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6 Tips for Success for New Nurse Graduates

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Congratulations new graduates! As you begin your career, remember these 6 tips to help you become a successful nurse.

Specializes in Health Writer, School Nurse, Nurse Practitioner. Has 18 years experience.

What is your advice for a new nurse?

6 Tips for Success for New Nurse Graduates

First of all, I want to congratulate all of the new nurse graduates.  Choosing nursing as a career is the best decision that you could have made.  You will always have a job. 

I just wanted to offer you a few tips as you begin your exciting journey as a nurse.

1.  Remember, you will always have loads of options in nursing. 

If you are not satisfied with your job, there is a banquet of other opportunities out there for you outside of hospital nursing. There is no need to be unhappy in a position as a nurse.  Set up a profile on LinkedIn, and you will be amazed at what offers come your way.

2.  Nurses tend to “eat their young.” 

Don’t be too surprised about it or take it seriously.  Even as a seasoned nurse in a new job, I was subject to the same problem.  Find your own colleague friends and ignore those who take pleasure in being nasty.  That is their problem.  You will rise to the top despite staff who are less than friendly.

3.  Remember to incorporate EMPATHY into every contact that you have with a patient or their family. 

Try to place yourself in their shoes and feel how they feel. 

A few examples of empathetic contact with patients are:

  • Always look your patient in the eye and greet them by name with a smile.  Introduce yourself and that you are an RN, etc.  You worked hard to become a nurse, so tell them so!
  • Always ask your patient something personal or, if they are not the type for this kind of conversation, remark about the weather, etc.  Just TALK with them!
  • Always ask them how they are doing and feeling.
  • Never leave the room without asking them if there is anything else that they need.
  • Before finishing up each encounter, explain when you will be back and outline the schedule of tests, doctor rounds, changing of shifts, etc.

These tips seem so simple, but I can tell you as a nurse and patient, empathetic communication is all but forgotten many times in healthcare.  So it bears repeating, especially at this critical juncture in your life.

4.  Try not to complain. 

Nobody likes a complainer.  In nursing, I have to tell you there are many reasons to want to complain.  But co-workers do not like to hear others griping all of the time.  Try to stay positive and keep a light spirit.  Keep your grievances to yourself unless they are harmful to the patient or environment.  On the flip side, you will need to vent, but save that for those at home or your friends.  I had a friend that no matter how hard our nursing job was, I never heard her complain.  Her upbeat, enthusiastic personality made her a favorite among the staff and patients.

5.  If you do need to take a problem to your supervisor, think it through prior to your meeting. 

I had an administrator who taught me a fundamental lesson regarding problem-solving.  She told me to come to her with all angles of the problem well thought out and with some ideas for solutions.  From that day forward, I typed out an outline and came to every meeting well prepared.  I am happy to pass that insight on to all of you.

6.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

You will avoid much frustration and possibly negative repercussion for yourself or patient if you just ask for help when needed.  I remember silently sweating out many situations where I was afraid to ask for help as a new grad nurse.  As an experienced nurse, I appreciated the young nurses coming to me with questions instead of just forging ahead, often incorrectly, and not knowing what they are doing.  Questions are expected and not frowned upon, so ask away and help yourself by doing so.

I remember the excitement of starting out as a new nurse.  Wishing you all the best.  Now go get 'em new grads!

A freelance nurse health content writer with 37 years nursing experience.

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4 Comment(s)

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

Sometimes- most times- the simplest truths are the best, as in your article, dareese.

Viewing from the other end of the spectrum, having retired from a 36 year nursing gig, I can say that I would have walked the path though my career much more easily had I paid heed to these truths.

But like so many, I had to learn for myself sometimes the hard way, but as has been said, “Sometimes people need to take the wrong path in order to lead them to the right one".

Thanks for a great article, dareese!

JBMmom, MSN

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 9 years experience.

I think you have some very good advice here. The only one I don't totally agree with is #2. I DON'T think that nurses eat their young any more than in any other field of employment. People are people and there are wonderful people and nasty people in all walks of life. This nurses eat their young sentiment that is perpetuated constantly sets up new grad nurses to expect that they are going to be bullied and harassed by bitter older nurses. And when you go in expecting to be bullied and harassed, guess what? You probably find it somewhere. If people are just encouraged to act as adults, deal with personality conflicts and truly discern what is the difference between a grumpy coworker and someone who is truly creating a hostile environment, we might have less new nurses crying poor me and blaming others for every problem that arises. 

The first year of nursing is challenging for everyone and you have laid out some good advice for those just starting out. I would just recommend that they listen to those that try to help and give themselves permission to make mistakes. You can't gain 10 years of experience on orientation, and some aspects of nursing practice just take time. 

By-a-thred, RN, ADN

Specializes in M/S, LTC, home care, corrections and psych. Has 30 years experience.

It's never to late for truck driving school. 

peblevins

Specializes in Community Mental Health. Has 28 years experience.

I agree with all of these tips. When doing clinicals in nursing school, I witnessed the "nurses eat their young" adage. Then I was lucky enough to have clinicals at a small community hospital that was app. 45 minutes from where I lived. The nurses there were supportive and it was a different environment all together. They laughed! I made my decision then and there, despite the drive, that I would apply there. I did and was hired and worked there for 23 years. 

Wanted to add to idea about approaching your nurse manager. I've learned over and over that you will earn more respect if you attempt to address the problem/person/situation yourself first. And if the problem still exists, yes -report it to your NM but yes-be prepared!