10 Survival Tips for New Nurses

06/28/2017

Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN

Nurse author and coach shares her top 10 list for new grad RNs

By Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN, guest contributor

The first few weeks at your new grad RN job can seem overwhelming.

New shifts.
New co-workers.
New rules.
Not to mention that huge learning curve…

Fortunately, there are a few practical things you can do to stay focused, grow your skills and build your confidence—all while caring appropriately for yourself and your patients. 

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These are some of the top tips I’ve learned from years of precepting, coaching and working with new nurses:

10 top tips for new graduate nurses

1. Give yourself a chance to acclimate to shift work. 

Going from full-time school to 12-hour shifts and/or nights is challenging for anyone. Communicate with loved ones, plan your days off so you can maximize them, and try to make it so that all you do on the days that you have to work is eat, sleep and work.

2. Get to know your health care team members. 

Nursing is a team sport, and it’s hard to function as a team without rapport and trust. Put in some time getting to know everyone … from the nursing assistant, to the housekeeper, to the medical unit secretary, to the surgeon, to the physical therapist, your nursing colleagues, and everyone else. 

3. Do your homework.

Read up on frequently given meds, procedures, and disease processes that impact your patient population at home. New grad RNs soon realize that it’s hard to learn and absorb that information in the midst of a busy shift.

4. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. 

Every new nurse makes mistakes; no one is perfect. Please don’t set that unrealistic expectation that you’ll just do it right the first time, every time. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself very disappointed in yourself, when in actuality it’s normal to make mistakes and learn from them.

5. Become efficient at charting.

Spend time getting to know your charting system. The more efficient you are at utilizing the system, the less time you spend doing it. Fortunately, new grad RNs grew up on computers, so you may find electronic systems easier to master than some of your more seasoned colleagues.

6. Develop a routine. 

While every single shift will be different, it’s important to have a routine to follow for providing nursing care if everything is going smoothly. That way, when things come up and you get behind, you can look at the clock and know approximately where you should be to get back on track. 

7. Set your cell phone to military time. 

This simple trick helps new nurses get used to writing and thinking in military time, which is essential in charting and communicating with the health care team. 

8. Debrief tough shifts and situations. 

Some shifts fly by so fast you barely have time to learn anything. When this happens, make sure to process this with your preceptor so that you are able to learn all you can. Debriefs can also help you deal with stress, learn from mistakes and near-misses, and process the emotional aftermath of a poor patient outcome. 

9. Ask for specific feedback. 

When you’re working with a preceptor or another fellow nurse and they observe you educate a patient on heart failure, admit a patient, provide discharge teaching, or start an IV, and so forth, ask them, “What could I have done better?”  Specific feedback is essential for professional growth and it helps to ask for it directly, right after the observation.

10. Get a mentor.

Many hospitals provide a mentoring program, but if yours doesn’t, connect with another nurse who is not your preceptor. Ask if they’ll mentor you throughout the first year and meet with them on (at least) a monthly basis. Their support is invaluable during the transition from new graduate nurse to bedside nurse.

About the Author:

Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN, is a certified critical care nurse, author, national speaker and host of a podcast for new nurses. She owns and operates FreshRN.com, and has written five books, including her latest, Anatomy of a Super Nurse: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Nursey, published by the American Nurses Association in May 2017.

DISCOVER new grad RN jobs--or jobs for any stage of your career—at top facilities across the U.S. with NursingJobs.com.

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