People become nurses for many reasons. Usually, it’s a combination of compassion, a desire to help others, and the draw of a stable career with solid earning potential. For new nurses it is a challenging, yet rewarding career that most people choose to stay in for decades.
As the largest group of healthcare workers in the United States, there are always new nurses joining the ranks. Unfortunately, not all novice nurses can handle the stress of working in the medical field. The first year of nursing can be especially difficult, causing many new nurses to question what they’ve gotten themselves into.
If you’re getting ready to start your career and you’re feeling nervous, or you’re already feeling overwhelmed by life as a working nurse, take a deep breath. Every new nurse goes through this experience and you’ll come out on the other side better able to serve your patients. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a challenge—here are some tips to help make it a little easier.
Prioritize the People
Nursing is all about human connection. There will be a lot coming at you: patient records, miscellaneous tasks, and lots of cleanup. But when you boil it down, you need to make it all about the people.
To your patients, you mean so much. Not only do you take care of them, but you have the opportunity to make them smile and to feel less lonely. But prioritizing people in nursing isn’t just about the patients, either.
Your colleagues will have your back when things get tough and you need to reciprocate. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, circle back to focusing on the people and recenter your priorities.
Focus on Organization and Efficient Data Collection
Modern nursing involves a lot of technology and data collection. To keep track of all your workflows, you need to stay organized.
Errors occur when people are disorganized or not paying attention. Many hospitals have staffing shortages and you may have lots of responsibilities all at once, even as a novice nurse. You need to have a good grasp of the technology you’re using and why you’re using it.
Make an effort to learn more about the hospital’s quality management policies and data collection processes. Understanding how and everything works together will help you better perform your duties and collect data more efficiently.
Remember, Time Management is Key. Learn to Say No
Nurses are constantly busy and it’s important to learn how to manage your time well and set boundaries. Your colleagues will be all too eager to pile more work on the eager-to-please new nurse, which could quickly lead to burnout.
Start by learning how to prioritize your tasks and create schedules and routines at work. If you’re not sure which tasks are most important, ask one of your more experienced colleagues! Most people will be happy to help you learn.
You should also work on prioritizing your personal tasks. First-year nursing can be emotionally and physically exhausting and you might find that you’re not taking care of yourself if you don’t make an effort. Schedule out tasks like cooking for the week, exercising, meditating, and running errands so you don’t fall behind.
It’s also important to learn how to say no. You might feel guilty about turning down an extra shift or skipping dinner with friends because you need some downtime, but it’s important to get comfortable with prioritizing your mental health. Saying no is an important skill.
Lean on and Learn From Your Coworkers
As you learn the ropes in your new job, you shouldn’t be doing it alone. Chances are, you’ll have several experienced nurses who can take you under your wing. You might also have other new nurses to share the challenge with.
Lean on your new coworkers and work together to divide up the responsibilities. Ask questions when you need to. Every nurse has to start somewhere, and most nurses will remember how they felt in their first year and will be happy to help.
Get to know your colleagues and find your people. If you have other nurses you can trust on your side, gaining confidence in your career will be a whole lot easier.
Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.