As a new nurse...when do you start to feel competent?


When did the feelings of worthlessness and stupidity subside? (

mamamerlee, LPN

949 Posts

Specializes in home health, dialysis, others. Has 35 years experience.

There are many threads that address this issue. In general, at many jobs, not just nursing, it may be a year before you realize that you relatively competent.

Sooner or later, some one will ask YOU for assistance, and you will know just what needs to be done - later that shift, you will suddenly realize that "you've come a long way, baby" and you will smile to yourself, and give yourself an internal 'high five'!

Those first few months are horrific for many newbies - try to find a decent mentor, a nurse who enjoys passing on her education and supporting new people. After about 6 mos or so, that feeling of 'OMG - what am I doing here?' will start to dissipate, and you will start to feel that you are moving in the right direction.

Try always to maintain a look of confidence, no matter what. The patients in general don't know how long you've been working, and will feel more secure if you look secure. Always ask for help or clarification if you need it, even the most experienced nurses still ask questions.

If you earned decent grades, and passed your exams, you probably belong with the big girls (and boys!). Soon enough, you will be the mentor/preceptor!

Best wishes, and hang in there! :)


45 Posts

Specializes in Cardiac.

Honestly I think it depends on how well you are oriented to the unit. As a new grad you are lacking both skills and experience, but you'll pick things up very quickly because you have an excellent knowledge base from school. I work at a great teaching hospital with strong intelligent nurses that went out of their way to make sure I knew what I was doing. You will make some mistakes but just pray they are not big ones and learn from them. My orientation was 3 months and it probably took a good 4-6 months after that before I actually started to feel more comfortable in the ICU (i.e. actually able to fall asleep the night before my shift)

Nursing is a give and take with self-esteem some days you feel like you are untouchable and other days you could not feel smaller.

I recommend as a new grad that you search for a unit that fosters learning and wants to see their new nurses succeed, not scare them away.

I went straight into labor and delivery as a new grad. I remember, very well, thinking I would never know anything and would always feel uncomfortable. Everyone there kept telling me, just wait til 6 months. And honestly, it was at about 6 months that the light really went on and then even more so by a year. Hang in there, it does come!

Specializes in Med/Surg.

You'll have *little* epiphanies along the way, but I think around the year mark is the first real "ah-ha!" moment, when all of a sudden you realize that you feel you've reached a comfort level in your routine and skills. It kind of creeps up on you, notice it more as you look back, if you KWIM. You'll keep having them, too, I still do, and I'm going on nine years! Every several months to a year, I find that I feel like I slip a little bit more in to a comfort/routine. It's a great feeling, and it WILL take comfort in knowing that it's on the horizon!

Specializes in Med Surg, Ortho.

Around the year mark for me. But I still have questions every so often. You'll never stop learning.


201 Posts

Specializes in NICU, Nursery.

Agreed to previous post. You just never stop learning. I think it doesn't matter how long, but your competent when you practice your decision making skills without asking for anyone's input and you evaluated your patient and it benefitted him. No matter how big or small. :)

And oh, when doctors ask you for your opinion and you answer right away. Sometimes you're decisions/opinions have resulted better than the doctor's (okay fine, residents). ;)