Congratulations! You’ve earned your degree, nailed the licensing exam, and you’re ready to practice as a nurse. You have a rich and rewarding career ahead of you, but there will no doubt be bumps along the way, especially during your first year. It can be intimidating, at times even overwhelming, to transition from life as a student nurse to a full-fledged professional. Even though it may seem daunting, don’t be discouraged! We’ll give you some helpful tips and tricks to help you survive — and yes, thrive — during your first year in the field.

Always Ask Questions

Believe it or not, asking questions is one of the best things you can do to manage your first year in nursing. As you’ve probably heard before, there is no such thing as a stupid question. So just ask! It’s far more important to ask a question than to guess and place a patient’s health at risk. Also, feel free to ask someone else for help. Your fellow nurses know that you don’t have a lot of experience yet, and they have the same common goal you do — providing excellent patient care. Remember, experienced nurses are just as busy as you are, so remember to ask for help politely! Offer to help others, too. A little give-and-take always works in relationships.

Watch, Listen, and Learn

You’ve passed your boards, so you know just about everything there is to know about nursing, right? Not so much. You’ve studied an impressive amount of clinical and professional information, but some things can only be learned when you’re finally in the real world. Avoid starting off with a “know-it-all” attitude. Be sure to watch, listen, and learn from your more experienced colleagues. They have a lot of their own tips and tricks to pass along to you, but they definitely won’t agree to share if you begin your career acting like a know-it-all. Give other nurses the respect they deserve, and you’re more than likely to get the extra help and knowledge you need to be successful. You’ll gain respect, too, which makes this approach a win-win. But don’t rely on others for everything. Research symptoms, treatment protocols, and clinical developments on your own. There are many continuing education and learning opportunities available through your employer and online, so keep an eye out for them.

Be Organized — All Day (or Night) Long

Organization is key to maintaining your sanity during your first year. Susan, a nurse-blogger who works in a burn unit in New York, remembers her early days in the profession and emphasizes the importance of good organizational skills.

“I highly recommend figuring out a system for you to take report and include all the information you need,” she wrote on her blog. “Try a few different methods and choose one that works for you, then keep it consistent.”

Making organization a daily goal applies to all settings in which you work, anywhere from a hospital to an outpatient clinic in which you use your clinical skills. The better organized you are, the easier it will be to make it through your day. And learn to prioritize. Take a cue from triage and make it your habit to quickly rank tasks in order of their importance. Follow protocols, but make it a point to distinguish between patient care tasks that must be addressed immediately and those that can wait if necessary. Lastly, do your best to be proactive about efficiency. If you can complete small steps ahead of time, it will help things move much more smoothly.

Stay Motivated & Positive

Nursing is such a tough job, and sometimes it’s emotionally draining, which makes it tough to stay motivated especially in the heat of starting a new career. Donna Cardillo, a well-known nurse author who wrote “Your First Year as a Nurse,” emphasizes that surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people can help you remember the bigger picture of why you became a nurse.

Another important note to remember is to: “Take time each day to focus on the positive,” Cardillo states in her blog. “What did you learn, how did you help someone, what challenging situation did you get through?”

Keeping a journal of positive notes, sayings, or experiences with patient and coworkers can help you feel more positive and motivated when the going gets tough.

Take a Break

Last, but definitely not least, take a break whenever possible — that means when you’re working and when you’re not. Allow yourself to use the restroom during your shift (so many nurses get caught up in their work that they don’t!), power yourself with nutritious food, and stay hydrated because your health is important, too! Even a short (healthy) snack break can make a difference in your physical and emotional well-being. And if you really don’t feel like you have the time, then go back to tip number one and ask for help. Outside of your workplace, attend staff events to make new friends and unwind. Making connections with your fellow nurses will help you in the long run (remember the give-and-take of asking for help and giving it). Also, make a point to schedule your vacation time. You’re going to need a break to fully relax, and you deserve it! Planning vacation time will also give you something to look forward to after the demands of nursing life.

We hope these five tips help you survive your first year in your nursing career! We want all of our award- winning staff at Eisenhower Medical Center to have the challenging but rewarding experience they deserve. If you’re interested in joining our team, apply today!

Originally posted on 26/9/2016

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