Being a nursing student feels like the most difficult thing in the world, but being a licensed nurse is more difficult by far. You take on challenges you’ve never faced before.
You no longer have the security blanket of a preceptor hanging over your shoulder, and you don’t have the luxury of shortened shifts. In fact, you are on your own, and that can be scary.
Of course, your coworkers and charge nurse are always on hand, but the responsibility falls on your shoulders. Just the psychological impact of that thought is one of the most overwhelming facets of being a licensed nurse.
You can do it, though. Many have done it before you, and many will do it after you. You just have to know how to navigate the challenges that come with your change in status.
The first difference when you become a licensed nurse is the amount of patients you have. In nursing school, you may get two or three, but a licensed nurse is sometimes expected to take up to eight.
With staffing ratios what they are in some facilities, this is not a gross exaggeration. The weight of having a patient load four times what you are used to can cause overwhelming fear.
Some facilities give you a nice orientation where you can work up to this level, but some do not. When switching roles, you will often have to learn on the job how to deal with this many patients, and it can lead to frustration for the new nurse.
Although more patients equate to more responsibility, this isn’t the only area where responsibility increases. When you have a patient go bad, you must decide what to do.
Should you call the doctor or should you wait and see? Should you give PRN medications or should you call a code? What should you do?
You also have to be aware that mistakes are now on you, too. If you decide incorrectly and the patient doesn’t do well, you will be asked why you didn’t choose differently.
This means that the weight of a patient’s life is now on your shoulders, but that is the tragedy and the magic of nursing. You are responsible, but you can save lives, too.
Finally, you will have to learn about delegation as a licensed nurse. When you are a student, you are usually responsible for everything your patient needs.
This is because you don’t have that many patients, and you can take the time to provide total care. Many new nurses have a difficult time asking for help because of how nursing school teaches delegation.
You have to ask for help or you will drown. Ask your nursing assistant to help you, but don’t think of them as your slaves.
Ask your fellow nurses their opinions on patients, because their experience will help them make better decisions with you. You must delegate some of the work of your nursing responsibilities because no one can take it on all by themselves.
In the end, being a licensed nurse is far different from being a nursing student. It will definitely be a culture shock, but if you ask for help, pay close attention to your patients, and efficiently manage your time, you will be able to make the transition as smooth as possible.