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!)

 

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…

View original post 3,493 more words

A Typical Day as a Mother/Baby Nurse

I have been a postpartum nurse for about 2.5 years now. Just to clarify, I absolutely love my job and love what I do. As with all nursing, it can be extremely stressful, which is why sometimes a little humor is necessary. I love my patients and what I do and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This post isn’t made to belittle my patients or be negligent, it is simply meant to be an outlet for some humor that I am sure some other postpartum nurses can relate to! Enjoy!

1. When you first walk onto the floor and there are already 10 call lights going off and you just know it is going to be a good shift.

yay!

2. You see your name on the assignment sheet for the first admission…

and it’s a primip c-section, insulin dependent on a PCA…

3.Your patient has large pendulous breasts and flat nipples but insists on breastfeeding without a shield or pump.  She does want your help… until you start helping and she does her own thing, which happens to be exactly the opposite of what you were trying to tell her.

well this is exhausting

4. Then there is the patient whose husband is telling her how to breastfeed and acting like the certified lactation expert…. but doing it all wrong and clearly offending the patient

since he’s the “expert”, i’m just going to leave now…

5. “Im allergic to acetaminophen, motrin, toradol, oxycodone, I can’t remember the name of the one I’m not allergic to but it starts with a D…

let me guess. Dilaudid is the only thing that works right?

6. When your patient s/p vaginal delivery with a 1st degree lac will not get OOB due to 10/10 pain and your brand new c/s patient is walking the halls like a champ.

I understand pain is subjective and different for everyone but you are not dying, please please get out of bed!!

7. When your patient asks you if you are even a nurse because  you you look old enough to be in high school…

my badge says RN, BSN. Yes I wen’t to COLLEGE for 4 years for this degree.

8. The patient who rings the call bell 2 minutes after you leave their room just as you sit down to chart and 20+ times through your shift to ask for little things like ” a cup of water” or “turn the light off” or “adjust the bed” (which are patient controlled)….

I really don’t mind helping you but I do have other patients to take care of who need my help too!

9. To the patient who tells you she had the most MISERABLE labor ever and that she is so exhausted and can’t do anything and that her whole birth plan went to waste (But in her history and records it was a relatively normal delivery with no complications)

it actually really does stink that your birth plan didn’t work out the way you wanted and I feel for you but I have no control over how your labor went and how your baby wanted to come out.

10. When you find out you have a normal intact couplet with no social issues and a healthy baby…

Thank you thank you thank you!!

11. Your baby is grunting, flaring, retracting and satting 90-92%,  and you call for someone to evaluate but NICU thinks its “just transitioning” and is fine…

I will document that crap out of this.

12. “Please take my baby to the nursery for the night so I can sleep I am so exhausted. But no pacifiers and no formula. And I want at least 4 hours of sleep”

hahahah you’re funny

13. You walk into your patient’s room and her husband/FOB is in his underwear, JUST his underwear.

way uncalled for, this is a hospital for God’s sake!

14. Your patient obsessing about having a BM… literally obsessing, but refusing a suppository.

TRUST me it will happen.

15. But at the end of the day, despite all the hard work you get to punch out, go home and go to sleep!

hallelujah! Until next shift!