10 things I learned from my first year of nursing

Nursing is crazy! I’ve been sharing as many nursing insights, jokes, and eccentricities with you as I could over the last two years on Mighty Nurse. I’ve now been a nurse for two full years. As both a personal celebration and another story for you to read, these are ten of the most important things I’ve learned (and you probably have too) in my nursing debut!

1. It’s not as easy as it seemed. I remember when I was a CNA. I looked at the nurses, not having to do all the code browns, ‘just’ passing out medications, and thought they had it cushy. I was wrong! Nobody has it cushy.

2. You have to be fast. I figured that as a new nurse, I would slowly take my time to do everything correctly and thoroughly. I ended up staying hours after my shift finishing up. I quickly learned that not only do you have to do everything right, you somehow have to do it fast.

3. You’re always on a team. You are nothing without your fellow nurses! How do you learn to be fast? How do you overcome the horribly inadequate preparation that was called nursing school? Your fellow nurses mentor you, support you, and improve you much more than any instructor.

4. There really are no stupid questions. Ask anything. If you don’t know something like the back of your hand, just ask – and don’t apologize. I’ve job interviewed potential nurses, and one of the best signs of a great candidate is that they aren’t afraid to ask questions. Ask doctors, ask bosses, and of course, ask your fellow nurses.

5. This is a big responsibility! It falls on you like a ton of bricks. If I mess up – this patient can die. I can lose my license. This is a serious job. It makes you straighten up a little bit, and a little scared too. But it will also make you careful and thoughtful of your actions.

6. Own up to mistakes – don’t cover up. Notice I didn’t say ‘avoid mistakes.’ Because that’s impossible. You’re going to make new nurse mistakes – actually, you’ll be making mistakes for the rest of your nursing career. The most important thing is to be honest. Of all the nurses I’ve seen fired, 90% tried to cover up their mistakes. Better to be written up than lose a job!

7. Embrace your style. Every nurse has their own style. Some nurses take a ‘hard-ass’ approach to their job. Others are sweet and motherly. And there’s everything in between. Figure out your style and stick with it – as long as you’re taking your job seriously you’ll be just fine and patients will still love you.

8. You don’t like this job. I doubt most people liked their first nursing job. Most probably don’t even like the field of nursing they start out in. Luckily there are options. There are nursing jobs out there that barely resemble traditional nursing at all, and that’s okay if that’s what you like! This is the time to see what’s out there and job hop a little bit – you don’t want to do it later.

9. Don’t follow the crowd. There are a lot of practices, attitudes, and habits that you’ll be exposed to when you dive into your first job. Don’t ever forget to think for yourself and for the patients – sometimes ivory tower nursing taught in textbooks is the right way to go. Think about what you’re doing – and throw out assumptions and peer pressure.

10.There’s nothing like experience. Lastly – none of the above will mean anything to you without experiencing it yourself. That first year or so is rough – but by the end of it, you’ll look back and realize that’s just how it had to be. There’s no getting around it, you’re better now for it, and thank god for the people who helped you through one of the scariest times in your life!

Does your first year sound similar? Are there any more insights that you’ve collected when diving into nursing? We’d love to hear them!


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