When you become a new nurse, it can be easy to get anxious about getting everything just right and carrying out your job role to the very best of your ability. As you may well know, working in a hospital is an extremely high-pressured environment which you may not be used to, meaning learning to stay calm and put strategies in place to deal with your new surroundings is a must.
Taking the leap from being a nursing student to professional isn’t easy, so if you’re in need of some help and advice to survive your first year in nursing, you’ve come to the right place. This blog provides several useful tips to help set yourself up for a successful career in the nursing field.
1. Find a mentor
Going out into the world of work for the very first time can be terrifying, especially when you’re starting in a new career. It may be the case that you’re in need of a helping hand to get off on the right foot. If your workplace doesn’t offer a mentorship program, it would be a good idea to try and find a mentor for yourself.
If you have recently started a new position and work with a nurse that you believe acquires all the skills you’d like to develop, observe them closely as to how they go about their work on a daily basis. This acts almost like silent mentoring, which isn’t necessarily informing you what needs to be done, but instead, working out how you could go about your role through intuition.
This style of mentoring isn’t for everyone, so instead, you could aim to find a mentor who could give you verbal advice on how to carry out your job role effectively. This would be ideal for nurses who prefer to learn from instructions through the act of training; therefore, participating in regular meetings would be an ideal arrangement.
2. Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to in the early stages of nursing. There are no dumb questions, so make sure you always ask someone in-the-know if you’re unsure on anything at all. As you are fully aware, new nurses have so much to take in, that it’s important to ask for help and advice every now and again whenever you need it.
Rest assured, no-one will expect you to know all of the answers straight away, so don’t put pressure on yourself. Most of those in higher positions will be happy to answer queries, rather than crucial mistakes being made. You may also find that asking questions will help you retain the information given to you for future reference.
3. Keep learning
Although you may have already carried out some form of nursing training, you should never stop learning about your field. Of course, you need to have the necessary soft skills and inner passion for being a great nurse, but you also need to be up-to-date academically in order to feel expert in your role.
While you may not have time to go back to college or university, there are accredited RN-BSN online course which can be carried out to fit around your full-time job. Those who qualify in the course learn skills such as critical thinking, patient advocacy, professional ethics and the principles of servant leadership to improve patient outcomes and community health. The whole course is based entirely online, meaning you can study whenever suits you, as there are no set lectures to attend. Continuous study will certainly allow you to grow as a professional and advance your career.
4. Aim to work well in a team
Although your role will largely depend on your personal responsibilities for delivering good patient care, you also need to work well in a team with your colleagues so that the shift runs smoothly. Connecting with those you work with will also make the change much less stressful and far easier to cope with when things get tough.
Working well in a team is a crucial skill in most industries, but even more so in nursing when human health is the concern. Therefore, offer your help and assistance to others whenever you can and put forward your own thoughts and opinions on what to do if you’re in a position to do so. Being approachable is also a vital skill as a nurse in the interests of the patients, who put their trust in you to be there for them in their most vulnerable state, while your colleagues will also like to know they can ask you for assistance whenever they need to.
5. Take it slow
When things get hectic and work, and your stress levels are soaring, it’s a natural reaction to try and push yourself harder to do more. It may seem like the best way to get everything done but going too fast could lead you to make big mistakes, which you simply can’t afford to do. Even when you feel you’re losing grip, don’t rush. Keep calm and carry out your duties at your usual pace and you’ll find you won’t get as stressed or anxious.
6. Get organized
Good organization is a valuable skill for nurses, as it will help manage your day-to-day tasks without feeling too overwhelmed. Some useful tips to take into consideration include grouping your tasks together so you can be more efficient throughout your shift and making notes of what needs to be done either on paper or on your smartphone. All nurses work differently, so it’s all about finding what works best for you.
7. Eat well
Your shift patterns are likely to be sporadic, which makes it more difficult to eat as well as you would like. What you eat can have a direct impact on your stamina, energy and performance levels, so it’s crucial you choose foods that give you bursts of energy and don’t burn out halfway through the shift, or you’ll start to feel flat and extremely tired.
It’s common for nurses to miss at least one of their mealtimes due to the lengths of their shifts, so it would be a good idea to pack a few healthy snacks you can eat when you have a few minutes spare. This will help keep your energy levels up before you are given an allocated food break to eat a proper meal.
8. Drink enough
Don’t fall into the trap of relying on coffee to help keep you awake during overnight shifts. While it’s an effective method of battling fatigue and giving you the extra burst of energy you may well need, too much caffeine can leave you feeling severely dehydrated. In order to stay awake in the early hours of the morning, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water whenever you get the chance.
9. Get enough sleep
Working through the night can interrupt your natural sleep pattern, which means you have to try and schedule when to sleep around your working hours. Many new nurses find it a struggle to sleep during the day before their evening shift, so you have to try and make your bedroom a place you want to relax in. One useful tip would be to purchase curtains or blinds make the room dark and be sure to turn off electronics that keep your mind active. You may also find that earplugs will help you nod off by blocking out sound from outdoors and an eye mask will shield any other chinks of light from your vision.
The National Sleep Foundation advises that nurses should aim to keep the same sleep schedule continuously, even on weekends, so the body gets into a natural routine of when it needs to be awake and when to unwind.
10. Take time for yourself
Nursing is a vocational career, which means your life may feel completely consumed by your work, even when you’re not there. While you may love your job and don’t mind spending most of your time at work, it’s still important to take time out for yourself every once in a while.
Shift patterns can be tedious, so aim to schedule time on your days off to see friends and family, partake in hobbies and do a bit of traveling to new places to help take your mind off work pressures. Doing so will help refresh your body and mind so that you can go back onto the ward with a much more positive attitude.
11. Stay active
During night shifts especially, it’s likely you’ll experience drowsiness and fatigue in the early hours. It wouldn’t be a good idea to carry out monotonous tasks around this time of day, in case mistakes are made.
While you may simply feel like crashing out, it’s best to keep yourself active to recharge your energy levels. You don’t have to do anything too strenuous – a stroll to the café or slow walk outside the premises to get some fresh air would be sufficient at break time.