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Surviving Your First Year as a Nurse

Did you think nursing school was difficult? Well, guess what is worse, the first year working as a nurse. The obstacles faced by new nurses can be challenging as they enter a new phase in their life. You are no longer the clinical student, under the wing of the clinical instructor. Now you are protecting a license that took hard work, and sleepless nights to get.

New nurses often struggle with finding a good preceptor that matches their learning style, and also find it hard to separate their knowledge and experiences from the preceptor assigned who is teaching the new nurse "their way of doing things."Here are some common issues faced by new nurses:

  1. Time Management

  2. Patient assessment skills

  3. Working and collaborating with members of the team

  4. Theory to practice gaps

  5. Bullying- Heard of the phrase "Nurses eat their young?"

  6. Performance anxiety

  7. Working Shiftwork

  8. Thinking that you have to know everything

However, although it can be overwhelming , here are a few tips that can help newbie nurses transition from the role of a student, to a nurse.

  1. Find a mentor

A mentor plays a vital role in an individual's personal and professional life as they offer support and guidance when dealing with challenging situations. Although finding a good mentor can be challenging at times, do not be afraid of approaching someone that you feel have the your best interest in mind, is proactive, and will provide you with constructive feedback that will help you evolve as a nurse.

2. Be an Advocate for Yourself and your Learning

I remember being the new nurse in a medical-surgical department where the average nurse working there had been a nurse for about 10-15 years. I was the "new kid on the block," and trust me they made sure I knew it too. I felt like the outsider, and was viewed as the "know it all" because none of them had a BSN, while I did, or went to a prestigious nursing school (like I did). They felt that I thought I was better than them, and due to this thought process they made it harder for me to learn and get adjusted to being a nurse. In the beginning, it really bothered me how I was treated by those that I thought should set an example of what a nurse should be: caring, willing to teach, empathetic, etc. However, as the time went on I realized that I had to be a self-advocate, and empower myself to ask questions, to face the challenges presented, and be resilient even when the cards dealt were unfair.

It came to a point where I had the courage to go to the unit manager, and ask for a different preceptor, as my learning goals did not match with the goals of the preceptor I was assigned to. Yes, I said it "my learning goals." I was not going to allow someone's negative perceptions, affect my ability to care for patients. Is self-advocacy difficult? Yes, it is. However if you don't take control of the situation, and learn self-efficacy and advocacy you will not be able to address issues that affect you in the work environment. What's funny is that I currently teach nursing clinical in this unit, and guess what? Some of the same nurses are still there, and we are friends!

3. Improve Time Management & Organizational Skills

I always tell my students that it takes at least a year for a new nurse manage a full patient load, and organize their day. The following are tips that you could use to better manage your time:

  1. Delegate (you can't do it all)

  2. Do a "To Do List"

  3. Create your own patient assignment sheet that gives you a birds eye view of all the patients under your care.

  4. Avoid "burn-out-"As a new nurse, your focus should not be on working all of the shifts possible; your focus should on learning your new role .

4. Self-Care is a Necessity

You are transitioning from being a student, to caring for patients and their families, so you have to dedicate time to getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and self-meditate. Being a nurse is an extremely emotional, stressful, and challenging job at times, so you have to dedicate time to yourself in order to provide the best of you to your patients.

5. Ask questions

There is no such thing as a "stupid question." It is better to ask a question than making a mistake! Your first year out of nursing school comes with it's own learning curve, as every patient and situation is different. Therefore, do not be afraid to reach out to your fellow nurses, mentors, and manager with questions as this will show how important teamwork is to you, and that you value their knowledge.

In summary, the transitioning into professional practice is challenging; however, there are strategies you can use to help smooth your transition to practice.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

—Winston Churchill

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