How To Become A Successful New Grad

I see so many posts from new grads who ask for advice from everything on choosing a specialty, bullying, and evil mean preceptors so I sat down to give some basic advice on how to be a successful new grad.


How To Become A Successful New Grad

It's OK if you don't know what nursing specialty you want.

Many will tell you that you should start in Med/Surge and stay there for 1 to 2 years. Med/Surge is a great place to cut your teeth. You learn a whole lot and refine assessment and people skills. However, if you have a strong interest in a particular specialty and get a chance to try it, go for it. But be willing to stick there for at least a year. It takes that long just to know you're good at it. If you decide to leave you will still have that coveted 1st year of experience.

Should I do a New Grad residency?

If you get a chance to do a residency at a good teaching hospital yes go for it.

Keep your future plans to yourself.

If you have nothing but disdain for bedside nursing and plan to get you NP or DNP as soon as possible.

Be careful to stay humble with your new peers.

Many of us are working on advanced degrees and some have no desire to. Respect the experience of those who are teaching and mentoring you. Move on when you are ready to pursue the next step of your career.

Show respect and listen to your preceptor. Some of us have years of experience to pass on to the young nurse who wants to learn.

 STEP 5:  Own your mistakes.

The News Flash here is that you will not be the first nurse (New or Old) who is going to make mistakes. As long as your mistake doesn't kill someone take it as a learning experience. Own it and don't make excuses. Learn what happened and why, make necessary corrections to your practice and move on.

Your preceptor is not your friend!

He/She has a job to do which is to teach you safe practice and the facilities expectations of its nurses (often while caring for a full assignment) . They may be friendly, warm and nice or aloof, cold and downright mean. Don't be so quick to think NETY.

Learn that just because someone says something that bothers you it does not mean you have been bullied.

Listen to what's being said and if any part is true own it. Writing someone up and running to HR every time someone sneezes in your direction will not help your career.

Don't participate in hospital gossip!

If they are spreading rumors about others they will likely spread them about you.

Don't try to reinvent the wheel.

We know you just graduated and have all the latest and greatest techniques and theories to share but nothing will annoy your preceptor more than hearing "That's not the way I learned it in school!".

Smile and remember to go home hug your family or pets and sleep well at night.

Find some balance. Nursing, for all the good things it is, is till just a job. It pays your rent, put food on the table and provides for your family, but at the end of the day you are responsible for your own happiness.

For additional help, view this helpful video created by Marie MacMillan...

(allnurses Guide)
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allnurses Guide

hppygr8ful, ASN, RN, EMT-I

4 Articles; 4,775 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life). Has 21 years experience.

Oh I forgot to add If you have a chance to live at home rent free. work at a local hospital and pay down your loans do it.



8 Posts

This is by far one of the best posts I have ever read.

Ruby Vee, BSN

67 Articles; 14,023 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

Good advice!

A few things I'd add (because no one can think of everything all at once):

Work the schedule you're given unless you have a real, serious conflict. "My husband comes home from his deployment July 1, so could I please have that day off?" is reasonable. "My husband is coming home from a business trip, so I need the weekend off, and while I'm thinking of it, I'll need all of next week, too." is not.

Call in sick when you're sick. Don't call in sick when you're not. "I have pinkeye and the doctor says I can't come to work until Tuesday" is one thing. "I can't come in because I'm hungover" is not. (Unless someone spiked your drink.)

Ask questions, but don't ask stupid questions. ("Mrs. Pee needs a cath -- what do I do?" is a stupid question. "Dr. Uro ordered a straight cath for Mrs. Pee. I've never done that before, but I've read the procedure and have all of the supplies gathered. Can you go over this with me before we go into her room?" Not a stupid question. "What's the phone number for lab?" Stupid question. "Where can I find the phone numbers for the places we call most frequently?" is a better question. And then use the phone list rather than asking the same question over and over.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

Great advice! Some of the best (and most succinct) that I have ever read. I plan to share it with some of students and new grads that I work with.

I can understand why you have been successful, hppygr8ful.


1 Post

Specializes in Tele ICU MS Home Care. Has 20 years experience.

Hello  hppygr8ful,

I sincerely apologize for writing an unrelated comment. All ways I tried to write following your comment elsewhere were unsuccessful. I have worked as a RN for 18 years. Been working in critical care float pool as a traveller for last 5 years. I did make a med error one day, no harm to the patient. My CA license is on probation. Any place you know that would hire me? My email address, if you would is I do have references that are verifiable. I would surely appreciate any help. Thank you.