I heard that magical 6 month mark mentioned a lot when I was starting out, but much to my surprise, it really was kinda magical! I still don't know why, except I suspect there's some sort of critical mass of getting more familiar with the routine stuff, so you can spend more time thinking about the stuff that actually requires thinking. Or maybe it's that you've asked the same stupid questions enough times to finally remember the answers, or maybe it's just magic. Anyway, it seems to be fairly universal that at around six months you shift from hopelessly incompetent to not-so-hopeless. Then everyone starts telling you that it takes about a year to start feeling competent--and that seems about right, too. Of course, that's about the time they tell you it takes about five years to start being comfortable, but since they were right about the other, it gives you something to look forward to.
The problem, I think, is that it's a bit like when they tell you how nursing school just flies by. It does--but it sure doesn't feel like it's flying by while you're doing it, other than assignment deadlines sneaking up on you from out of nowhere. It's only after school that you think, "Wow! Am I done already?"
Same with the transition from school to practice. It doesn't feel like you're making any progress at all, and then suddenly big chunks of the puzzle start falling into place, and you begin to think you could actually be a real nurse, someday. But you rarely get to feel the growth as it's happening.
I was talking to a couple of my mentors one morning, not long ago, and they made the comment that they sometimes come to me with questions. What's truly bizarre and unbelievable is, sometimes I know the answer!!! How the bleep did that happen? And once in awhile, some poor, benighted newbie is so pathetically lost that they ask me for help with a procedure! Out of about seven attempts, I've started five NGs, but the fifth was showing someone else how to do it--and explaining what I was doing. I've even done some coaching with IV starts--do you have any idea how bad I am with IV's? (Well, yeah, I guess I do hit most of them, these days, but I still dread them, and I still have to go to the experts for some. It's very kind of the experts to pretend like they have a hard time getting the ones I ask for help with. Me, I'm still talking to my angiocath as I advance it...)
Of course, in the meantime, anyone who finds it helpful should feel free to use the little mantra I developed, and still repeat on a regular basis:
If they wanted a good nurse, they should've hired one.