6 Tips for Surviving the First 6 Months as a New Nurse

Going from student nurse to registered nurse for some is a big leap and has it's own set of struggles.  New nurses have to apply the knowledge they learned during their courses and clinical to tackle real life, complex patient assignments on busy hospital units.  What advice would experienced nurses give their new graduate counterparts when starting a new job in patient care.

Read on for 6 valuable pieces of advice for the new grad starting out in nursing for the first time as an RN.

1. Ask Questions:

No one nurse can have a complete knowledge of every medication, medical condition, procedure...etc. nor all the insight of possible side effects, complications, or causative factors. Never feel as if you "should know" something and fear asking for clarification.

Nurses are constantly learning and the expectation to know everything is unrealistic and almost impossible to achieve. During hand-off report or while reading the chart, if you come across something you aren't clear on, just ask. We've all been there and it's an expectation that nurses collaborate to share knowledge and experience so to provide the safest care.

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2. Keep Learning

New and seasoned nurses alike do not get to slack off when it comes to providing the most up-to-date, evidence based patient care. The nursing profession is always evolving and we are finding new ways to treat conditions and provide care based on new research and changing protocols. Take every opportunity to continue your learning in the field of nursing or in your specialty.

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3. Find a Mentor

Finding another nurse you can trust to provide guidance is key to the success of the new RN. During orientation on your unit, connect with the seasoned nurses and know who to go to for advice and support. An approachable, non-judgmental mentor can give you valuable feedback for your nursing practice and act as an advocate when needed. One of your best resources as a new nurse is an effective nurse mentor, don't wait to find one who will help you succeed when you come off of orientation.

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4. Jump in!

Definitely jump out of your comfort zone from time to time. Be eager to see everything weird, gross, or unusual. I've learned the most from embracing complicated assignments as it keeps me mentally on my toes and provides opportunities to practice critical thinking while collaborating with others.

Rule of thumb: If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you.

Embrace the challenge of providing care for complex assignments and do not sell yourself short. Have confidence in your abilities and realize you don't need to be an expert on a patient condition to provide the best care. As long as you know when to ask questions and think critically, a new nurse can confidently provide effective care for a complicated patient assignment.  This will give you a deeper knowledge base and valuable experience as you grow during your nursing career.

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5. Obtain Patient Trust

When you have the best interest of your patient at heart you can't go wrong. Listen to your patients and honor their values. Earn their trust so you can provide them the best care. A patient who believes their nurse has not only their physical but also mental well being in mind will be compliant, trusting, and truthful. Providing patient care does not simply mean passing meds, following through with orders, or charting... it is a complete experience of give and take from both the nurse and the patient.

Always follow through with what you say you will do for a patient but never make promises you can not keep. If you say you will come back to check on a patient in 15 minutes, for example, do everything you can to make that happen. Earning patient trust can improve their morale, decrease anxiety levels, and promote communication thus allowing you to treat effectively. Never underestimate the power of patient trust, and never take it for granted.

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6.  Don't Burn Yourself Out

New nurses are eager to get on the floor to finally start making money after years of nursing school.  Resist the urge to put too much on your plate right off the bat and give yourself time to recover from particularly long, rough shifts.

As the old saying goes, "You can't pour from an empty cup."  On a new nurses day off, take time for you to replenish your spirit and do what you love.  Eat healthy, get adequate rest, and stay hydrated.  When you return to work you will be mentally and physically strengthened and able to tackle the challenges ahead.

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You Can Do This!

New graduate nurses don't have it easy entering the workforce.  Many learn most of their nursing skill in the first six months on the new unit.  They must have patience with themselves when it comes to feeling comfortable and confident.

Asking questions, continuing to learn, finding a mentor, jumping in, obtaining patient trust, and taking care of themselves are all key to the success of a new nurse.  Read my post on How to Make a Good First Impression as the new nurse for more tips.  Reach out to me via comment below, on my facebook page, or instagram for support or questions.   Even the most experienced nurses remember what it was like being the newbie, and you are not alone!

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