New Nurse – growing pains??

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    Profile photo of wingding

    Ok – so I’m a new nurse <1year. Working on Acute Psych Care unit & suddenly find myself charging due to a sudden decrease in experienced nurses. I find myself in charge of situations that feel WAY out of my league – often go home to cry myself through my days off. Is this typical for new nurse to feel so overwhelmed? I get the job done the best I can at that moment, go home, try to formulate plans on how to handle better & go at it again. Not sure if I am just “growing nurse balls” or just being a wimp???

    Profile photo of Mary Shell
    Mary Shell

    You’re not a wimp. It’s very hard to help people with mental health issues and not get caught up in the emotions. Take a deep breath before you respond to anyone. There’s a very good technique to use for therapeutically helping patients to move to more healthy decisions. It’s called Motivational Interviewing and it’s easily learned. You can google the book. In the mean time, I’d talk with your supervisor about some inservices or classes for management positions. If your problems are with staff the classes should help you learn how to motivate and lead. I’ve been a psychiatric nurse for 30 years. The first few years were hard. Now it’s easy but you have to learn to not take anything personally. You’ll get it, don’t give up.

    Profile photo of Sue B.
    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!


    You are so not alone. Unfortunately, because of economics we nurses are put in very compromising positions. Most units these days have to work from a very strict matrix based solely off of the census and not off of acuity at all. So, we end up putting more and more work off onto the new graduate nurses.
    The positives are that you obviously have a very good head on your shoulders and a born leader. The negative is that after the new healthcare (affordable care act) goes into full effect we nurses will once again feel the full brunt of it…middle management and LPN’s will be reduced if not eliminated, making more work for the remaining nurses, the nurses who have been seasoned will look for other avenues to serve in as well.
    Things will improve, but we will be in for a bumpy ride for a while I think. Above all else…you are not alone.

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