After years of burning the midnight oil to muscle and brain-power your way through nursing school, you have finally passed your board exam and are now a legitimate member of the noble and prestigious nursing profession.
Here are 10 of the most important things you need to know when you enter the nursing world on your first day at work and as you fulfill your daily duties for years to come.
1. Understand Your Role and Take Ownership
Whether you’re a seasoned nurse or just starting your nursing career, you must already know that along with your title comes the inevitable need to let go of a few special privileges that you’ve once enjoyed in the past. That includes choosing what to wear on a daily basis and taking restroom breaks whenever you feel like it.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Nursing has many facets, of perks and quirks, that were not included in the nursing manual back when you were still in school, yet you’ve signed up for them as soon as you took your oath during your pinning and capping ceremonies. And the list goes on as you get further exposed to more situations during your entire career as a nurse.
2. Stay healthy
Being a nurse involves taking care of patients on a daily basis and you’ll be exposed to different medical conditions and caregiving tasks that may include heavy lifting and plenty of running. Make sure you practice health habits by taking vitamins, getting sufficient sleep and exercise, and taking preventive measures to combat germs and viruses you may pick up in your place of work.
3. Invest in comfortable shoes and clothing
If you’re a fashionista, now is the time to kiss your designer Italian leather shoes or killer stilettos goodbye as well as part ways with your distressed skinny jeans and show-stopping top. Your daily workwear has already been limited to scrubs and comfortable shoes so you can move freely and quickly. Invest in a good pair of scrubs and sneakers (or customized nursing shoes) exclusively sold in nursing stores to protect your feet and body for the long haul.
4. Taking the Time to Care for Yourself
Your shift will not be the same every day. Some days, depending on the patients you’ve admitted, your shift will be smooth and stress-free. Fortunately as nurses we have come up with several new ways to deal with the stressors of nursing. While taking care of critical patients, you may find yourself crunched for time but you know your rights as an employee should always have time for bathroom breaks and meal breaks. California has a missed meals/missed breaks rule and penalty fees in place to curb this so it’s important you not only do your job to the best of your ability, but also care for yourself.
5. Embrace change and have the motivation to learn new things
The medical profession is a dynamic field that constantly changes as newer knowledge is learned, a better system is implemented, and more cutting-edge technology is discovered. There are several new learning opportunities for nurses whether that be travel nursing, attending conferences, or staying up to date with new computer software, or nursing best practices. Have the initiative to learn the new patient care system set in place by your work so you can perform your job with more ease and confidence all the time.
6. Be Kind and Caring, There’s No Such Thing As An 8-5 Here
In the nursing world, a twelve hour shift is the norm so it is important you take care of your health so that you can have enough energy to make it through the day. You are a caregiver so you need to give care with genuine compassion and undivided attention to your patients. Don’t come to work with a grouchy attitude. If you have issues at home that are clouding your mind, you must leave them at the door when your shift starts. Don’t take out your anger and frustration on your patients. They are in your facility for a reason and that is to get the tender loving care from the medical staff especially from their attending nurse.
7. It’s Not The End Of The World
Even if you’re having a toxic day at work taking care of the most frustrating patients that you’ve ever encountered in your entire career as a nurse or dealing with the most unsupportive and annoying people in your area, you have to take a moment and compose yourself. Get in front of a mirror, take a deep breath and smile. Remind yourself that your shift will end, anyway, and tomorrow will be a better day.
8. Stay Up To Date
Some old-school nurses do not like technology because they’re used to the good old days when systems were implemented in a simpler and uncomplicated way. Translation: No computers. But as the medical profession becomes more innovative, cutting edge technology that constantly changes is inevitable. Take classes, get certified, and be mentored. Stay up to date with what’s going on in your specific field. It will make your job easier and keep you advanced, ready for the next level.
9. Learn to multitask
Nursing is not a routine. You don’t come to work, do the same tasks from A-Z and then thank your lucky stars when it’s time to clock out, hoping to get refreshed so you can come back the next day and do the same things all over again. There are no steps. Some days you might even do five things all at once not even thirty minutes after you clocked in. Make sure you’re ready to multi-task without losing focus.
10. Enjoy your work environment
There are only 24 hours in a day and you get to spend more than 12 hours of your life every shift at work which may be at least four days a week. You might as well love your work environment including the people that you work with. Treat them as your second family. Be a team player. Make sure you’re always a joy to be with whether you’re dealing with your fellow nurses, doctors, housekeeping, technicians and administrative people. They are your home away from home so make your stay with them a pleasant experience. If however, you do not like your work environment you could always try life as a per diem nurse.