What you wish you would have known...


Im a newbie nurse. I have loved perusing this site for years and reading all the wealth of advice and knowledge available here. So as you see of course this is where I go for a bit of advice. Being new I am curious as to what some of you more experienced nurses can tell me about what you wish you had known your first year as a nurse. I have looked at some threads on here related to this topic but thought I would attempt and get some fresh answers. It can be related to anything you learned or perhaps did not learn and wished you had. Any answers are appreciated:geek:

Edited by NurseLife88


roser13, ASN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho, ASC. Has 17 years experience. 6,504 Posts

Back in the day at my first position on a med/surg unit from hell, I wish I had known that those 3 years of barely hanging on by my fingertips was going to be such a solid underpinning to my entire nursing career. I might have been better able to tolerate the daily stresses if I had known just how valuable the experience would turn out to be. Apparently, despite the stress, I did learn.

After leaving that floor, I have only been in somewhat specialized positions. Not a day goes by that I don't utilize some piece of information or draw on some experience from those hellish years.

(Oh, and I learned some invaluable coping skills from the EAP counselor that saved me from a near-breakdown that first year:yes:)

This is a great question! I know that this may sound small now but as a new nurse I wish I knew that despite the day to day duties of being a nurse and taking care of my patients, that what I was doing was bigger than just patient care. It was really about being intentional as a nurse a making a mark on the profession that once I am long gone people can remember me by. Something that I can leave for nurses to come.

So know that you are truly in health on purpose.



130 Posts

Been a nurse for about 2 years now. I wish I had known how much politics were involved in nursing...from admin suddenly showing up on the floor when state came for a survey in LTC, to employees being loyal to an employer but that loyalty isn't reciprocated (only as far as what the employer can get out of the worker), to supervisors who play favorites or have power trips, nursing is more than just patient care.

To be more specific:

-If you're female and you get pregnant, don't be so quick to tell your supervisors yet. "At will" employment means they can terminate you for any reason, legit or not, even if the real reason is discrimination

-Be good to your CNAs/techs and they will (mostly) be good to you and have your back...can't do your job without them

-if you don't document, it didn't happen

-God bless LTC nurses, you can't pay me enough to go on that rodeo ever again

-time management is everything

-Working in psych has made me a smarter but more jaded nurse

-The shift is harder but the people are generally more awesome on nights

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 16 years experience. 226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

I wish I would have known how sick and plagued the healthcare industry is in the U.S.

I wish I would have understood the nuanced politics that influence workplace interactions.

I wish I would have comprehended the relevance of interpersonal skills in healthcare. For example, an engineer or architect or financial analyst who sits behind a desk all day can get away with poor social skills. However, poor social skills will totally thwart a nurse's career.

HeySis, BSN, RN

Specializes in PACU. Has 25 years experience. 435 Posts

The first thing I wish I would have known is how to cover my own ***, but you do learn that pretty quickly (if not painlessly). (psst.... document everything!!)

I received this advice from a HR director and very good friend when I started out in a job that held a steep learning curve. I wish I had done it when I began nursing or any new unit. I do it now.

Write down something you did well everyday after work, and something you need to work on. My friend wrote in a journal... me I scratched it on a calendar.

Then as time goes by you can look back. Days when you feel frustrated, like your never going to get it, look over the beginning and see how far you've come. Sometimes we are so busy learning so many new things we fail to recognize the ones we have tackled and the tools and skills we now possess. Keeping a record of them can lend perspective to the times you feel defeated.

It can also help you note trends of strengths and weaknesses.... do you have a lot of skills marked down as well done, need to work on organizational things? or visa versa? That way you have a new skill to learn you can be like "it looks complicated but I know I learn new skills quickly so I will not stress" or if it a new process "it takes me longer to get new processes organized, I'll need to put forth some effort and thought, maybe ask for some help".


NurseLife88, ADN, RN

1 Article; 107 Posts

Thanks all. These are great answers!