Getting started in any career path can feel intimidating at first. But when it’s a fast-paced, challenging career like nursing, you might feel the pressure even more. Nursing is a fulfilling and stable career path, but getting through your first year can take perseverance as you learn the ropes. It has been especially hard during the pandemic and many nurses will agree that the profession is changing.
Whether you’ll be working in a hospital, a long-term care facility, a doctor’s office, or even in many different settings as a travel nurse, you need to be prepared for some ups and downs in your first year as a nurse. Don’t get discouraged and remember these 5 tips to help you gain the skills and confidence you need for a long and happy career.
Seek out Help From Mentors
Nurses are usually compassionate and incredibly helpful people. It’s important to stay humble in your first year and defer to colleagues with more experience than you. Seek out help from mentors whenever you’re feeling lost or intimidated. More than likely, someone will be more than happy to answer your questions or provide advice!
Don’t feel silly for asking questions. At the beginning of your career, it’s normal not to know everything! But if you let self-consciousness hold you back from asking questions or seeking guidance, you might end up making dangerous mistakes that affect your patients.
Remember, however, that other nurses are busy. Nurse educators are often the best resource for first-year nurses who need help. They’re experienced in helping novice nurses succeed, so if you have access to a nurse educator, take advantage of that resource!
If you work in a facility that’s short-handed, be mindful of which questions you ask and when. If it’s something minor, wait until things are a little calmer. If it’s a question that could affect a patient’s safety, however, go ahead and ask right away.
Find Helpful Ways to Manage Your Stress
There’s no point in sugarcoating it: nursing is a stressful career! You might be pulled in several directions at once, juggling patient care and paperwork, or dealing with difficult people. That’s why it’s so important to prioritize your mental health from the first day on the job. Fortunately, you can grow as a nurse if you follow the right steps.
You need to find stress management techniques that work for you. Many people find that getting exercise and movement throughout the day is helpful, but if you’re on your feet all day, you might find meditation or listening to soothing music on your break to be more helpful.
Managing stress also involves maintaining healthy habits. Journaling can be helpful for letting go of the day after work so you can relax. You might also find that yoga before you head to work puts you in a good headspace. Make sure to maintain a healthy diet and bring energy-boosting snacks with you to work.
Figure Out What Makes You Happy
Depending on your work situation, you might have the opportunity to work with different types of patients during your first year on the job. Pay attention to which tasks are the most interesting and fulfilling for you. Do you like working with elderly patients? Or do you prefer the challenge of caring for young children?
Figuring out what you like most about nursing will help you create career goals for yourself. It will also help you to take advantage of future opportunities that will be the most rewarding for you. Follow your interests!
Continue to Develop the Skills You’ll Need to Advance Your Career
As a novice nurse, you have a lot of learning to do. If you want to advance your career in the future, you might also want to consider developing some additional skills or even earning an advanced nursing degree so you can become a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse manager.
Use your first year in nursing to think about your career goals, including the salary you want to earn in the future. What skills and education will you need to achieve them? How long will these programs take and are you willing to go back to school? Getting some practical experience will help you make these key decisions.
Be Patient with Yourself
You learned a lot to earn a nursing degree. But there are lots of skills you can’t learn in the classroom, and others you need to practice over and over. Be patient with yourself and try not to get frustrated when you have trouble with something. You won’t be an expert right away—you just need to keep trying!