I am also at the 1.5 yr mark. There are still moments of panic and dread, but these are mixed with moments of pride. For example, I just had to re-cert for CPR, and while we were practicing compressions on a dummy the thought popped into my head, "I have done compressions during a code! On a real live person!" Realizing that made me feel so much more at ease while practicing on a dummy, that's for sure.
Then there was a time the oncoming shift needed an ABG on a pt with an A-line, and I was the only available nurse in our stepdown unit who knew how to get it (or else the only one brave enough to attempt it with a crowd of residents and family looking on.) We only occasionally see A-lines on our unit. I got the ABG, zeroed the transducer again, and handed it off to the primary nurse. Whew! And no blood spraying anyone in the face!!
Then there was the time I was floated to a med-surg floor with lower acuity, and I was given their most difficult patient - a trach, C-collar, jaws wired, who had been vomiting while being supine down in the MRI suite. This was a near disaster for all involved, but I was able to handle it OK and the patient recovered fine with a little O2 and suctioning. The other nurses on the lower acuity unit I had been floated to looked at me with a little more respect than I had been accustomed to, and one of them remarked that it was lucky for the patient that I had come from the ICU stepdown unit to their floor that night!
And probably one of the most satisfying aspects of having a little experience under my belt is being able to conference with the residents about our difficult patients, and kind of "getting it" when the lab results show rhabdo, or a troponin leak, or central diabetes insipidus.
None of this is meant to be "blowing my own horn" - well, maybe just a little! But these are all things that experienced nurses know, and take for granted to same degree - and these are the things newbies generally don't know, and why experienced nurses (who have forgotten what it means to be inexperienced) may roll their eyes a bit at the inevitable questions a newbie will ask.
Someone once said that half the game is just "showing up" - putting in your time. This doesn't mean that the adrenalin stops flowing when you think about your upcoming shift, or that knot in your stomach completely disappears. It just means you kept yourself in the game, even when it looked like you were losing. Because you are not losing, you are becoming a REAL NURSE!