Tips for Recent Nursing Graduates

In Career Advice, Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nurse
October 20, 2016


Congratulations! You have made it through nursing school, passed the NCLEX exam, and now finally have the privilege of putting those two, hard-earned letters, “RN”, after your name. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, early morning clinicals, all-nighters, and grunt work have brought you to where you are today. You have researched your job, figured out your salary, and learned about the hospital you will be working in. You have prepared yourself well — now all that’s left is to begin training and take the first steps in your career.

Being a new nurse graduate can be a very exciting time in your life, but it can also seem daunting. If you are fresh out of nursing school and beginning the healthcare career you’ve always dreamed of (and thought would never come) but you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at these tips to help you prepare for the next steps in your nursing career.

You Don’t Have to Know Everything

You have worked tirelessly for years trying to learn as much about nursing as you possibly can. However, when you finally start working, you may become frustrated with yourself every things you don’t know or tasks you have yet to perfect. Remember to go easy on yourself — these things take time.

Like many jobs, what you learn in school helps tremendously, but the best experience you will gain will be on-the-job training. You will be shocked at how much you’ll learn during your orientation period and from your preceptors and nurse managers. Also, most nurses will tell you it takes about a year or two to learn the best ways to handle situations. Relax, give yourself some slack, and remember that even the most experienced nurses were once in your shoes.

Stay Positive

When you are first starting out, it is often easy to become frustrated and focus on the negative. You are often exhausted, the shifts are long, and you may barely get the chance to sit down. Patients might be rude to you, or a doctor may treat you unfairly — but don’t let these things get you down. Focus on the positive.

Think about the patient that said kind words to you, or focus on everything you learned that day. Some nurses recommend keeping a journal to write down encouraging things said by patients, doctors, and fellow nurses, and pull it out when you’re feeling discouraged.

Be Both Humble and Flexible

While you have to stay positive and focus on what you know, recognize the need to be humble and willing to learn from more experienced, veteran nurses. Those nurses have worked long and hard to earn their roles, so understand that they might have a better way or a faster way to do various tasks.

The experience you gain from being willing to learn new things and new specialties will pay off in ways you may not recognize at the time.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions; oftentimes, by asking questions you and the person you’re asking both benefit. Questions can also prevent mistakes.

Show Initiative

Don’t be content to focus solely on what your usual tasks are – seek out new opportunities. If there are procedures you are interested in, talk to your preceptor or nurse manager about getting that experience, whether it needs to be done elsewhere or can be observed on the job. Show that you have a real willingness to go the extra mile and learn new skills. Though it may take time, that attitude will be acknowledged and rewarded over time.

Remember That This is Your Dream

Above all, remember this is what you have worked so hard for and you are finally getting the chance to put your knowledge to practice. Initially, it is common to feel uneasy and think that maybe this isn’t the career path for you — but remind yourself that this is what you have dreamed of for so long. Think about why you chose this career in the first place. You have a heart for taking care of others and this is what you were meant to do. If it is not what you expected at first, keep telling yourself that it will get better.

If you get frustrated or discouraged, don’t give up on yourself or the institution, thinking you made the wrong job or career choice. Change can be frightening, and you need time to adapt to your new role as a professional, rather than a student.  Experts say it can take six months to a year to feel part of a work situation.

Nursing is one of the most challenging hospital careers, but it can be extremely rewarding. If you are a new nursing school graduate, it can be easy to feel inexperienced, uncertain, or scared. Remember to be easy on yourself, stay positive when things get difficult, and remind yourself that you are in the right career.

Are you a nurse that has tips for recent graduates in the field? Leave them in the comments below!

Advance your career. Change your life.

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