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-new-with-questions

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?

xo

Hannah

(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!)

 

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.

xo

Hannah

18 Important, Career-Saving Things I’ve Learned In My Two-And-A-Half Years Of Being A Nurse

Thought Catalog posted one of my first and favorite blog posts!

Thought Catalog

Shutterstock / Minerva StudioShutterstock / Minerva Studio

It’s truly amazing how quickly time flies by. It feels like just yesterday when I barfed in the bathroom of the building I took the NCLEX in only to find out three days later I passed the exam, becoming an official “registered nurse.” Me, Hannah Josephson, RN.

That was two-and-a-half years ago now, but who’s counting? Compared to many nurses, that’s just a blink of an eye, I am still a “new” nurse and I still have many years of nursing ahead of me. I know that. But I also know that there is a wealth of knowledge I’ve gained in these past 30 months. Here’s what I have learned and these are my advice to you.

1. Get a good pair of shoes.

Let me tell you, you will be on your feet more than you will be off of them, and one of the…

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