Nurses who are new to the profession often face a variety of unique challenges. On top of the long hours, tremendous responsibility, stress, and demands of the job, there’s the fact that the health and wellbeing of others is literally in your hands. That can be a lot to handle, even for the most seasoned and experienced nurses, and the first few months and years on the job can often be a real learning experience.
As a new nurse, you may be wondering if all new nurses face the same hurdles as they learn the realities of the profession each day. It can be really beneficial for newbie nurses to hear the thoughts and confessions of fellow nurses, which can help them draw strength and wisdom from the community of dedicated nursing professionals.
Or perhaps you’re still at the stage where you’re thinking of becoming a nurse and are wondering if the realities of the job match your ideas about what you think it’ll be like. If this is where you are, hearing the stories of new nurses can be incredibly valuable and empower you to make the right decision about whether or not becoming a nurse is the right move for you.
Nurse.org recently released an article titled “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Nurse,” which contains a wealth of wit and wisdom from newbie nurses across the country. Use this valuable information to draw strength and gain new insights into the nursing profession.
Here’s a look at the 10 things these nurses discuss.
1. It’s okay that you don’t know everything.
Just as life is a series of discoveries and learning experiences, so is being a nurse. Be prepared to enter the profession not knowing everything—and realize that although you never will know absolutely everything, if you let yourself be open to learning and growing then each day on the job will make you a better nurse.
2. Be prepared to be on your own.
Although as a nurse you’re always a part of a system of healthcare professionals who each play a crucial role in ensuring that patients have access to a broad spectrum of beneficial services, you may be surprised to learn that you’ll have a great deal of autonomy when deciding how to tackle issues on the job. Trust your training and instincts, and ask for help from veteran nurses on your team if you need it.
3. Slow down.
Always remember that as a nurse, the decisions you make will have significant consequences on your patients’ wellbeing. Therefore, it’s always worth it to slow down and take the time to make thoughtful decisions. Although a crucial part of being a nurse is the ability to make quick decisions in the middle of a crisis, whenever feasible you should take the time you need to make sure you’re making the right decisions.
4. Show gratitude.
The environments nurses typically work in can be stressful and pressure-filled, to say the least. Helping to create a more cordial, pleasant, and positive work atmosphere—by always showing gratitude to your colleagues and patients—can go a long way towards making a difficult job a little easier. Showing gratitude can also help strengthen your professional relationships, which is always a good idea—especially if you’re new to the field and can benefit from the wisdom and guidance of your coworkers.
5. Your patients always come first.
If the nursing profession has a “Golden Rule” then this is it. Never forget why you’re doing what you’re doing as a nurse—to help serve the needs of your patients who are in mentally, physically, and emotionally vulnerable situations and are relying on you for help and care. It’s why you became a nurse in the first place, and staying true to this noble mission will help see you through each work day.
6. Be prepared to change.
Being a nurse is a life-changing journey—working in a field that encompasses such a profound life and death continuum will inevitable change you. If you stay true to your mission and let the job change you for the better, you’ll become a more empathetic, intuitive, and effective nurse.
7. Don’t forget to care for yourself.
This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many nurses who get so focused and wrapped up in taking care of the needs of others that they neglect their own basic needs—and when this happens it isn’t long before their ability to do their jobs effectively is compromised. Never forget that taking care of yourself will better allow you to take care of others.
8. A bad shift does not make you a bad nurse.
This can be one of the toughest lessons a nurse will have to face. No one is perfect and none of us have a completely error-free track record at work, but mistakes can be especially devastating for nurses because of the critical life and death nature of their work. Every nurse must learn that on-the-job mistakes happen, and the goal should be to make each mistake a learning opportunity along the road to being the very best professional you can possibly be.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Avoiding asking questions out of fear that you’ll appear ignorant or unprepared is a big mistake—don’t forget that no nurse, especially those who are new to the job, knows everything. The best way to learn is to ask questions. So be sure to push through any hesitancy that you may be feeling and ask questions when you need to.
10. Always listen to your patients.
In the daily rush and pressure of being a nurse, it can be easy to forget this basic tenet—but you shouldn’t. Don’t assume that just because you’re the professional that you’ll have all the answers regarding what your patients need. Asking them how they’re feeling, what they’re experiencing, and what they need and listening to them when they need to be heard will make every patient encounter better—both for you and for them.
There you have it—10 things veteran nurses wish they knew before they became nurses. Draw strength from their confessions, learn from their experiences, and move forward in your journey towards becoming the best nurse you can possibly be. Good luck!