Advice to My Younger Self as a New Nurse: What I Know Now

I was recently thinking back on all the things I have learned over my past three and a half years as a nurse & it’s a lot. Most of it, I didn’t even learn in nursing school. In fact, most of it was learned in real life practice. Through my mistakes and successes, the good days and the bad, I became a nurse. 

I thought it would be interesting to write a blog post on advice that I wish I could tell myself as a new nurse, now that I know what it is like. Anyone who is a nurse (also applicable to several other professions) can attest that starting out as a brand new nurse is overwhelming, daunting and challenging. I remember knowing that I learned all of this information in school but it was so different trying to translate everything in practice somehow. It was like I had a big arrow pointed at me that said “NEWBIE NURSE” and I felt insecure in my abilities to be a nurse for a long time. It definitely took a while to become comfortable with my role and my knowledge, and to feel like I was a nurse, not just someone pretending to be one. I remember getting a lot of advice from fellow nurses and friends at the time about how to cope with this transition.

I wish I was able to give myself back then advice from myself now, knowing what I know now. I would tell myself that it is going to be okay- that you know what you are doing more than you think. That a gentle nurses touch can go a long way, and active listening can make any patient feel like a PERSON, not just a patient. That silence is sometimes a good and necessary thing. That your instinct is sometimes more powerful than anything you may have learned in a book, lecture or conference. And that you WILL grow as a nurse, it will become more natural, and you will be confident in your nursing abilities one day. That it is always okay to ask questions, no matter how stupid or crazy you think it is. No one is going to fault you for asking questions, seeking answers and furthering your education. That is the beauty of nursing, it can open many doors for you, if you let it.

I asked a bunch of my nurse friends and colleagues to help pitch in with their advice they would give their younger selves and the results were beyond amazing and powerful. Not only do I think they are a good guide for new nurses, but also serve to be true for any nurse, experienced or not.

Advice to your Younger Self as a Newer Nurse:

  • If you don’t know, just ASK. There’s no way anyone can possibly remember everything from nursing school- plus every hospital/unit is a little different. Also, don’t feel like an idiot for not knowing! “Veteran” nurses will be happy that you’re attempting to do things right. (I personally recommend complimenting them on how knowledgable they are before asking them my question- everyone loves a compliment!)
  • Asking questions does not make you dumb! Ask ask ask! Ask things you don’t know, ask things you think you may know but want a second opinion. Ask anyone. Ask doctors ask nurse practitioners ask respiratory therapists, physical therapists, anyone and everyone. The more you know, the more confident you will become.
  • Never stop asking questions!
  • Stay calm, think before you speak and listen!
  • If you’re unsure of something– seek out experienced nurse for some feedback and advice. No question is a dumb question.
  • Go with your gut… If you feel like something’s wrong with your patient there usually is. Nurses intuition is a real thing.
  • Join a military branch, become an officer with goal of retiring from the military. Excellent benefits for rest of life, health etc.
  • Nobody loves staying in the hospital so be extra sensitive to the emotional piece. Patients and families might not be themselves when they are flooded with worries/fears. Be kind, be understanding and you’ll be more resilient.
  • Listen. I mean, really listen. Hear what people are saying without the words. Everyone has a different story and you are only seeing a tiny snapshot of their life. Don’t judge. Instead listen. Listen to their bodies. Listen to their tone. Listen to their eyes and their face. They say so much more than what you ask.
  • Nursing gives you the opportunity to explore your interests, you can’t possibly have covered all the different types of patients to care for in nursing school (elderly, med surg, cardiac, cancer, pedi, mother baby, ICU, surgical,neurological) take a chance that something you haven’t experienced yet might be your true passion. And don’t be afraid to change it up and learn nursing in different settings, the hospital is not for everyone. Take advantage of the fact your license allows you to be a lifetime student, constantly learning.
  • Always remember you were once a student…so when you have an opportunity to mentor a new nurse…think of what your mentor did to help you…and do the same. Not only will you help someone else but you will grow in the process
  • After a few years of consulting – An easy one is to put your cell phones away. Be present. Make sure your attention is on the patient and your fellow staff members. Save the face-spacing to break time. Healthcare is personal, important and intimate, treat it that way.
  • Make a mental list of things you can “fix”and things you can’t! Some things can’t be fixed, and some things just shouldn’t be! Learning that lesson helped me prioritize my care and keep my sanity in the ICU. And advocate for your patients, even when it’s not easy to do so!
  • Never be afraid to ask questions… take those patients that scare you the most… be forgiving, 1) towards others, we haven’t walked in their shoes, no matter how much we THINK we know about them, and 2) towards yourself, cut yourself some slack, do your very best always, and if you weren’t as successful with something as you had hoped, scrutinize, learn, then move on. … and always listen to your gut!

Nurse humor

What advice would you give to your younger self as a new nurse? Or what advice would you give to any new nurse?



(Special thank you to all you awesome nurse friends who posted  in response to my question-prompt on my facebook page that helped to contribute to this post! You know who you are!)


Masters of Science: I Did It!

It has been a crazy, wild, stressful two and a half years, but I am happy ecstatic to say that I am finally done with graduate school!


Matt & I after the Ceremony. I am so lucky to have this great man in my life. 

School has always been important to me, so when I decided that I wanted to go back for my masters degree and was accepted, I was beyond thrilled. Looking back now, I kind of have to laugh, because I thought it was going to be fun, not-that-hard, and manageable with my work schedules. Boy was I wrong. Grad school is a different demon than nursing school– which says a lot because I don’t personally know too many people who openly admit that nursing school was a breeze. However, I will say that grad school made nursing school feel like a breeze after the fact…

Anyways, over the past two and a half years while I have attended grad school full-time I have:

  • Worked 5 different RN jobs, 2 of them travel positions (which were full time)
  • Broken my right ring finger/hand keeping me out of work for 8 weeks while on a travel contract
  • Had to cope with my younger sister being hospitalized and diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease
  • Met the love of my life and best friend, and subsequently had to deal with a long distance relationship
  • Ran in 4 half marathons
  • Adopted a stray cat “Audrey” from the local animal shelter
  • Struggled with severe anxiety (yes severe, as in it affected my friendships/relationships/school/work)


This is probably not even an exhaustive list, but it helps to make my point. It was not an easy ride. There were so many times that I wanted to quit and  said ” I am done with this” or wondered why I was putting myself through this. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I managed to do it, and graduate on time, but I did. It feels like the greatest accomplishment and it makes all those hard times even better.

I didn’t do it alone though. I could not have done it without the help from my family, especially my mother who believes in me with the entirety of her heart. I also owe a big shout out to my wonderful, handsome, supportive boyfriend Matt because he has had to deal with me during some of the darkest times of my life. He has been a huge supporter of me from day 1 and he has been there for the highs and lows, some of them not very pretty. How I didn’t scare him away is really beyond me- but that is another story.  I also couldn’t have done it without my professors and advisors who supported me on the way and served as mentors to me through and through. I remember when I broke my finger and I called the school of nursing at UVM and asked to take a leave of absence because I would have to be  in Boston for almost 2 more months than planned to finish out my work contract, which would overlap with one of the busiest semesters of school. Not long after I had called about taking a leave of absence, I received a phone call from my academic advisor and the director of the program I was in. I will never, ever forget this conversation. She took almost two hours out of her busy day and life to talk with me about all my possible options; about how I was doing, what I wanted to do, and most of all she reassured me that I could do this and that she would help me through it. She discouraged me from taking a leave of absence, but instead encouraged me to continue through at least part-time. She was honest, kind and helpful through my tear-filled phone conversations with her and we decided together that I would try to make this work out somehow. And guess what? I did. I did it all somehow, despite all the obstacles that were destined to drag me down. But like I said, I would never have been able to do it without the people in my corner- my professors, my family, my boyfriend, my co-workers.


My mother and I. My rock, my number 1 supporter, my biggest cheerleader.  I wouldn’t be here today without her.

The one thing that I have heard the most recently is “I don’t know how you did it all”. Well, I don’t know either, I would like to say that I believed in myself, but honestly, at some points I really didn’t. But I didn’t want to give up just because things got hard. I have always been someone who is used to being busy or doing twenty million things at once, so I could do it right? Right. Did the last two and a half years challenge my sanity, patience, willpower and strength? Absolutely. Would I do it again and repeat all of this? Umm…Probably, because after all was said and done, it felt really amazing. It really felt like the biggest accomplishment of my life to date. Being able to walk on stage during the Hooding Ceremony to receive my Master’s of Science regalia with my family and loved ones watching was one of the happiest moments of my life. I am even smiling right now thinking about that moment.

Although I doubted myself at many times, I have realized that anything is possible when you put your heart and soul into it and when you have people that believe in you.  I am so blessed to have the opportunity to the education that I have been given and I am so grateful for every little bit of it, even the hard times. I have learned so much over the past two and a half years, but most importantly I have learned to believe in yourself- we are resilient and we can persevere so much more than we can imagine. Dreams really do come true.

Next up: I have to take my boards so that I can officially be a NURSE PRACTITIONER!!!! Watch out world, I am ready to do great things!

Thank you for reading & feel free to share any personal experiences with your schooling!





New Job!!

I haven’t posted much recently because I have been so busy between moving from one apartment to another and orienting to a new job. I loved my old job as a mother/baby nurse but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be an urgent care nurse for the same hospital facility I was currently working at. I saw the job posting and applied for the position and when I got an interview and a call back, it was a sign that this was meant to be. I would finally have a set schedule again, something I haven’t had in SO long AND I wouldn’t have to work night shift. I was willing to sacrifice a little bit of an hourly paycut for this new job because I knew it would be the perfect opportunity for me to grow as a nurse and future nurse practitioner and because I really did need some consistency in my life as far as scheduling goes. To me, I know I made the right decision.

I am about 3 weeks and halfway through my orientation to my new job. This urgent care center is not like your run-of-the-mill urgent care… It is so much more. In fact, it used to be an emergency room back in the day, so may people in the area still think it is an Emergency room. The acuity level of patients coming through the door varies IMMENSELY from sore throat to chest pain and shortness of breath.  It definitely keeps things exciting and keeps me on my toes. The adrenaline junkie in me loves a good bit of excitement in my day! I feel like I have already seen and done so much and I am not even done orientation yet! I am definitely not complaining. I have even been learning to master phlebotomy lab draws and insert IVs. In the past I had inserted some IVs into newborns, which is a big challenge, so I did not anticipate IV insertion at this job would be terribly difficult, but it has been a learning curve. However, it is so satisfying to get an IV in first try that it makes the couple of misses worth it.

And I can’t forget to mention the patients- they are what make me love the job. The people that come through the door can be old or young, sober or drunk, white or black but they are people and they all come bearing a story and it is part of my job to figure out that story and help them in a time of need. You will be surprised what kind of information people release to you when they trust you with their health, it is truly amazing. As crazy as some days can be, and some patients, this wild variety is part of what makes this new job so great.  And its so great to help people to get healthier, mended, or get some answers when they are literally at such a time of urgency, need or worry– 9 times out of 10 they are so grateful and that is what makes it all worth it.

Can’t wait to get up in the morning and do it all over again! Crazy stories to come, there are plenty.



Friends Come & Go

I remember being younger and thinking that “friends are forever” and that I would be so blessed to have my closest friends in my life forever and ever and that nothing would ever tear us apart- we wouldn’t be like other people who grow apart- because that just would not happen to us. I am blessed to have had the people I called my closest friends in my life at some point, because I truly believe they helped me become the woman I am today, but we were not lucky enough to stay “friends forever”. The funny thing is that people come and go in your life everyday, some of them strangers, and some of them friends. Life is such a crazy, fast-paced ride that before we even realize it, sometimes we lose some friends and acquaintances along the way.

At High School graduation, I remember crying relentlessly, hugging my friends close. It was a mix of excitement and sadness; I would be leaving behind my friends, my best friends to go off to college. This is one the first experiences I had with losing friends. It isn’t like I even lost friends, I just lost touch with my friends and the relationships became strained between lack of communication, distance and different interests. I think this is a fairly common experience for this age group as we moved out of our comfort zones, tried to become independent and make friends with completely new people.

Fast-forward to college:

In college, you meet so many people it is almost overwhelming. But during this time period, I believe you meet some of the people that will become your lifelong friends. This was such a fun time in my life because I felt like I had such a wide variety of friends and so many acquaintances and I just remember it as being an extremely happy period in my life. We learn so much more than what we are studying in college; we learn how to live with others, how to deal with others and how to create bonds with people that will last a lifetime. I have a couple of friends from college that I consider lifelong friends and hold dearly to my heart and cannot imagine my life without them.

Then you graduate and things change again (FYI I hate change if you couldn’t tell). You move away, or your friends move away and everyone gets real people jobs or are studying for GREs and applying to more school. Friendships and relationships become estranged and you start to see which of your friendships are resilient enough to overcome all the changes and strain. Unfortunately, you realize that it is no longer convenient for certain friendships, or that without binge drinking on weekends you and another friend no longer have common interests, or simply that you just lose touch with one another. This is a sad time because I remember reflecting on just a few months prior when I was so happy and seemed like I had such a close group of friends. Now I had a real job, and my hours were crazy and I hardly got to see my friends and it was challenging to plan outings with everyone’s varying schedules.

Over the past few years, people have come in and out of my life- for better or for worse. There have been times when I have been so upset, stayed home and cried over a glass of red wine and sulked about why my friend doesn’t want to be my friend anymore , or why I heard that this friend was talking to that friend about me and I wondered what I must have done wrong.

I still deal with the sadness from time to time because I feel like over the past few months, my relationships with my friends have changed greatly. I have a few close friends who I would do anything for, and I know they would do the same for me. But then I look back and see there are such strained relationships with friends that I don’t even know if I can call friends anymore.

We used to be so close and do everything together- laugh, cry, cry because we were laughing so much. We used to tell each other everything, not fearing judgement from each other, we used to stuff our faces full of junk food just because we didnt care. We used to know each others schedules and we used to enter each others houses without knocking. And now I couldn’t feel farther apart- I don’t know what you are up to lately, I don’t know how I would even start a conversation with you if I saw you. I would hope that it would flow easily, but then again there has been so much lapsed time. Things just seem different. There have been a few challenges our friendship faced, but I never would have guessed they would have brought things to where they are now. I guess this is just part of the changes that occur. I will always look back on these friendships and smile at the memories, and occasionally I will be saddened by the fact that things are so different now. But what I have come to realize is that I can no longer sulk on this. Friendships are tumultuous, people come and go. Despite it all, those who are going to stand by your side will continue to do so and those who will slip away will slip away.  I cannot dwell on how things are different, and I won’t consider these “failed friendships”, but ships that have sailed in different directions. Maybe one day the wind will blow us both in the same direction again, or may it won’t. But I have learned something from every friendship I have had to date: it takes two parties to make things work and I cannot solely place blame or guilt on myself for these friendships not working out- that is just life.

I am so grateful for those in my corner- through all my good times and bad- they have helped me more than I can ever express.  As I move through this journey called life- this hectic, crazy, rollercoaster- I will hold my friends close by and let them know how much I appreciate them. I will not dwell on those friends that have slipped away; everything happens for a reason.

I have always been a people-pleaser, and I always wanted to be friends with everyone and make everyone happy, but I realized that I was doing that at my expense.  I need to care about myself and want to be friends with myself before I can expect others to want to be friends with me and this is one of the things I have learned over the past few years that I still need to work on.



How have your friendships changed over the years?

The Good Lie

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching Hollywood’s version of storytelling the tragedies and triumphs of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” in the 2014 film, “The Good Lie”. I must say that I initially had some hesitations, but was really impressed overall with the entirety of the film. The acting was on par (many of the actors are actually survivors of the refugee camps themselves), the storyline was genuine, and every minute of the movie tugged at my heartstrings.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, I highly recommend doing some quick reading/research. It is a terribly depressing and horrific part of history, but it is also moving to see a group of people come together as “brothers”  to protect one another and simply try to survive despite the unfathomable terrors surrounding them.

The Lost Boys of Sudan were collectively given their name when roughly twenty-thousand displaced children and orphans trekked thousands of miles in the late 1980’s to seek refuge in a camp in Kakuma, Kenya after being ambushed in what was known as the Second Sudanese war.  I won’t get into too much of the history, because it is worth researching and educating yourself if you are interested.

Honestly, until a few years ago, I can say with one hundred percent certainty, that I knew nothing about this group of people, this war, this struggle and struggles similar to these. I know, how naive of me.  I grew up in a small, predominantly Caucasian town in Southern New Hampshire, and not to knock my school or education, but I do not remember learning about topics such as these. Yes, it is very depressing and upsetting to learn about what these people went through, lived through, died through, but it is real life. It puts things into perspective.

I first learned about this population a few years back during my junior/senior year of undergraduate school at the University of Vermont when some fellow classmates and I were assigned to put together an educational presentation to a group of resettled African refugees in our community- Association for Africans Ling in Vermont, (AALV).

What a lot of people don’t know (myself included prior to my education and time living here) is that teeny tiny Burlington, Vermont is a location that is part a national refugee resettlement program that houses those seeking refuge and asylum from their country of origin.  I can’t even begin to explain how foreign it must be to some of these people to come from living in a village in the deserts of Africa to living in subsidized housing in Burlington, Vermont- a place where people talk different, dress different, eat different , do everything different. I could continue to go on and on, but I digress. For anyone interested, I highly recommend doing some research and watching some documentaries and movies that touch upon this subject.

My personal favorite is a documentary from 2006 entitled “God Grew Tired of Us”.

Secondly, the movie I began speaking about at the beginning of this post, “The Good Lie” is an excellent (in my opinion) Hollywood redo per-say of the “God Grew Tired of Us” storyline.

I encourage you to learn more about this population- do some research, do some reading, watch these films, talk with these people if you have the opportunity. I work in Burlington, VT so a lot of the staff and patients at my job are immigrants and refugees and although we generally tend to think that they can learn a lot from us and our culture, we too can learn a lot from them if we open our hearts, minds and eyes.

The Good Lie

DIY: Homemade Make-up Remover Pads

Sometimes I like to get a little crafty and make things just for the sake of making things, but I must say, this was one of my more practical creations. Recently I was perusing around on Pinterest and came across many different concoctions and creations for “homemade” face cleansers and make-up removers. Its a simple concept, seems easy enough and practical at that. I mean come to think of it I go through sooooooo many packages of make-up remover wipes that it actually isn’t funny (and gets pretty pricey). So naturally, I looked around my vanity to see what “ingredients” I had that I thought would make a good, hydrating, gentle, cleansing make-up remover.

Here’s what I found…

Hannah’s Homemade Makeup Remover Pads Before you begin, make sure you wash your hands (after all you are going to be touching the pads that will be touching your face and if your hands are dirty, well…). And keep in mind, these numbers don’t have to be exact!

  • 1 cup of distilled water
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sephora’s Waterproof Makeup Remover
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons of Tarte’s Maracuja Oil (this stuff is SO amazing and does not clog your pores, you can use any oil really but for my skin, I know this oil does not cause me to break out and it helps clear up my complexion)
  • (Optional) I used a few sprays/spritzes of Sephora’s Daily Makeup Brush Cleanser because it has antibacterial properties in it and my rationale is that if we use it to clean our tools that we use on our face, it should work as a great cleanser added in our own makeup removing solution.
  • Glass Jar (Mason Jar, Pyrex, anything airtight to store your pads in)
  • Cotton Rounds from a drugstore

Now for the fun part! Gather all your supplies and get ready to make your final product (I know I am so nerdy that I get excited over something like this…)

my chosen ingredients

my chosen ingredients

Next, add the water and the rest of your ingredients (the oil, the cleanser, etc) all into one cup. Stir- the oil will separate from the water, that is just science, but try to mix it up as best as you can. Grab your glass storage container of your choice (making sure that it is clean obviously) and add about 5-6 pads to the bottom of the dry container. Now pour a small amount of your premixed concoction over these few pads– you will see the pads absorb some of the liquid. Keep alternating between adding small stacks of pads and adding the cleansing solution over the pads. By the time you are done you should used up most, if not all, of your mixture and the pads should be saturated and there should only be a little bit of liquid “floating around” down at the bottom!

This is after all the liquid mixture has been added and as you can see the pads are saturated and all you need is the lid!

This is after all the liquid mixture has been added and as you can see the pads are saturated and all you need is the lid!

Ta-da! And that is it! I was so excited to try my new makeup removing pads right away & am so happy to say that they did not disappoint! It was fun to create something of my own that I need to use daily and it was so easy because I just used everyday items  and products that I already have lying around.

the finished product in an airtight container!

the finished product in an airtight container!

Honestly, you can really choose whatever ingredients you think will work best for your skin as long as you have the water, an oil, and some sort of “cleanser/toner”. Experiment a little and let me know what you think/try!