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New Grad RN Starting Nursing Career During the COVID-19 Pandemic


I am currently a newly licensed RN who graduated from nursing school in December 2019. I remember feeling ecstatic graduating from nursing school in the months leading up to my graduation because I always doubted myself and thought I would never graduate nursing school. During those months, the thought of starting my nursing career during a pandemic or let alone a pandemic occurring, have never crossed my mind. Not one bit.

Are you a new grad starting your nursing career during the COVID-19 pandemic?

New Grad RN Starting Nursing Career During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I graduated from nursing school in December 2019. In February 2020, I accepted my first ever RN job offer on a Medical-Surgical unit. I felt ecstatic becoming an RN and being able to provide the best compassionate care possible to patients with what I have learned over the years from school and work as a CNA. I wanted to make a positive difference in the health of my community as a patient advocate, educator, healer, and supporter.

I clearly remember the day of the job interview. This was shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a typical workday for all staff in this medical-surgical unit. No one scrambled or panicked to find PPE to care for patients. Once a call-bell went off, all a staff member had to do was perform hand hygiene and go into the patient room without any bit of hesitation or fear of contracting any disease. It was a normal workday in that unit. I was able to have an actual in-person interview! Social distancing and wearing masks were not a thing just yet. After the interview, I grabbed lunch with my friend at a restaurant. What a normal day filled with such normal tasks that I took for granted.

While working as a CNA and attending nursing school, I knew working as a RN was not going to be an easy feat, especially during the first year as a new graduate nurse because of the overwhelming shock of realizing nursing school only prepared you for the basics and not for the real nursing world. I accepted this reality and reminded myself I will never be fully prepared for the realities that come with working my first few years as a new graduate nurse, however, I did not expect to start my nursing career during a pandemic.

I started my first RN job in early April, right in the smack of the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. A typical and IDEAL orientation would occur in a classroom setting in person, where we would be equipped with the right resources (e.g. software, live nursing educators, healthcare materials to practice on, etc). I looked forward to orientation because that was going to be the time when I was going to learn the necessary skills to become successful in my bedside nursing practice. Unfortunately, my orientation fell short of the expectations of a typical orientation. Our orientation was cut short and instead of it being held in person (due to social distancing laws), it was a virtual orientation. On one of the virtual orientation days, we were supposed to learn how to use the hospital EMR system, but the majority of that day backfired because we were unable to gain access to the system. After 5 days of orientation, we were on the floor with our preceptors. The reason behind being thrown onto the floors so quickly is due to the need for more nurses to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The unit I was going to be working in turned into a majority COVID-19 (+) unit. I already felt overwhelmed by the realities of becoming a new graduate nurse. Now, I am being faced with the additional reality of working during a pandemic. I miss being able to quickly respond to a call-bell without having to don so much PPE, going into my patients' rooms many times as much as I want to so I can check on my patients without worrying about contracting a virus, and not having to wear a mask at all times. Even more things that I took for granted. I never thought I would take these simple things for granted.

So far, I am 5 shifts into my orientation, gaining more responsibilities each and every day (e.g. gradually increasing my patient load- I am up to 3 now!). I still feel incredibly overwhelmed as a new grad nurse, but I feel even more overwhelmed with the reality of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Limiting patient contact to a bare minimum, seeing patients suffer without their loved ones at the bedside, picking up phone calls from frantically worried family members wondering how their loved ones are doing, reusing PPE, fearing that I am spreading this virus to others, etc.

I hope it gets better.

To be continued.

I would like to hear other stories of new grad nurses starting their nursing profession during these trying times, any advice/ constructive criticism, or just stories about your work during this pandemic. We are all here for each other!

Have a great and safe day everyone!

New graduate RN who graduated in December 2019 and started first ever RN job in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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1 Comment(s)

It is unfortunate you had to start your career during a pandemic. I am not a new grad, been working for about 4 yrs and it is overwhelming to me. Initially I was upset my unit was transformed to Covid, but I had to put everything aside and think of the patient. I had a few new nurses on my floor (they had already finished orientation), two of them are doing well but the other had to take a leave of absence due to constant panic attacks. I am not quite sure what your situation is, but I encourage you to use it as a learning experience. Do your best and always always treat the patient with dignity and respect. You will be pleasantly surprise what this means to them. Take time for yourself; get adequate rest, stay hydrated and please always ask for help if you need it. Be safe.