Reply To: New Nurse – growing pains??

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Sue B.

You’re not alone! We’ve all encountered situations in our first year that would curl your hair!
I had a similar situation – In my first 3 months I was put in charge of a 42 bed head & neck surgical unit. My first night shift was as the only RN working with 2 LPNs and a Medic. Naturally, it was also a baptism by fire, as it was also my first experience with a jugular blowout situation. My patient’s cancer decided it was the perfect night to eat through his jugular. Never saw so much blood in my life. Amazingly, the patient was still coherent. I asked one of my LPN’s to please just call all the surgical docs not just the intern as I knew they’d just run it up the chain anyhow. All three showed up on the unit grumbling about why they’d been paged. Then they walked in the room and did a double take. Asked a few questions, stepped out into the hall and had a huddle. Mind you, I’m standing in my white uniform with a nearly a pack of gauze holding pressure on an exsanguinating patient, and praying they will impart some great directions for me. Hopes were dashed when they came back into the room and actually said to me “You’re the ENT nurse, just do what you think.” Yep. I promise you, that’s what they said. My first words after the shock subsided were “Excuse me?!” They repeated it. Well, I couldn’t very well stand there in the middle of the room with my patient right there and say “I’ve only been an RN for 3 months! What do you mean, do what I think?! ” So I threw out some suggestions, and got to work. I coordinated with my LPN’s and Medic. And he actually made it through my shift and got to visit with his family for the day, before he bled out later that day while he slept. I’m telling you what, that was the most difficult shift of my life! I was completely overwhelmed, but tried hard nonetheless to meet my patient’s needs.

So don’t think you’re alone! My best suggestion is to make sure you have the information & resources you need to do the job. Speak with your nurse manager about the availability of any training for charge you could attend, and make sure you take the time (even though it is wicked tedious) to read the policies of your organization. You don’ t have to memorize them, but get familiar enough with them that when a situation arises that you’re not sure how to handle, it raises a red flag so you can refer to policy when needed to help guide your decisions.

I know it’s scary to do this so close to starting your job. It is completely normal to feel what you are feeling, but you will be okay. The first year is almost always this way for new nurses working in a clinical environment. A few years from now, you’ll actually be glad you had this experience to learn from. Hard to believe now I know. Just keep asking questions, and using every opportunity as a way to learn more. Talk to your manager about any concerns or to seek clarification. Hang in there, it will get better!

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