What Your First Year of Nursing Is Really Like


Four first-year nurses tell their stories and offer advice for new grad RNs

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

The adjustment from nursing school to bedside practice involves overcoming challenges, mastering time management and developing confidence, according to four first-year nurses who recently spoke to NursingJobs.com.

New nursing graduate Clara Gonzalez, RN, BSN

“The first year was crazy, but the best year it could be, because I gained so much experience,” said Clara Gonzalez, RN, BSN, who works on a med–surg–telemetry unit at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. “I’ve gained confidence that I can care for a patient.”

Christina Smith, RN, BSN, an intensive care nurse at Orlando Health-Health Central Hospital in Ocoee, Florida, called her first year chaotic, fun and very rewarding. “I enjoy when patients start to improve and get better and you get validation from the patient and family,” she said.

Steve Mountjoy, RN, at Memorial Hospital Pembroke, Florida, said he was a little hesitant in providing patient care at first, but now is in training to become a charge nurse.

“I love nursing,” he said. “I am so happy with it.”

Not quite a year since graduating from Florida State University’s nursing program, Lauren Ross, RN, BSN, feels confident in her position on the intermediate care unit at Holy Cross.

“The majority of the time, 99 percent of the time, I absolutely love it,” Ross said. “It’s a rewarding career.”

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Finding that first nursing job

Mountjoy had worked as a patient care technician at Memorial before becoming a nurse and had a position waiting for him. He took some additional hospital classes, particularly reading the monitors and taking appropriate action, and spent three months with a preceptor.

Gonzalez found it somewhat difficult to find a job, but her perseverance paid off. After graduating, Ross weighed five job offers after taking the NCLEX.

“I stuck with my guns and ended up on the day shift at the hospital I wanted,” Ross said.

Smith received several offers, but just a few nursing jobs truly appealed to her, including Health Central with its residency and the opportunities in Florida.

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Florida State University nursing grad, Lauren Ross, RN, BSN

Early lessons as new nurses

Holy Cross held an additional allure for Ross--a nurse residency program at a Magnet hospital. She received a 10-week orientation and time to share experiences with the other new hires.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “It was the smartest way to transition into the field and taking on the role of a registered nurse.”

Ross realizes that split-second decisions about what to do next--for instance, whether to call for help or try a PRN medication--fall to her. She once had three codes in one day and had to stay extra hours to complete all the documentation. “You are expected to know a certain level of nursing care,” she said.

The greatest challenge for Ross was adjusting to the 12-hour shifts. At first, she would go home and crash. Now, she has adjusted and may even exercise to reduce the stress level.

Gonzalez found it hard to manage her time and to delegate at first. But now she easily prioritizes, putting anything to do with patient safety first.

At Health Central, Smith has learned to pay more attention to the psychosocial aspects of patient care and how people feel about their treatments. Learning about herself has been a hallmark of her first year; she has discovered how to manage the stress, set limits and get a handle on work–life balance.

All of the nurses have enjoyed making friends at their first nursing jobs.

New grad RN Christina Smith called her first year chaotic, fun and very rewarding. Photo credit: Orlando Health.

These first-year nurses’ advice for new grad RNs

•    Absorb as much information as possible from your preceptors, Mountjoy encourages new nurse graduates.

•    Do not give up and stick through it, advises Ross. “Doing bedside nursing for at least a year gives you such an advantage.”

•    Ask questions and listen, suggested Smith. “People are more than happy to help. It shows people you are willing to learn.”

•    Spend a year on a med–surg unit, be a team player and take every opportunity to gain new knowledge, suggested Gonzalez, who cautions people not to go into the profession for the money.

“It’s a job that takes a lot from you and you have to give it a lot,” Gonzalez said. “The reward is knowing you did your best to take care of a patient, and that patient is grateful your keen eye or intuition saved that person’s life.”


DID YOU KNOW that new nurses can apply for travel nursing jobs after a few months of experience? Contact one of our staffing partners for more information.

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