Congratulations! You have successfully completed your nursing program, passed your boards, earned your license or certification, and landed your first nursing job. When you start to feel the inevitable first day jitters, take a deep breath and remember all that you have accomplished. Every nurse has felt the same apprehension as you are experiencing when he or she began his or her first job. Remember, you have trained and prepared for this day, so you have the tools you need for success. To help you along, here are some tips and advice from nurses who have successfully completed their first year.
Make a Great First Impression
While it seems like common sense to be immaculately dressed and groom as well as to arrive on time for your first day of your first nursing job, if you are rushed because you overslept due to anxiety keeping you up late, then it is easy to overlook details. Try you best to stay relaxed by doing some deep breathing exercises before you go to bed. Additionally, avoid caffeine, which, as you know, interferes with your sleep rhythm. Plan to leave early in the morning to avoid being late because of traffic jams. When you walk into work relaxed, smiling, and have a positive attitude, you are sure to have a great day.
Connect with People
Whether your first nursing job is in a hospital, nursing home, or doctor’s office, you are now part of a multidisciplinary team and cooperative collegial relationships are vital. Introduce yourself to everyone you meet, and when you have time, ask them about what they do and their role on the team. Connect with the other nurses in your workplace since they are an invaluable source of support as well as insight about the work you are doing.
Another aspect of establishing relationship with your co-workers is taking time to learn the culture of your workplace. If you did your training in a nursing home and you are now working on a pediatric floor, you will notice a definitive difference in the way the medical team, as well as the support staff, interact with each other. A great way to learn the culture of your new job is just to observe the way people work with each other and with patients. For example, in a med/surg unit, you might see the staff interacts rather formally with one another, while a pediatric unit is much more playful and relaxed. Even if the culture of your new workplace is casual and informal, remember that everybody still takes his or her duty seriously, so you need to do so as well.
Establish a Strong Relationship with Your Mentor
Typically, you will be assigned a mentor or preceptor who will guide and support you through your first year at your nursing job. Think of him or her in the same manner as your advisor in your nursing program. While you certainly want to demonstrate your skills and knowledge as you work, avoid coming across as a “know-it-all,” or you will miss some valuable insights from you preceptor. When you have questions, take them to you mentor, if possible, and follow your mentor’s directions. If you make a mistake, admit it, and do not act defensive when you are corrected since it will make others reluctant to help you in the future. Most of all, express gratitude to your guide for his or help during your first year working as a nurse.
Commit to Life-Long Learning
Of course, you know that you need to take continuing education in order to maintain your license or certification, but you also need to make a commitment to learn every aspect of your jog as well. Chances are your orientation will mostly consist of training in policy and procedures in a classroom setting; however, you will soon discover that what seems simple in a classroom becomes complicated quickly when you are working with patients. If you have questions about policies and procedures during your shift, ask your mentor if he or she is available. Another option is to check with one of the veteran nurses on your shift. While you might feel vulnerable admitting you do not know something, it is much better than making a serious error. Remember, even the nurse who seems to know everything about her work started in the same place you are now…starting her first job in nursing. Additionally, make time to review the policy and procedure manual on a regular basis.
Set Goals for Yourself
During your first year working as a nurse, you are likely to feel overwhelmed with your work duties and everything you need to learn about your new job. If you moved to a new community to work at your new nursing position, you will also need to get used to a new home environment and making new friends. Even though it might seem like you have too much to do, chances are if you establish goals and prioritize your task, soon you will find both your work and home life much more manageable.
At Your Workplace
When you are working, your number one priority is the care of your patients. If you are doing documentation and a patient calls for you, the patient’s needs come before the paperwork. If you find a particular patient difficult, one of your goals might be to find a way to make working with them easier. Another work related goal you might have is to learn how to be a valuable asset to your team. As you feel comfortable and gain confidence in your new position, offer to cover shifts if your unit is short on staff. Toward the end of your first year, another work related goal is to help new nurses as they join your team.
During Your Time Away from Work
When you are not working, your first priority is to take care of yourself. If you are working long shifts, one of your priorities is to make sure you get enough sleep and maintain a regular exercise routine. Another goal might be to eat a balanced diet, since you will likely be tempted to grab something quick without considering the nutritional value of what you plan to eat. Of course, you also need to make time for some social activities to have fun and relax.
While you have much to learn during the first year working as a nurse, you will find that the time will pass quickly and you will soon gain confidence in your skills as an experienced nursing professional. Good Luck!