5 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Graduate Nurse

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    Looking for some tips to start you off on the right foot in your nursing journey? Then read on! These tips are lessons learned from a seasoned nurse hoping to help you on your path to success! These are the first tips of a blog series.

    5 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Graduate Nurse

    Tassels and pinnings, HESI exams, NCLEX prep, and ultimately the news that you passed your boards. You now hold in your hand a hard earned diploma and a nursing license. For those of you not quite there yet, imagine what this will feel like. The dream of becoming a registered nurse finally fulfilled. Of course, the next part of the journey is just beginning. Unless you are one of those rare nurse graduates who has already sealed the deal on a place of employment, you’re probably wondering where your nursing journey will ultimately take you. Keep reading for a few tips to consider while looking for and once landing that first nursing job!

    1) Looking for Your First Job?

    Don’t become so focused on the unit where you think you want to work that you fail to examine other opportunities. Be open minded.

    Maybe your desire is to work in the intensive care unit (ICU). But what if the hospital where you want to work has an okay ICU orientation while the telemetry floor has an amazing reputation for supporting new graduate nurses through mentoring and a world class orientation?

    Consider that maybe the culture of the unit should trump all when looking for a new job. Possibly you gain the foundation you need and the RN wings to fly in this type of environment and then later move on.

    2) Purchase High Quality Shoes and Compression Stockings.

    If you are fortunate to have two working feet, take care of them. Your feet will take you miles to learn, see, do. They are a valuable commodity for your career so give them the support and comfort they need.

    In addition, wearing compression stockings from early in your career will prevent the later in life bumpy looking blue train tracks from running up your legs…otherwise known as varicose veins.

    3) Journal from Day One of Your Career.

    You will think you’ll remember details of unusual cases but over time the specifics fade, and that once impactful case turns to a blur in your memory. The value comes in reflecting on your actions, what you did well, what you wish you had done another way, how you felt, who supported you, and lessons learned of how to approach things differently the next time you find yourself in a similar circumstance.

    I still have my journal from my first year as a nurse. Looking back 20+ years later, the journal is a wonderful resource to stay in touch with the challenges of that first year and how to be a more supportive nurse, mentor, and educator to those nurses just beginning the journey.

    4) Create a Book of Brains.

    As a new orientee and first year nurse, the amount of new information can be overwhelming. So many policies to attempt to retain, new medications to become familiar with, and infrequent procedures that you’ll want to remember at a moment’s notice.
    Your “Book of Brains” should be small and compact. Organize it into sections (procedures, medications, pediatrics etc…), and write quick notes about that essential need-to-know material. Over the years, the “Book of Brains” becomes a great resource to refer to for information regarding those low-frequency high-risk presentations that you need in a crisis.

    Carrying the book in a scrub or pants pocket puts the needed information right at your fingertips and will develop you into a future resourceful “go-to” person in the years ahead. If I were paid for every time in my career someone asked me for my quick reference material, I’d be independently wealthy by now!

    5) Find a Nursing Confidant You Trust.

    Every new nurse (or nurse for that matter) will benefit from having a colleague they trust wholeheartedly with whom they can share tears, laughter, and frustrations. Maybe this is a friend from nursing school, a preceptor on the floor, or another newly hired nurse starting off at the same time as you.

    Debriefing is a critical part of learning and letting go of stress, but some “debriefs” are better kept confidential. Consider this scenario. Maybe you worked your night shift and gave report in the morning to a nurse who didn’t seem real receptive to anything you had to say. Walking out of the building you’re blowing off steam and say to your confidant regarding the oncoming nurse, “Does she hate me, or does she just hate mornings?” You laugh, and through your half-opened eyelids, make light of the end of the shift. Certainly, this is not commentary to be having on the unit as you never want to be the person contributing to gossip, starting rumors etc… Yet exchanges like this often bring light to the end of a shift and make going home and tucking yourself into bed a bit more peaceful.

    Now What?

    These ideas are merely a few to get you started in your new career. More tips to follow in part 2 of this blog. Until then, new graduate nurses, please share what worries you have. Maybe I’ll expand on some tips for you in part 2…or 3 or 4. More experienced nurses, what tips can you share with the future of nursing?

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    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jan 28
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    The Nurse Motivator has 20+ years of acute care nursing experience across the critical care spectrum. She is a passionate nurse educator committed to supporting nurses on their journey. She believes every nurse deserves the resources and support they need to rise to their potential. Her peers describe her as “a nurse’s nurse” and a “true inspiration”.

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    12 Comments

  4. by   Nurse Beth
    New graduate nurses, there are seasoned nurses at your place of work who really love your energy, your ideals, your passion. They will support you as you gain experience. Find that nurse so you will have a go-to person on your side when challenges and accomplishments come your way. Like the author said, you need support.
  5. by   Davey Do
    Journal from Day One of Your Career

    Amen! In fact, I was in the process of journaling when I started nursing school.

    Putting my views and opinions into words really helped me process information and clear my mind. I even drew pictures to help me remember and study.

    For example, we were to have a test on the urinary system while going through the LPN program and I drew the Bowman's Capsule as a capsule, like pill, with a bow (and arrow)!

    Reading back through 40 years of journals helps me to see where I've been and how far I've come in my growth and development as a nursing professional.

    Good, sound advice, The Nurse Motivator!
  6. by   The Nurse Motivator
    Quote from Nurse Beth
    New graduate nurses, there are seasoned nurses at your place of work who really love your energy, your ideals, your passion. They will support you as you gain experience. Find that nurse so you will have a go-to person on your side when challenges and accomplishments come your way. Like the author said, you need support.

    Well said Nurse Beth! If I could take every new nurse under my wing and ensure they received the nurturing they deserve along with straight forward dialogue (filled with TLC) that would grow them into AMAZING nurses of the future, I would! Being a New Grad is a hard transition. Please know new grads (and any nurse for that matter), I agree with Nurse Beth that there are many nurses out there that care about your success...you just need to LOOK for them and build a relationship. It's not a one way street. You fill the cup of the seasoned nurse (through your words, growth, dedication to be your best etc...) as much as we give to you.
  7. by   The Nurse Motivator
    Quote from Davey Do
    Journal from Day One of Your Career

    Amen! In fact, I was in the process of journaling when I started nursing school.

    Reading back through 40 years of journals helps me to see where I've been and how far I've come in my growth and development as a nursing professional.

    Good, sound advice, The Nurse Motivator!

    Davey Do, that is AWESOME that you have 40 years of journals to look back on!!! Oh the stories you must have in there...especially from a psych background. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing some dynamite examples in your comment.
  8. by   MrNurse(x2)
    Well written, great advice, great article. I would add that nursing is a career, that first job is a stepping stone. Focusing on your "dream job" limits who you are as a nurse. Most experienced nurses are supportive of new nurses and want you to be successful, be respectful of their experience and they will move the world for you.
  9. by   The Nurse Motivator
    Quote from MrNurse(x2)
    Well written, great advice, great article. I would add that nursing is a career, that first job is a stepping stone. Focusing on your "dream job" limits who you are as a nurse. Most experienced nurses are supportive of new nurses and want you to be successful, be respectful of their experience and they will move the world for you.
    Thank you for that great addition MrNurse(x2)! You are so right that the first job lays the foundation but by no means is the end all.

    "Most experienced nurses are supportive of new nurses and want you to be successful, be respectful of their experience and they will move the world for you"...I couldn't agree more. Forge good relationships and as Dr. Suess says, "Oh, the places you'll go!"
  10. by   SaraMay
    I heard over and over, "Fake it till' you make it" and "you'll make mistakes, just pray it doesn't harm someone". That's NOT ok! My advice is this: You will NEVER be in trouble if you say you acted in the sake of safety. DO NOT override your gut feeling for anything. So what if you are wrong? You were concerned and questioned......PERFECT! Your patients, physicians, and employer will thank you after the dust has settled . EVERYONE wants a safe patient outcome.
  11. by   The Nurse Motivator
    Quote from SaraMay
    I heard over and over, "Fake it till' you make it" and "you'll make mistakes, just pray it doesn't harm someone". That's NOT ok! My advice is this: You will NEVER be in trouble if you say you acted in the sake of safety. DO NOT override your gut feeling for anything. So what if you are wrong? You were concerned and questioned......PERFECT! Your patients, physicians, and employer will thank you after the dust has settled . EVERYONE wants a safe patient outcome.
    Being concerned about a treatment plan (or even the lack of one) is always a great reason to speak up. As SaraMay said, "So what if you are wrong?" So true. Thanks for chiming in SaraMay!
  12. by   mar9
    Great article!! Really true in many ways. Thank you!

    Mar
  13. by   The Nurse Motivator
    Mar~

    Thank you so much for taking the time to give feedback. Much appreciated! Have a fabulous 2017!
  14. by   laschai
    Thank you for the advice! I have not started nursing school yet but I plan to use these tips in nursing school as well as later on as a new grad. Being young and scared of the huge world of nursing, this is so helpful. It's also super great to know that there are experienced nurses willing to help you
  15. by   The Nurse Motivator
    Quote from laschai
    Thank you for the advice! I have not started nursing school yet but I plan to use these tips in nursing school as well as later on as a new grad. Being young and scared of the huge world of nursing, this is so helpful. It's also super great to know that there are experienced nurses willing to help you

    Laschai~ I am honored that you took the time to share how helpful you thought the article was. I invite you to follow my future blog posts as I will be focusing on many elements of nursing that will likely be helpful in your journey ahead. Best of luck to you! Here is my latest...

    5 Things I Wish I Knew Earlier in My Nursing Career: Building Relationships

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