Three. Days. On a medical oncology ward. On my first rotation as an RN, ever.
I was only supposed to have two, but those first two days were so busy that I didn't even get shown where things were kept at all, I was just seen as another pair of hands and thrown into the melee. At the end of the second day, I was SO stressed that I was in tears, and I am not a crier normally. I got a third day of orientation with a preceptor, and said to them, "I still don't know where X, Y and Z is, and I don't know what the plan is for this ward if there's a fire, and frankly, if I don't get some help today I am going to be no use to you whatsoever tomorrow."
I had two days where I had my own patient load on my own (only 4 patients, but still, I had been an RN for, er, 4 whole days by that point, so I needed help). After that, my 'buddy' (not exactly a preceptor; she had her patients, I had mine and we ran the ward between us) had to go home for a family emergency. On day 6, I had a casual who was an experienced, organised nurse, but who didn't know the ward, and on day 7, I had a nurse who had years of experience, but who had picked up a LOT of bad, lazy habits during her time. She was a disaster. I was trying to look after my patients, and she kept asking me things about hers and putting any phone calls to the ward through to me. I was FURIOUS, because the first thing I said to her, before I even introduced myself, was that I was a new grad and I needed support! To add to it, I was given a first year nursing student (yes, on my fifth and sixth days on the ward!). She was lovely, but I felt like I was failing her by being unable to provide a proper learning experience. She didn't want to go with the casual because she and I were horrified at some of the things she was doing - e.g., not washing her hands for an entire shift, despite having two contagious patients (one ?avian flu and one shingles!). I felt like I could, at least, do my things safely.
I have yet to work out what the process is in this hospital for admissions and discharges, ordering more drugs, gate leave for patients, how to transfer calls properly, and how to obtain more supplies if we run out. I need to try to learn more about medical oncology. I have four days off at the moment and then I leap in for seven days straight (all mornings).
I was SO stressed to begin with, and I really don't think I had a good experience. On the other hand, my disastrous day meant I had to stand on my own two feet, rely on myself and just learn to handle the big waves. On that day, I resited a subcut line and did two PICC dressings, both things I hadn't done before. I called a CNC and asked for help, and she talked me through. I feel good that I got through and was able to support my patients. One family told me I had a wonderful attitude to nursing and never to lose it.
Um, long post, but I wanted to get that out. It wasn't an experience I'd recommend. It was definitely sink-or-swim, and I think I managed to swim!