Feeling overwhelmed and incompetent at work? (New grad)

  1. Hello, Allnurses! First of all, thank you for helping me through nursing school. By reading through the many posts here I gained some valuable insight. Now, I'm newly graduated and working on the floor in my hospital's mother baby unit.

    I have been working in mother baby for a month, and it has been a hard transition to say the least. I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to get done and to remember! My self confidence is basically zero. It got to the point that over the weekend I walked out of a patient's room who had just called me stupid (I was just offering her pain medicine while she was ticked off about something else), went into the clean utility room, and balled my eyes out. My preceptor came in and basically told me I need thicker skin. What she doesn't get is that I wasn't crying from that patient (although she was the catalyst) I was crying from how much I had been bottling up my emotions all week. I constantly mess up. I make a ton of mistakes. today I forgot a 2 hour check on one of our moms and the charge nurse told me at 4 weeks I should be performing better.

    Look, I'm not looking for sympathy, and I know I probably sound whiny and naiive. But I don't know who to talk to about this. I am starting to dread coming to work because I can't stop thinking about what am I going to forget to do today?

    I'm wondering, has everyone here ever been in my spot? Am I cut out to be a nurse?
    What can I do get better?
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  2. 7 Comments

  3. by   Nonyvole
    You've been working as a nurse for a month. And, as you've been finding out, it's a lot different than nursing school. You're also going through a major life change; student to employee, and suddenly you've been handed a lot more responsibilities than you have been used to having in the past.

    The only people who can determine if you are cut out to be a nurse are you, your nurse educator, and your manager.

    What I'm going to suggest - and I'm not afraid to admit that I've gone this route myself - is looking up your hospital's employee assistance program. It's private, so the only people who know that you're using all the resources available to you are you and whoever you see. I'm not saying this because you broke down at work and are doubting yourself right now, I'm saying this because this is a stressful time, with major life changes. New job, in a new career field that in and of itself is already high stress.

    Another suggestion is to sit down, when you're feeling calm and confident, and meet with your preceptor and discuss what they feel you need to improve in, what you're doing well at, and if they have any suggestions for you. After that, take that list and meet with your nurse educator and see if you can come up with a game plan.

    Thick skin comes with time and, sadly, exposure. The number one thing to remember is that it isn't you. Even in mother baby, being in the hospital is never someplace that people want to be and so their stress levels are through the roof, as well. But people aren't lashing out at you as a person, they're lashing out at whoever they see as being representative of their current situation. Letting your emotions out in a controlled situation - read, not at work if at all possible - will also help. Just make it a healthy method, and don't bottle everything up until it has to explode.

    Look around here at the different tricks people use to organize their day, from their nursing brains to other systems. Because I know that I am not good enough to remember every single thing that I have to do during the day, I have a sheet of paper with a sticker for each patient. On it, I write down everything that needs to get charted or done and when it needs to be done. So med passes get written down. IV and telemetry assessments, and oh, did I document my care plans and shift assessment? And then as it gets done, I cross it off. I have a more traditional brain for each patient that gets its own page, but that one sheet is the one that I cannot do without. It's also colored, with everything written down in a non-traditional color. Like purple. Or pink.

    (True story: I cried this week because I felt like a bad nurse, that I'm a failure as a nurse. Full on sobbing in my car on my drive home, topped off with tears in the middle of Panera while I was getting my supper. In reality, I was reacting to the fact that it was just a really, really bad day and people had been dumping on me because of things outside of my control, including the fact that I had to endorse to night shift a couple of non-urgent things that I hadn't had the time to do during the day. I've been in some form of direct patient care for years and I know that I'm a good nurse.)
  4. by   chiromed0
    Well, doubting yourself is normal. It's a tough job. Confidence comes with experience and knowledge. NOBODY knows time management right off the bat. Heck, I was at year 3 and switched hospitals and was ALWAYS behind at shift change b/c of the stupid policies at the new hospital vs at my old one I was rockin it. So every situation is different. Give yourself a break. Make sure everybody is alive at shift change and get better every shift at SOMETHING and you will be fine.
  5. by   Lil Nel
    Great advice from the above posters! Please follow their suggestions.

    And please realize that what you are feeling and experiencing is normal. It isn't unusual, and don't let anybody try and convince you that it is.

    How do you feel about your unit? Do you like it, otherwise? Do you feel supported by your NM and nurse educator?

    Nobody can decide or tell you if you are meant to be a nurse but YOU. It might be that this work situation isn't a good fit for you. Try the posters suggestions, and think about the components that make a successful nurse, such as support.
  6. by   Wuzzie
    It took you a whole month before you cried at work??? You're doing better than most!
  7. by   hp131071
    Thank you to all the above commenters! I've had two shifts since my post, and I can say that those days were much better than before. My first day I got to work 30 minutes early and made some report sheets with new placements for what i have to write down through the day and i dont have to start writing things in different places that are hard to remember. and wrote out everything that I have to get done for the day and then I used blue and pink highlighters to distinguish between the mom's with boys and girls. Once I did that, I found that work was much easier to go about. I did also have a couple conversations with people and they were very sympathetic and understood where I'm coming from. And from when I first came onto the unit i was blown away by the amount of support these nurses have for each other. My thing I have to work on now is to not be so hard on myself for being new and to stand up for myself when people say things like I should be further along than what I am. Because in reality when the charge nurse said that, there were several legitimate reasons for me to be behind that I was too embarrassed to say because I thought it would make me look like I'm just making excuses. Overall, I really like this unit and I think it's a great fit for me. I just have to work on not being so hard on myself.
  8. by   Nurselily101
    I been working 6 months at a new unit and I feel the exact same. I still make mistakes but nursing is all about learning! You are doing a good job and finding different ways to improve your care!
  9. by   elkpark
    The general rule of thumb is that it takes about a year (your first year of working out of school) to start feeling comfortable and competent. We all went through what you're going through now, and the vast majority of us survived and came out the other end okay. Nursing schools used to talk about this and students expected it when we graduated and started working. Apparently, schools don't do that anymore, and it's a great shock to new grads. Hang in there; it will get better (slowly, over time)!

    Best wishes for your journey!

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