My rambling thoughts:
Most likely you'll have one or two nurses who you will be paired with during your orientation time. These are the nurses who you should be able to share your concerns with. They've most
probably oriented many nurses before who had no hands-on experience too.
The more you can learn on your own, the better. It is great that you have had some classes about baby care. If you have a really good orientation program, then you can expect to have some classroom study days. If not, get yourself a book or two and study on your own. (Handbook of Neonatal Care by Merenstein and Gardner is a great one that comes to mind.) This i a good book to have anyway and there are many other that will come in very han
dy over time. Just remember to take it slowly so you can absorb the knowledge.
I'd much, much rather orient a nurse who has lots of questions rather than one who pretends to know things for fear of appearing "weak" or heaven forbid the ones who are overly confident and therefore often truly dangerous. I'd suggest keeping a little note pad or notebook with you so that when you ask a question you can write the question as well as the answer in the notebook while it's relatively fresh on your mind. Then when you go home that day, review the notes and commit them to memory as best as you can. I did this so I would not have to keep asking the same question over and over and found this trick to be helpful.
Before giving any drug, look it up in the Neofax or other neonate-focused drug book. After all these years of nursing, I still look up nearly every drug I give, even if I've given it many times before. I can practically memorize the information on some drugs now, but I still find this an invaluable thing to do. My first NICU preceptor taught me this one and I'll always thank her for it!
I highly suggest joining NANN and ANN for the wonderful journals they publish as well as other publications and books they offer. They also have yearly conventions which are great for keeping up with the new knowledge and making friends with NICU nurses all over the country and world. (NANN is National Association of Neonatal Nurses, and ANN is Academy of Neonatal Nursing).
There will most likely be some "strong" personalities in your unit. Intensive care unit nurses, whether they are NICU, PICU, SICU, CCU, MICU, or whatever critical care unit) are often no-nonsense people who are fast paced and can be a bit intimidating. This is true in other nursing areas as well. Just don't offer too much information about yourself to everyone right off the bat. Fee them out a bit first because, as your nurse friends said, some might try to use your weaknesses against you. Most won't though and are absolutely wonderful and caring people who want to help you learn quickly and well so they can depend on you down the line. After all, they will need to be able to count on you in a crisis just as you will need them one day too. Just don't let yourself get discouraged by the alpha-nurses on your unit. Generally each shift has one or two nurses who are the ones others look to for answers or help, etc. Once in a while they will be gruff but as long as you are doing your absolute best, you can chalk their personality traits up to stress, burn-out or simply their inborn personality. Be a hard worker, kind to everyone, never a gossip, and always ready to lend a helping hand, and you'll have a wonderful NICU career.
I've said enough!!!! Just remember that all your book knowledge will come in handy as you learn actual hands-on care of your little patients. See one-Do one-Teach one is a common motto in nursing. I learned soooo much by watching other nurses. Also remember that speed comes with practice so don't be too hard on yourself at first for being slower than the other nurses as you go about your work.
One last thing. If your unit has a good Policy and Procedure Manual a good tip is to look up the policy/procedure relavent each time you care for a baby. For instance, if your baby has orders to be fed through an OG tube, look up the policy for "OG Tube Feeding". I have found it very much easier to learn the policies this way because I'm able to connect the knowledge to an actual patient care experience and also the information comes in bits and pieces rather than all in one fell swoop (like trying to read the P&P Manual all at once!)
OK, 'nuff said! Sorry I got so long-winded. Best wishes for a wonderful nursing career! Expect to feel overwhelmed at first, it's perfectly normal and to be expected. Also, expect to be in the learning mode for a good 6 months to one year. After about a year you should be feeling pretty comfortable and after two years should be doing really great. Those first 3 months you'll probably ask yourself, "What have I gotten myself into?" but don't let these self-defeating thoughts enter your mind!!!
NANN's web site is: www.nann.org
ANN's web site is: www.academyonline.org
and can also be found through
their main page www.neonatalnetwork.com
NCC web site is: nccnet.org (After you have been working full time for two
years in the NICU you can apply to take the test for
certification. Passing this test will give you oodles of