It's All About Relationships

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You learn many things throughout your journey as a nurse. The relationships and connections that you create throughout this journey will create a a foundation to achieving great success in your career.

Specializes in Leadership, Critical Care, Stroke, Compliance. Has 15 years experience.

What has shaped your journey as a new nurse?

It's All About Relationships

So, you did it! You overcame the grueling late-night study sessions, missed out on family events, and lived off coffee and bags of candy. The day has come when you can push all your books aside, put on some fresh scrubs and practice your new nurse strut down the fabulous runway…I mean hospital hallway.

You have interviewed, attended the dreadful week of orientation, and now, ready to start your career as a licensed nurse.  There are so many emotions, joy, relief, fear, anxiety, and excitement.  You tell yourself you can do this, you dedicated years of studying, practiced every foley insertion and bed-making skill to perfection and you proclaim success after listening to a variety of motivational podcasts. Welcome to your first year!

I learned so much during my first year of nursing and grateful for the experiences. The last thirteen years have been filled with tears, laughter, and a binder full of various positions. What I did not know, was what hurt me the most in my journey in becoming a leader.

It has been said that people come into your life for a lesson or for a blessing and I find that to be truer in the world of healthcare. I was young, lacked confidence and wanted to prove myself. I failed to see the opportunities of valuable people in my life, and instead, surrounded myself with the people I constantly worked to impress. Healthcare is a small community and there is a very high chance you will be working again with or for someone in another organization. The way you treat and interact with your colleagues will determine when, where and how you achieve your goals.  The first year was challenging and the “nurses eat their young” phenomenon is real. I was degraded, embarrassed and humiliated during my first year.  I played the game to be accepted and failed to develop true connections with co-workers that wanted to mentor and build me up, instead of surrounding myself with people that weighed me down. Although challenging, I also had the opportunity to work alongside some amazing people and expand my own knowledge and skillset.

Years down the road, when I began my journey in quality improvement and interviewing for leadership positions, I did not have strong references or positive connections with healthcare professionals. Yes, I developed friendships and was very team oriented and even spent time outside of work with my colleagues but did not have the professional connections to advance in my career.   I felt these “subsurface” interactions were a waste of time and energy because I was very task oriented. It was not until years later that I realized the connections these providers possessed and the advice that could have saved me time and extra work in accomplishing my own professional goals. I worked to obtain multiple degrees and certifications and was recognized for departmental and organizational achievements.  Regardless of this work, without strong connections, I had to fight for advancement and struggled in those roles without adequate leadership support. Looking back today, I am grateful for the learning opportunities of “what not to do” and hope that these experiences can help new professionals with accomplishing their goals in a more efficient and beneficial way.

We are very fortunate in healthcare, to be surrounded by so many unique experts that have the ability to positively impact people’s lives. I believe that we all chose healthcare to serve others and create a healthier community. Treating every interaction with value will help you to build a strong network of professionals. Connections and networking not only help you grow professionally and personally but will also help you accomplish your goals and dream job. Relationship building creates a positive working environment and fosters favorable outcomes for patients.  The majority of healthcare providers love teaching and want to share their tips and tricks.  During rounds, transfers or when you have a few moments of downtime, take the opportunity to talk with a Respiratory Therapist, Social Worker, Attending, or Physical Therapist. The amazing thing about healthcare is that we all want the same outcome for our patients and sharing our experiences only contributes to meeting that goal.

There are multiple ways to build your professional network, even just starting out in your career. The easiest way is joining a professional online community, such as allnurses. These communities provide a venue to ask questions, provide support, and share experiences. Statewide associations are available in most areas and provide direction and advocacy for the nursing profession. They also offer events, learning opportunities and live meetings. This is a great venue to build relationships in your local community. Social Media platforms provide a mix of factual and inaccurate information, so you must be cognizant of the sources. There are professional platforms available that provide a higher-level forum.

The best way to start building your network is within your own workplace.  There are committees for every topic imaginable and leadership is always looking for people to join. Joining a committee at the unit level is a great way to get to know your co-workers and show dedication to your team and profession.  Committees are great for relationship building, as well as gives you the ability to participate in decision-making processes. These processes are impactful because they determine who, what, when, and how tasks are completed. Committees can also provide a broader look at the organization and many times allows you to communicate and develop relationships within your organization’s network. There are also social media groups specific to your specialty to allow you to vent frustrations or ask advice without any retaliation or judgment. National associations provide information on best practices and obtaining specialty certifications.  

There is a wealth of information on-line and opportunities to develop a strong professional network. Many of these require minimal participation so that you are not overwhelmed beginning your new nursing career. Remember to value your relationships and treat them as a partnership as you move along in your nursing journey.  The road traveled will be less rocky and will provide a foundation for accomplishing your goals.

Julie Irvine is a nurse leader and writer. Julie shares expertise and knowledge on leadership, culture change and wellness in the workplace.

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3 Comment(s)

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg. 151 Articles; 5,856 Posts

Great article!  Thanks for reminding everyone how important it is to build a network throughout your career.  You just never know when someone you met along the way can help you as you continue on your career journey.


Specializes in Leadership, Critical Care, Stroke, Compliance. Has 15 years experience. 1 Article; 4 Posts

Thank you so much.  I laugh to myself all the time of how many times I come into contact with someone I have worked with usually in the most rarest settings.  It seems that networking is even more important now than ever, with the transitioning to virtual interactions.  

spotangel, DNP, RN, NP

Specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds. Has 33 years experience. 45 Articles; 509 Posts

Excellent article! Can't agree more. It is all about relationship, keeping your own ego squashed,listening more and talking less! You can fake it  only but this much! Nurses are savvy and will see through you in a heartbeat! So be yourself and stick up for yourself! Be the expert others come to when they need an answer. To become that person, be humble,learn and give sincerely whether it's help, a compliment or a honest feedback. Build each other and don't step on someone to gain something! It has a funny way of coming back to you! Nursing is a small field! You always know people in common!