturally, considering the amount of information you had to memorize and understand in your nursing classes. “Take advantage of every learning opportunity,” urges Jean Mills, RN, MS, clinical instructor with the University of Illinois College of Nursing. “Even experienced nurses actively engage in new employee orientations.”
  2. Be A Team Player – There are two parts to this piece of advice. The first is to remember to invest in the people you’ll be working with, from management to fellow nurses to the building maintenance team. No nurse can do their job alone, so tap into that network of support as fast as you can. The second part is that as a member of the team, you shouldn’t be afraid to contribute, even early on in your career. There’s nothing wrong with making suggestions or sharing perspectives, even if you’re new.
  3. Eat Well, Drink Lots (of water) – Nursing is a high stress occupation, and for new nurses struggling to learn the new system, the stress can be even higher. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself by eating food that will nourish your body and mind (try and avoid the fast food and vending machine stops). And stay hydrated, advises “Your body and brain need water. Make sure you drink enough to at least keep your urine clear and your mucous membranes moist. Stay hydrated at all times.”
  4. Let Others Help You – No matter how well you did in nursing school, everyone needs help to a certain degree when transitioning to a nursing career. So don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t know something-no one is expecting you to know everything right out of the gate. Ask questions as many times as you need, get help when you’re struggling with a procedure or treatment, and use your mentor as much as you can. Everything will begin to click eventually, but remember-even seasoned nurses need to ask for help once in a while.
  5. Be Proactive – That “nurse call” button is a necessity, but let’s face it, it’s not always an emergency every time a patient presses it. Sometimes they just need a water refill or an extra blanket, or they’re looking for pain medication. Nurse Susan suggests in her blog that the best way to protect your workflow from constant interruption is to be proactive in meeting these needs. “When you go into a patient’s room, check if their water pitcher is filled, ask if they need to go to the bathroom, and assess their pain. Add in other environmental scans or assessments that may help the patient while you’re already in the room. Patients really, really appreciate it, and you have fewer interruptions. Win, win!”
  6. Take a Break – You might be tempted to go full throttle, day in and day out, as soon as you hit those hospital floors. And while a good drive is vital in a good nurse, you can’t maintain that kind of push indefinitely. Take some time for yourself when you can, recharge those batteries, and you’ll avoid burning out.
  7. Don’t Give Up – Ask just about any seasoned nurse and they’ll tell you that while the job isn’t easy, it is rewarding. Your first few weeks may be tough, but stick with it, because it does get better. “All change is frightening, and you need time to adapt to your new role as a professional,” says Nancy DiDona (EdD, RNC, coordinator of the traditional program in nursing at Dominican College). “It takes a good six months to a year to feel part of a work situation.”

“You’re going to be there when a lot of people are born, and when a lot of people die,” ” writes 44-year EMT veteran and author Thom Dick. “In most every culture, such moments are regarded as sacred and private, made special by a divine presence. No one on Earth would be welcomed, but you’re personally invited. What an honor that is.”

For more information on starting your own career in nursing, contact Unitek College for more information on available programs, tuition, online class options, or to find a campus near you.