Encouragement for New ICU Nurse



I have been a nurse for a little over two years. I worked for 6mths out of school in a SNF, and then I went to the hospital setting on a Med Surg floor with a variety of patients and problems. I worked there for a year and 1/2 and now I'm taking the leap and going for the critical care field. I have gotten a position in a CT-ICU, I've gone through the orientation and I'm in the middle of my floor orientation. I'm on week 7 out of 8....and I feel totally helpless.

Somedays, I feel like "I can do this...I just need time." Other days its "Forget it...if I didn't need money, I would just walk out right now." I know right now I'm slow with everything and that I'll get faster as time goes on, but the preceptors I'm with are rough. I know I sound like I'm wineing, and maybe I am, but I figured this would be the place to do it and get some actual encouragement rather than criticism.

I have changed preceptors once because the first one made me so nervous I was making mistakes I would NEVER make. My second one was good. She gave good criticism, complemented me where it was needed and gave me advice. I learned from her. The one I had over the weekend....the one area she criticized me on was time management, which I've never been criticized on before. I have had two horrible out of three preceptors...I have spoken with the educator on the unit, and she agrees I have had a rough start. I'm at a loss...

I have to re-take my critical care test tomorrow and if I fail again, I get to go back to a step down floor...not my ideal situation at all...I left there for a reason and I don't want to go back. I've decided to see what happens with my test and then make a decision.

Any advice?

Specializes in ER, progressive care. Has 7 years experience.

ICU is very different. You encounter all sorts of diseases and equipment that you don't encounter on a med-surg floor (maybe on a step-down). There is a very steep learning curve. You really just have to get in there and DO stuff, you won't learn anything until you do it. If you're ever unsure, ask someone! Someone should always be there to help, at least I would hope.

What kind of test do you have to take?


1 Post

I started 4 1/2 months ago in the ICU straight out of school. And I feel the same way, some days I feel like giving up and others I feel like I'm doing well. Now I am starting to have anxiety about going to work and I just don't understand why? Any advice on how to get over this anxiety that makes me fearful of taking care of patients that are critically I'll? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


16 Posts

Specializes in Rehab.

I had to retake my critical care test, which I passed and I feel much better about everything now, but I'm tired of only hearing criticisms towards me from my preceptor. I've switched preceptors twice. The second time only because my first one doesn't do nights.


16 Posts

Specializes in Rehab.

I think you just have to put yourself out there and do it afraid. I've started to do that and I've made a few mistake, but how am I supposed to learn?

Specializes in Trauma ICU. Has 6 years experience.

I've been a Critical Care RN for 6 years. Each and everyday I step foot into the hospital, I learn something new. The day you stop learning, or dont have the desire to learn, is the day you should walk away. The ICU (no matter what specialty) is a very complex world. With that world, comes complex ppl. I work in a Level 1 Trauma ICU and we all joke that each one of us is a little off or a little crazy to come back everyday to work. I was once where you are. So were your preceptors. Keep that in mind. It took me well over a year to not wake up in the middle of the night terrified of my upcoming shift. The days I know Im in charge, I still carry around Imodium (but I would never reveal that to anyone on the unit!) You will get there! Time management is a skill that takes time to master. Good luck! If you want it badly enough, you will persevere and be great!


15 Posts

Specializes in Intensive Care. Has 1 years experience.

I was a new nurse starting out on a critical care unit, I got a little experience doing 3 months Med Surg and 2 months step down, then on orientation for 2 months in ICU. My first day in ICU I became physically ill because I was so nervous, and it was almost that bad the first day I was on my own. I would have to talk to myself in be the mirror every day before work and tell myself that I could do it. It was weeks before I would go in without my stomach churning, what helped me get through it the most though was my coworkers. I realized that I'm new, I'm not going to know everything and I never will, but I can always go to my coworkers and ask questions. Never be afraid to ask questions, and know that people will be there and willing to help. You can get through it!

Specializes in ICU. Has 20 years experience.

The orientees who worry me are the ones who don't ask questions. Ask your preceptor things like-can you watch me do this and make sure I did it correctly- can you check my pump-can you come with me I have never done this before, if it's a procedure you have never done, CT, pleurodesis, cardioversion whatever. Double check every gtt you mix with another nurse.

There are too many lazy so called preceptors who regard there job as sitting in the corner. If you have one of those, make the best of it but find the maternal type nurse who loves to teach. I know that I have done my job with a new nurse when she gets sassy with me like a teenager and says "I can do it!" Cracks me up every time.


218 Posts

Specializes in SICU/CVICU. Has 36 years experience.

I have worked in critical care for a very long time. The tasks are easy and with time you will learn how to do them most efficiently. Critical thinking takes much longer. It takes years to be a critical thinker. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself time.

The best advice I can give you is learn something new every day. Learn the physiology--and the nursing will follow.

Meg, RN

42 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, ICU.

Phew! I'm so glad someone else feels the same way! I just applied to transfer to ICU after working Med-surg a year and a half, so I'm a little intimidated to say the least (it took me three months to put in for the transfer)!! I heard the preceptor in our ICU is tough, but really good. I really want to learn from her. My thinking is that ICU is where the sickest of the sick go, where the buck stops, and I want to learn all I can in nursing, "be the best I can be" so to speak. :D I love learning new things, and love the technical aspects of nursing. I hope this means it'll be a good fit! The encouragement from this post was much-needed! Thanks! :D I figure the worst that can happen is that I'll hate it and at least know from now on that critical care isn't right for me...


10 Posts

My dream since I have been a little girl is work in an ICU for the sickest neonates out there. I have an AWESOME opportunity presently at a Level IV NICU in one of the best Children's Hospitals, however I one thing is holding me back. A DREADED PHARMACOLOGY TEST. I failed with a 70 the first time. My second try is tommorow and I dont know how prepared I can be. All I know is if I dont pass, my job offer will be taken away!

I need some encouragement!! Only through the love of God can I pass this test! He knows how bad I want it!!