Advice to the Younger Nurse Me

by SarahLeeRN | 12,113 Views | 27 Comments

A list written by me for me. Also a list for new nurses, or not so new nurses. We all have lots of advice stored up from all of our experiences. We should share them, if only for ourselves. If not for ourselves, maybe our advice can help others as they navigate this profession called nursing.

  1. 38

    Advice to the Younger Nurse Me

    “This is what reality shock feels like,” I thought to myself as I stared at the little confused old man sitting on the edge of his bed, covered in blood from the IV that he just pulled out. It was quarter to eleven at night and I still had two more people who needed medications, foley catheters to empty, charting to finish, and now, another IV to start with an antibiotic to hang before my shift was technically ‘over’ at eleven.

    As I stared at the mess that I was going to have to clean up, as that poor man held his blood covered hands up at me while saying “It’s sticky” I felt a feeling that I have felt before. Anxiety mixed with panic mixed with adrenaline mixed with sheer exhaustion. Thankfully, the adrenaline instead of the exhaustion kicked in, I asked for help from my co-workers and they (bless their hearts!) finished my other medications while I cleaned the man up, started a new IV and hung his antibiotic in ten minutes- just in time(well, maybe not quite in time) to give report to the next shift and then wrap up my charting.

    I have been a nurse for a few years now. I truly feel like I have gotten over the majority of reality shock that I felt for most of my first year of being a nurse. But I still have nights where that feeling comes back and I am humbled and reminded of what it feels like to be new or even that feeling of being absolutely unable to do everything that I wanted to do on my shift.

    I have realized over the last few years that I cannot do everything on my shift and that it is ok to leave some minor things for the next shift to do. I do, after all, work in a 24/7 environment and I am not superwoman.

    But when I am reminded of that feeling: anxiety mixed with panic mixed with adrenaline mixed with sheer exhaustion-it reminds me of a list that I have for the “New me RN” also known as the “List of things that your older self wishes that your younger self had known.” I especially start thinking of this list in May, when all of the new nurse graduates are coming out of school and into the workplace, freshly pressed and ready to change the world of the sick. (I was that way, anyhow. Perhaps not everyone has quite that idea upon graduation.)

    I want to share this list with you. I hope that it can be of help to someone and if not, that’s ok. When I get my feeling again of anxiety mixed with panic mixed with adrenaline mixed with sheer exhaustion-and trust me, I will feel it again- I will just read my own list to myself, burn a lovely smelling candle, drink a delicious cup of tea and try to re-orient myself to why I love this crazy profession so very much.

    Advice to the younger nurse me:

    1. You can’t do it all. You can’t. Read me again. You CAN’T do it all.

    2. Ask for help when you need it.

    3. Don’t ever be afraid of looking stupid. If you don’t know something, ask.

    4. Be very very afraid of anyone who A) Is afraid of looking stupid or B) Knows everything.

    5. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. See #1,2,3 and 4 for reference.

    6. Always check your patient’s code status.

    7. Know what your patient’s medical history is before you see them, if possible.

    8. Know who your patient’s healthcare provider (Dr.,PA, NP) is before your shift starts. There is nothing worse than hunting for whom to notify when something goes wrong.

    9. Know why you are doing what you are doing. See #3.

    10. Focus on priorities. Putting a band-aid on a skin tear is less important than a heart rate of 134 and respirations of 35. You might think this is common sense, but I am just saying.

    11. Bleeding can generally be stopped.

    12. IVs can generally be restarted. If you can’t -someone else can. If no one can, there are always central lines and surgeons.

    13. Do not run around focusing on paperwork if you have someone who needs a new IV. See #2. It will only cause you more problems later.

    14.Chart. As. You. Go. As much as possible. Otherwise you will be in the building for hours and no one likes that.

    15. This may sound harsh and anti-noble, but money matters. Use your companies’ resources and your time wisely. This also ties in with number 14.

    16. Doctors are not horrible people. They can be wonderful team members if you treat them like the humans that they are.

    17. If something doesn’t ‘feel’ right, trust your gut. The worst that can happen is that you are wrong and your pride gets hurt. If you don’t know what to do, see #2.

    18. Sometimes, the loudest, in charge sounding person is actually dead wrong.

    19. You will make mistakes. Just learn from them and move on.

    20. When you get that feeling of anxiety mixed with panic mixed with adrenaline mixed with sheer exhaustion, remember that it will go way. Remember that it doesn’t last forever. Find your method of stress relief.

    And if necessary, add more to your list of advice to the younger nurse you. I know that you have a lot of knowledge by now. You could even post your list on allnurses-and receive input from other nurses, to help make an even longer list, for you the ‘older nurse’ and maybe another younger nurse you.
    Then pour yourself that cup of tea and read your advice again. After all, experience is the best teacher!
    And maybe, just maybe, that feeling of anxiety mixed with panic mixed with adrenaline mixed with sheer exhaustion will slip away, until you are ready for work and to do it all again tomorrow.
    Last edit by Joe V on May 13, '13
    eemilee, Missterri, katiescow, and 35 others like this.
  2. About SarahLeeRN

    I am a RN. I enjoy my job. I actually really like it. Some days I want to scream, other days I want to laugh, every now and then I want to cry. I have to write for stress relief. Writing is better than a bunch of bad habits…http://sarahleeregisterednurse.wordpress.com/

    From 'Anytown, USA'; 25 Years Old; Joined Jun '09; Posts: 78; Likes: 434. You can follow SarahLeeRN on My Website

    Read more articles from SarahLeeRN

    27 Comments so far...

  3. 3
    Thank you so much for this! I have not started my classes yet, but I'm already a bit afraid of what will be headed my way. This will help guide me as to what to expect on the floor!
    Jram92, Paloma_Traviesa, and SarahLeeRN like this.
  4. 1
    Love love love!!!
    SarahLeeRN likes this.
  5. 5
    This is excellent advice! Wish I had an older me giving my younger self this advice when I was a new nurse many moons ago. Trust me newbies, this is Good Stuff!
    poppycat, SarahLeeRN, NutmeggeRN, and 2 others like this.
  6. 7
    May I add something to the list? I'd also like to add, cry, sometimes, it gets SO overwhelming it just feels good to cry, it is a good release. Don't ever allow another nurse to say, "Don't cry." It might make others uncomfortable but I tell you what, It always makes me feel better. Also, the pharmacist can be a very good resource, call them if you have questions regarding a med. If you think, I don't think I should give this, call the doctor, you can and you will question orders, it's okay. I've had many a doctor thank me for "catching" a potential mistake. ALWAYS check your lab values, doctors don't always see them, and if your patient is acting goofy, it might be hypoxia, don't always assume they have dementia. Your post is wonderful advice.
  7. 1
    Thank you for posting this!! It is an awesome list! I graduate in December with my BSN. I'm starting to feel the anxiety and panic already. I'm going to save your thread so I can come back
    SarahLeeRN likes this.
  8. 2
    Thank you for sharing, this is very helpful advice!
    twinkletoes53 and SarahLeeRN like this.
  9. 2
    Thank you. As a new nurse, I need reassurance sometimes that I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed, especially when things aren't going well, even if I'm not at fault
    twinkletoes53 and SarahLeeRN like this.
  10. 4
    Everything bar you having a pee can be delegated / ask someone else for assistance. The 5 min it takes to pee will make you work much better if you are anything like me..........If I hold I loose swiftness and clarity! Take those 5 min.

    Eat. Prep food at home and bring it in. relying on the canteen is dangerous for your waist line!

    If everything is going pear shaped with a pt take a mental step back and check ABC.
    mitral, Ir15hd4nc3r_RN, luckyzhp, and 1 other like this.
  11. 7
    Breathe. So many times I had forgotten to / didn't take a break because I thought I was too busy. Taking that few minutes to eat something small or even just drink a glass of water helps so much. Your task will be there when you get back. That admit paperwork/ charting isn't going anywhere. I know I feel better if I can eat a small snack or drink something. Definitely take something to eat with you. Too hard to depend on the cafe/fast food place/ ordering something/etc.

    Definitely chart as you go. I had a preceptor try to make me chart like her and do it all at once, but I couldn't do it. I have seen day nurses who wait till the end to chart and are there forever after their shift.

    This list was great. The one thing to remember is you CAN'T possibly do everything. Somethings have to be left. We are a 24/7/365 operation.
    mitral, Ir15hd4nc3r_RN, CountyRat, and 4 others like this.


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