My first year as a nurse was easily the hardest and most rewarding of my nursing career. Your first year of direct patient care comes with a lot of challenges. You are now independently responsible for someone’s life. You take care of the patient, their family, and more than often forget to take care of yourself. I learned so many valuable lessons that will change how I practice nursing for the rest of my career and I call them The Ten Nursing Commandments:
1. TRUST YOUR ASSESSMENTS
This one is huge. If people chart that the lung sounds are clear and you hear crackles, do NOT chart clear sounds! Your assessment is your assessment. Trust it! If you need validation to feel secure, then ask a colleague to confirm your assessment. Moral of the story is to stick to your own assessment and not what others have charted.
2. NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
I guarantee you that everyone on your unit has once asked for help. Situations can escalate really quickly and help is necessary. As a new nurse or healthcare professional, it is normal to feel like you need to do everything on your own. This is not realistic. Swallow your pride and ask for help. Everyone is a team.
3. IF SOMETHING DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT, IT IS PROBABLY NOT RIGHT
Listen to your gut! That sinking feeling in your stomach is there for a reason. In these moments, take a deep breath and think things through. Reference your hospital’s policies and procedures if you need to! Moral of the story is listen to your gut.
4. RESEARCH YOUR QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU ASK
Instead of asking established nurses on the unit how quickly a medication can be administered, try researching it yourself first. Reference the policies and procedures instead of your colleagues. Medicine is dynamic. Establishing this as your routine at work will help keep your work up-to-date and you will become a wonderful source of knowledge!
5. ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION
It is easy to play the “this or that” game during a shift. If you are stuck questioning whether something should be escalated to the nurse manager or the healthcare provider…always escalate it. We are dealing with human lives. Caution is necessary.
6. IF YOU DIDN’T CHART IT, IT DIDN’T HAPPEN
This is why I have started writing everything down! Sometimes the computers freeze and sometimes you don’t have time to chart until the end of your shift! Cover your butt by putting pen to paper and chart EVERYTHING as soon as you can! This is the golden rule of nursing.
7. TAKE YOUR TIME
Seasoned nurses and healthcare professionals have their skills and time management figured out. It takes time to build this muscle memory and comfort with your profession. Do not race with other nurses. Go at your own pace and focus on the little improvements made shift-to-shift. I promise you will one day be at the level of the seasoned nurses!
8. CREATE YOUR OWN HEALTHY PATTERNS
Having been a nurse a year, I have seen lots of different styles of nursing. There is the do only what needs to be done nurses, the over achiever nurses, and the I’m just trying to get to the end of my shift nurses. It can be frustrating receiving a patient from a minimalist nurse if you are an over achiever nurse. Stay true to yourself. If you walk into an un-stocked patient room, don’t leave it un-stocked intentionally for the next nurse! Develop healthy habits of going above and beyond early so this becomes your standard of nursing care.
9. DRESS TO IMPRESS
No matter how tired you are, throw on your nicest set of FIGS, throw your hair up, and get to work. Dressing to impress isn’t just for you…it actually gives the families peace of mind. I have been in multiple code situations where poop has hit the fan, yet you would never know it because of my appearance. Families seeing this composure immediately get peace of mind, even if you are going crazy on the inside!
10. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
You are learning and improving every single day whether you realize it or not. Becoming an incredible nurse or healthcare provider does not come over night. It comes with hard shifts, difficult lessons, tears, and frustrations. But it also comes with patient giggles, a tough work family, and the feeling of knowing you’re making a difference in peoples’ lives. Embrace the small victories, learn from the defeats, and take care of yourself too!