New Grad in ICU...Looking for advice

  1. I recently started training for the Intensive Care Unit at my local hospital. I am a new grad and was very hesitant about enrolling for this program because of my lack of experience. However, now that i am enrolled, i find it very interesting and i am learning more than i ever thought possible. I am proud of the way i am adapting to this new way of nursing, but am still green in a lot of areas. Recently, i experienced my first code situation and am struggling to deal with the events. I seem to have gone into a slump where i am spacing out and getting very emotional b/c i cannot seem to get the images and sounds out of my head.
    To get to my point of this posting....for starters i guess i just need to know if my reaction is normal for a first experience. I would also greatly appreciate some advice on how to deal with this experience. I don't want to become cold and unfeeling in these situations, but i do need some advice on how to keep my emotions in check. Anyone else out there ever experience the same feelings?
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  2. 3 Comments

  3. by   just_peachy83
    Hi! I am a new grad, too (I graduated back in June) and am working in a medical ICU at a large university medical center. It's a really exciting unit full of challenging, complex patients. I have learned sooooo much since being hired there, and I absolutely love ICU nursing. Reading your post reminded me of my own post from a couple of weeks ago!

    For some reason codes don't seem to bother me much. However, at the time I posted, I was dealing with the fact that several patients exactly my age had died very traumatic, unexpected deaths within a week on my unit, and I had helped care for a few of them. It's hard to look at someone your age who is swirling the drain right in front of your eyes, you can hear the family members sobbing around you, you are working as fast and as best you know how along with all the nurses around you, but the person still dies. It's a real letdown afterwards and I felt kinda down in the dumps about it for a few days.

    I feel great now and have an even stronger love for ICU nursing now that I have dealt with my feelings on death/dying/intense situations/etc. I have been in several situations since then that would have had more impact on me before thinking about all this, but now I am able to handle it and feel good about what I did in that situation when I reflect on it later.

    I think what helped me the most was realizing that the patients I care for every day are the sickest of the sick. Many will not live, and therefore dealing with death is a given. Plus, I think us new grads watch the more experienced nurses dealing with the stressful situations with maturity and peace and misinterpret their calmness as uncaring. But it's not that they don't care; it's that they have learned how to deal with it effectively. I talked about this with my preceptor and other experienced nurses on my unit and they told me that it's absolutely normal to feel upset and even traumatized after a rough case. It's not that you become uncaring and unfeeling in your work, it's just that you learn to deal with it effectively. You learn when you need to "hold it together" and when it's ok to let your feelings show. You will also get used to your feelings so that you don't cry every time someone dies. I've never been a really tearful person, but my pitfall is keeping my feelings to myself and not talking/debriefing afterwards. My preceptor is the same way and she recommended to me that after a tough situation, that we could talk about it and do some "therapeutic venting."

    I know that was super-wordy but I guess that's my way of saying I totally understand how you feel, and to let you know you WILL feel better and will find your own unique and most effective way of dealing with the pressures of working in the ICU. Good luck!
  4. by   Lalage
    Hi,

    I started in the ICU as a new grad in 2002...and I'm still there and loving it. However, I found my first year to be very stressful and discouraging at times. I knew there was a lot to learn, but the amount I needed to learn was overwhelming at times. I was also constantly afraid of making a mistake. 4.5 yrs later, I am still afraid of making a mistake...but in my opinion, if I ever felt 100% comfortable in the ICU, I probably am too cocky and am more prone to error. I also was very lucky to have great co-workers who understood my situation (ie new grad, essentially dumb :chuckle ) and really helped me through my orientation and entire first year.
  5. by   ICURN2004
    Quote from Lalage
    Hi,

    I started in the ICU as a new grad in 2002...and I'm still there and loving it. However, I found my first year to be very stressful and discouraging at times. I knew there was a lot to learn, but the amount I needed to learn was overwhelming at times. I was also constantly afraid of making a mistake. 4.5 yrs later, I am still afraid of making a mistake...but in my opinion, if I ever felt 100% comfortable in the ICU, I probably am too cocky and am more prone to error. I also was very lucky to have great co-workers who understood my situation (ie new grad, essentially dumb :chuckle ) and really helped me through my orientation and entire first year.

    excellent advice about the "still afraid" things can happen so quickly and so different in each patient, you almost have to keep an open "what if " mind about icu all the time and be ready for anything. then listen to really good music on the way home or as i do (laughing) call back to the unit after my shift ends to check on something or ask questions about someone. you will find days off or not always days off in your mind after you throw yourself into icu. you will one day be that co-worker that helps other new nurses.

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