Surviving Your First Year as a Nurse

by Howard Gerber on July 13, 2010

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Making the transition from a nursing student to a full time nurse can by very trying. You no longer have someone constantly watching your work to tell you if you are doing a good job or if you have messed up. You are entirely responsible for the comfort and safety of your patients and the stress associated with that responsibility can be substantial. Use these five tips to make your first year of nursing more enjoyable.

Find a Teacher

I don’t mean you have to find a specific mentor; indeed, that would be difficult considering the long and often varied shifts that makeup a nursing career. Instead, take the time to ask questions. If you aren’t sure you are doing something right, ask the head nurse, a doctor, or a coworker. Make the transition to your shift easier by arriving a little early to get a brief report on how all of your patients are doing, and find out if there are any special requests you should know about. If you find someone who seems especially knowledgeable and good at the job, ask if they would be willing to mentor you in a more official capacity. Having someone you can call or email with questions can make you feel more in control and make you better at your job.

Always on Task

When you are a nursing student, you usually only have a handful of patients; when you become a nurse, you could have half of a floor to yourself. This can make you feel like you are always trying to catch up. To prevent this, it is important to always be working. Chart your patients as you are talking to them, but remember not to chart too much. You don’t need to write out every detail in longhand. Focus on what the doctors want, and stick to the facts. Multitask when possible by bringing what you will need in the future with you so you don’t have to go back to the supply room multiple times.

You Time

While you should always be on task while on the floor, you will also need time to relax. Nursing shifts are long, and you will burn out if you don’t take your breaks and make time for lunch. During your lunch break, try to get away from the floor by going to the cafeteria or heading outside to clear your head and refuel. Being on the floor for that extra hour might seem like a good way to stay on top of everything, but in reality, it will just leave you hungry and tired and less able to focus.

While the above tips are designed more for nurses practicing in a hospital the same principles apply to any nursing environment. What advice would you give to a new nurse?

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