Is it normal to have second thoughts?

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in Telemetry.

Hey all! I need some moral support :D

Okay, I'll make this short. I am going into my senior year, going to get my BSN. I have been extremely lucky as far as grades go- my hard work has consistently paid off very well. This summer I was lucky enough to land a role as a nurse extern- I shadowed an RN at the hospital and was supposed to take on many responsibilities of a registered nurse as the weeks went on.

This is where I feel completely embarrassed. I felt dumb nearly every minute of every day. I was constantly looking up things that I have learned but forgotten about, I am still studying as I have all summer. What if I'm only book smart and an idiot in the field? I feel like I can never achieve what my preceptor and the other nurses are capable of- balancing a million things at once time like that.

Is this normal, or should I look into another type of nursing? The hospital did like me, and want me to work there possibly even when I graduate. So my shortcomings at least were hidden fairly well. But still, I feel like I am incapable of such a fast-paced environment. Do many new nurses feel this way, and catch up? Or is a hospital job just not for me?

I know I'm not the only student/new nurse that feels incompetent! But I'd like to hear from those who have been there, what's the difference between normal frustration, and realizing that you're working in the wrong type of nursing? (ex- hospital, home care, etc)

Lastly, can you learn to "think on your feet" or is it something that you feel like clicked right away?

What if I'm only book smart and an idiot in the field?

Identification of the problem is the first step in resolving it.

This is how your best ICU Nurses are born!

You have had four years of over analyzing what is essentially simple, but you are are eloquently asking the right questions with just the right amount of skepticism. Get done with school so that you can start to learn!

You are right on track so far.

Specializes in Acute Care, Rehab, Palliative.

Don't be so hard on yourself. I wouldn't take any of what you experienced as a sign you have made a mistake.You are a student and you are still learning.I feel that the real learning begins when you get out there and start working. There is nothing wrong with having to look things up. Heck, many of the experienced nurses I work with still have to look things up or ask a colleague about something they are not sure about. You must have done fine if the hospital was happy.I think most of us get out of school feeling that we can't possibly be ready, but it gets easier and you will learn more than you ever thought possible.You sound like you will be just fine.

Specializes in ICU/CCU.

I am STILL having second thoughts three years after graduating! Like you, I was very "book smart" in school, but I felt like I was more overwhelmed than my classmates in clinicals. My senior capstone clinical was in a trauma ICU, and I was ready to pack it in after only a few shifts because I felt so clumsy and disorganized. Thank God I stuck it out. The first year of nursing was sheer hell (I can't lie to you), but now I feel comfortable in most situations and can pinpoint my weak areas to focus on instead of feeling like EVERYTHING is beyond me. Don't quit before you've worked for at least a year. ICU was a good fit for me; I don't think I could ever have worked in med/surg--at least not at my hospital.

I have learned to think on my feet, but moreso, I have learned to mentally prepare for the worst each shift based on what I know about each patient's condition. It helps that I work with people I trust and who have my back in a crisis. Experienced nurses are my most valued clinical resource, while the younger nurses who started on the unit the same time as I did are my best emotional support.

Take heart! I would be more worried about you if you were completely gung-ho with no doubts at all--new nurses like that are scary.

Specializes in ER, Trauma.

You're comparing yourself to experienced nurses. They weren't born knowing how to do what they're doing, they had to learn. Now it's your turn to learn. Remember how this feels. In a few years a student will shadow YOU and start having doubts. I'd be more worried if you didn't have doubts. People who think they know everything can't learn anything. You've got a healthy, normal start. Wishing you a long rewarding career.

Oh man, GinaCat, are you me??? I'm glad you wrote this post! These are all questions that have been in my mind too. I'm done with the LPN program in a couple months and I feel like I know nothing! I've gotten great reviews on the floor but in my head I feel dumb pretty much all the time. You sound like you're getting it though. I'm sure you'll do great!

Specializes in ER, Trauma.

OK you 2, look-it. Think about how you drove when you were on your learners permit. Think about how you drive now. A brand new nursing license is like a learners permit when you look back after several years. Nobody is born knowing how to walk, talk, feed themselves, write, or be a nurse. You're on the learning curve of a career that we all had to learn. You go to school because you need to learn, why beat yourselves up because you don't already know how to be nurses. You're there to learn! Keep up with this attitude and I'm telling mom! Cut yourselves some slack already.

Every school that you ever go to will only teach you what you have to learn to learn to do your job. It has been my my experience that most jobs have to teach you a lot in the field which is why a lot of hospitals only want experienced nurses. It is expensive to train new personnel. I think that it is worth it if you retain said personnel. How do you make the company feel that you are worth the time and money to train you?

Specializes in ER, ICU, Medsurg.

Oh I am so with you! I graduated in May with my ADN and am brand spanking new in the ER. Luckily, I work with a small team of wonderful nurses who support me in every aspect of my career. But, I feel stupid every day. It's stuff I know that I know but can't pull it to the front fast enough. I'm learning tho the more common drugs used in ER, the more common techniques etc., and they are coming to memory a lot quicker now.

I ask a LOT of questions. I am fortunate enough to have ER docs who love to teach so they are very willing to answer questions. We also have NP's who will explain things. Don't be afraid to ask questions, even if it seems stupid to you, the only stupid question is the one not asked. No one expects you to know it all as a fresh graduate and they will be more concerned if you DONT ask questions.

Good Luck, we've all been there or are there right now. You can do it!!

Specializes in CVICU.

In short, yes, this is normal. In fact, if you didn't feel this way and instead felt confident and like you were able to handle everything I'd be seriously concerned about your ability to learn and grow.

When I started (3 short years ago) someone said to me the thing that stuck with me the most. The first 6 months just absolutely suck. You feel like an idiot all the time. You might even cry when you leave here and dread coming back. Force yourself to come back anyway, because after the first 6 months it sucks a little less, and at the end of a year you'll look back and be astonished at how you didn't kill anyone because you knew just enough to be dangerous, and it continues to get better and better after that.

It's completely and totally true. I used to white knuckle it in my car, trying to force myself to go in every day because I was scared ********. (I started in Cardiac ICU, so I don't know how people in other units feel, but I was sure I was going to see things that involved life and death and I wouldn't know how to handle it). Now? I love it when that Code Blue gets called overhead. I'm sorry for the patient, but for me, the adrenaline rush is fantastic.

You will get there. Your feelings are not only normal, they're good.

Specializes in Telemetry.

You all are great! I feel better. It's amazing to me that so many new nurses have doubts. I have seen people make progress faster than me, but maybe they're just good at hiding their confusion lol. (as am I, I suppose if they like me haha)

It's so important to find out how hard our first year will be, so when it hits we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I guess I will feel as dumb as I felt during my externship, possibly dumber. But thank god I'm not alone, lol. You all gave me such good insight on that, i seriously appreciate it. It doesn't mean I should quit and be a science teacher, but that it just takes time.

@Flying ICU RN- I love that you mentioned ICU. I always loved the idea of the unit. Though my externship was on a telemetry floor, I signed up for ICU for my residency senior year spring semester. :)

And dthfytr that is so true! Great analogy, I love it. Thank you.

Thank you all so very much

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