Ever have new nurse feelings after several years experience?


I have 3 years experience under my belt as a med-surg nurse, mainly post-surgical. I am actually quite "sheltered" on my unit as we mainly deal with surgically stable patients and not the "medical" part of nursing, such as starting IV's, infections and contact precautions (we move out anyone on contact to another unit to protect our surgery patients), inserting NG tubes, PICC lines, multiple abx (read: infections and sepsis), etc. I have been on the same unit for 3 years, and I still have days where I feel completely incompetent and feel like a "new nurse". I am still a new nurse! In my opinion, until say, I have 10 years under my belt. No one in management has indicated that I am in trouble, this is what my mental anxiety tells myself when I don't know something I should definitely remember after 3 years. Or a skill I should have mastered by now.

The point is, although I have managed to do well enough to keep my job and even get patient compliments, I have not advanced myself in my career due to fear and anxiety. Is this acceptable? Another new with less than 2 years experience nurse is already taking a charge nurse position (I was too scared to take it myself), another nurse who hasn't even been a nurse for a year got a one-day surgery position (along with a pay raise I'm sure). I have barely gotten a raise in my 3 years (and I have stayed put, not moving around to other units or hospitals so that is contributing), and the duties and expectations at my current job are starting to burn me out and becoming more stressful. I don't think the grass is greener on the other side necessarily, but I'm feeling incompetent and "a failure" that I haven't advanced my education or career by switching to another position.

I guess I mainly wanted to vent but, just feeling very down on myself lately. Honestly, it isn't worth staying in my current job much longer until something changes. Any advice on having confidence to advance my career? These nurses with quite less experience are excelling and exceeding expectations far more than I am. That's how it feels at least. I am bad at comparing myself to others. However, wouldn't I still not be here if I had followed what the other nurses are doing?

~chronically "new nurse"


3 Posts

hi! I have been working three years, two in emergency and I feel like the new kid about 75% of the time. but I try to focus on those times when I felt the other way...especially when I was able to help a more junior staff member with something they weren't sure about. then it dawns on me that I've had senior staff members tell me they learned something from me...I usually return with a joke, because that's what I do, but when it comes down to it, we're never going to "know it all" and we'll never be able to do it on our own. that's why your team is so important! I guess one more thing I could say - and that I have to remind myself of constantly - is speak up for yourself (and your patients, ultimately). if you're not sure, ask! if you're not comfortable, say something...even at the risk of sounding like you "know nothing"!

I too compare myself to my colleagues, but then I get talking to them and I realize we mostly have the same anxieties and worries. some just show them differently. you do you, as they say, and if you're unhappy in the job ask yourself what you would change if you could, and then do something about it!


1,142 Posts

Specializes in ED, Cardiac-step down, tele, med surg.

I don't think anxiety should prevent you from advancing your career. If you are happy doing what you do, that's great. If you want to advance but are afraid to the point that it prevents you, that might be something to look more closely at. I finally switched to the ER after about 4 years of tele/med surg/step down. I was glad I tried something else, because I was bored. Now I'm no longer bored but the workload is hard on my body and I'm getting a little burnt out with some of the malingering/drug seeking patients.

In my opinon you do sound kind of anxious, second guessing yourself, capitulating, etc. It could be an anxiety disorder. I have one myself and there are ways to treat it. I have used cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to overcome some of the doubts and negative thinking. Anxiety is weird how it guides our thoughts in certain directions and then we over analyze our own behaviour and thoughts. It's like a viscious cycle. If I were you, I would talk to one of your mentors or a trusted collegue for advice, someone who knows you. If you feel like your anxiety is taking over your life, perhaps see a therapist. There shouldn't be shame in these things.