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Pearls of nursing wisdom


How to survive and thrive in your new nursing position

You passed the NCLEX and landed your perfect first nursing job. With your brain brimming over with information, you feel confident you’ll be a compassionate and safe practitioner.

But then reality hits. Your first days on the job test you. You knew there would be a steep learning curve, but haven’t made work friends, you don’t understand the culture and you may even literally be lost. (Excuse me, where are the staff bathrooms?)

While I cannot tell you where to find the bathrooms, I can help by sharing my top ten pearls of nursing wisdom. Putting these into practice will help make your learning curve a little less steep.

Pearl ten: Have a plan B

Be sure you have a complete change of clothes and shoes at the ready. Of course, you can grab a set of scrubs if you work in a hospital, but what about underwear, shoes and socks? Accidents happen. ‘Nuf said.

Pearl nine: Fill your pockets

Fill your pockets with items you may need – bandage, scissor, tape, hemostat, alcohol swabs, saline flush, a pen or Sharpie and…whatever. Again, your legs will thank you if you don’t have to constantly run around looking for supplies.

Pearl eight: Watch your shoes & socks

Invest in a really good pair of shoes – something comfortable, slip-resistant, and easy to clean. (And please don’t wear these outside of the clinical setting – eww and ick!)

Wear support hose/socks. You may think you are too young to wear these, but trust me - after running up and down hallways all day, your legs will thank you.

Pearl seven:  Know who can do what

As a new nurse, you need to understand your scope of practice*.  It is also critical to know the responsibilities of each person on the nursing team, and who to go to with concerns or problems.

Since unlicensed assistive persons (UAP) don’t have a scope of practice, make sure you really understand their role on the nursing team and your responsibilities regarding supervision and accountability.

Pearl six: Be humble

Admit mistakes and learn from them. You have a lot of book learning, but there’s so much more to learn. Take every opportunity to observe your colleagues perform procedures. Ask questions. And remember, even UAP can teach you a thing or two.

By the way, humility will come easier if you avoid complainers and negative people, and instead focus on those who model humility.

Pearl five: Think first

Be present in the moment. Clearly identify your priorities, especially when you are feeling stressed. This will help you to remain calm (even if you are freaking out on the inside). Think first…and then talk or act.

Pearl four: Help others

Instead of simply observing colleagues perform procedures, extend a helping hand. Your coworkers will be much more likely to reciprocate later when you need help.

When assigning tasks to UAP, strategize with them about how to provide care when more than two hands are needed. And always assign appropriate tasks to them in a respectful manner. 

Pearl three:  Find a mentor

Your preceptor is a built-in safety net and someone who’s got your back for a specific length of time. But you’ll also want to ask a more seasoned nurse (who doesn’t supervise or evaluate you) to mentor you. They can help you with touchy issues, insecurities and questions on professional practice.

Pearl two:  Get to know your coworkers

You could meditate, practice deep breathing and/or read during your breaks. But, be sure to also look for opportunities to take breaks with your coworkers. The camaraderie you form will grow into a lifeline of sanity and help.

Pearl one:  Take care of yourself         

When you are at work, remember to take breaks and make time to eat and go to the bathroom. (And of course, don’t forget good hand washing protocol!) By establishing these habits early, you’ll help prevent burnout and give yourself the best chance to thrive.

Pearls you can wear…every day!

If you think about it, all of these top ten pearls play a role in good self-care. Without intentional self-awareness, you can’t possible face everything that you’ll inevitably be confronted with. Your reward? A reserve tank full of energy and focus.

Continuing education is also a great way to invest in your career. Check out our new Transition to Practice course series. You will gain research-proven competencies that will grow your confidence and boost your longevity. As it’s been said, your most important patient is you!

Now it’s your turn

Can you think of some other pearls of wisdom for new nurses? Write and let me know.

* Use the link to find your nurse practice act - read what it says about your scope of practice.