Tips for First-Year Nurses

NursingDecember 11, 2018

As an online nursing school student, you undoubtedly know what pressure feels like. You will have learned a great deal about yourself, your ability to focus, and your ability to absorb and internalize important information. Clinical rotations will give you hands-on experience, helping to prepare you for your first year as a nurse.


But, to be honest, your first year as a nurse is unlikely to be a breeze. Nursing school may have seemed demanding, but working your first year under real-world conditions may feel a bit like flying through the air on a trapeze — without a net. The sense that one false move could end in disaster is not unfamiliar to new nurses. But nurses are an intrepid bunch; stalwart, steady and eager to serve. If you have graduated from nursing school, there is little doubt that you can handle whatever the workplace throws at you.


That said, though, it may be helpful to consider the following tips for getting through your first year as a nurse without losing your grip on the trapeze swing.


Red Pill/Blue Pill


Remember the iconic scene in the film, The Matrix, where the protagonist is presented with a life-altering decision to make? Choose the blue pill and return to your life of pleasant illusion. Choose the red pill, and the true nature of reality is revealed, no matter how uncomfortable.


Think of nursing school as the blue pill. While demanding and occasionally stressful, nursing school is one thing; manageable, orderly, predictable. But the real world of medicine is another entirely. As a first year nurse, you will essentially be forced to swallow the red pill and experience the true nature of nursing in all its occasionally uncomfortable splendor.


Whether you attend an online nursing school or a physical campus, the ultimate goal of school is to prepare you to take and pass the NCLEX-RN. Your first year as a nurse will serve as your real-world training ground for actually becoming a nurse. Prioritization and time management will become the hard lessons of the moment. Flexibility, critical thinking, and staying focused under pressure are lessons that cannot be adequately taught in school. Your first year will definitely provide ample opportunities to learn these important lessons.


Humility and Wisdom


As a newly minted nurse, there will inevitably be a certain measure of self confidence. You may even imagine that you have some things to teach your fellow, more-experienced co-worker nurses. Here is some useful advice: Respect these more experienced nurses and be willing to learn from them with humility. They are founts of wisdom, gleaned from combined decades of experience.


In the real world, your academic achievements and test-taking prowess count for precisely zero. What counts is your ability to cooperate, learn, pitch in and avoid making costly mistakes. Note that a willingness to learn and to cooperate are crucial. You may have graduated at the top of your class, but no one likes a know-it-all. Resist the urge to be that person. Rather, be humble and willing. That is all that your fellow, more-experienced nurses, will really ask of you.


Do Not Imagine You Can Rest On Your Laurels


If you have earned your BSN, you may imagine you are now a highly qualified nurse and your days of endless learning are finally behind you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Medicine, more than just about any other profession, is constantly evolving. Advances in best practices, procedures, technology and techniques will always be emerging and impacting the practice of medicine. Accordingly, the one thing that will not change is the need to stay current.


Continuing education is a fact of life for nurses. But that is a good thing. It means that medicine is always striving to be better and more efficient, and you get to play a role in manifesting those improvements. The term baccalaureate (the “B” in “BSN”) derives from the ancient Roman practice of adorning heroes with crowns made of sacred laurel leaves. To “rest on one’s laurels,” then, literally means to stop striving for new achievements.


As a nurse, you will never be able to rest on your laurels. Rather, you will need to seek to refresh, renew, and update them, keeping your crowning achievement — and your career —evergreen.


Stay Positive and Stay Focused


Being a first year nurse is challenging, but as a nurse graduate, you clearly can handle more than a few challenges. Try not to get discouraged. Stay focused, and remain positive. As long as you are trying, your fellow nurses will have you back. Before you know it, you will be the seasoned nurse that new nurses turn to for advice, encouragement, and wisdom.