7 Pieces of Advice Every Nursing Grad Needs To Hear
That very first year (or two) of nursing can be some of the most challenging and emotionally taxing years of your nursing career. You are thrust into an environment that is largely foreign — because come on, we all know nursing school is not capable of truly preparing you for the real world!
Right off the bat, you are expected to hold the lives of others in your hands. This is no small undertaking, and it's easy to beat ourselves up for not being the perfect new graduate specimen.
I had a difficult time as a new graduate, especially as my expectations of myself met the realities of the job. This made for very deflated and exhausting days. Looking back, I am so proud of myself for sticking it out and pushing through those tough years. Here’s what I learned during the process and what I try to tell every new graduate who is going through the same thing.
Treat Yourself With Grace
Being a new graduate is like learning to ride a bicycle. A bicycle with thirteen wheels, a drum set, and a crossword puzzle you must do all at the same time. Be patient with yourself and your mistakes. Treat yourself as a friend, and don't put yourself down when you're not as proficient as someone with 10 years of experience.
Getting Off Orientation Is Not A Race
If you are hired with other new graduates, it is common to look at them and feel like you are competing in the race of who can be the best new grad nurse. Who can take care of more patients with higher acuities quicker? Who will be let off orientation the earliest? Unfortunately, your work culture can perpetuate this, especially if managers start making comments that make you feel like you're behind.
Learn to decrease your sensitivity to this scenario. If others get off orientation sooner, fine. If others seem to be having more advanced patients, so be it. YOU must focus on YOUR journey and fill in the gaps YOU need. It's not about winning a race. We all have different speeds and strengths, and, trust me, in time they will shine.
This Doesn't Have To Be Your Forever Job
When I began my job as an ICU nurse, I signed a three-year contract that made me feel like I would be tied to the facility forever. I knew I really wanted to go travel nursing, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like. Some days are more difficult than others, but know that the way your life looks now — especially if you're having a hard time — doesn't mean it's going to look this way forever. Things are ever-changing. People come and go. Managers come and go.
If you already know you will be leaving the unit you're on, that day is going to come sooner than you think. Do your best to focus on each day as it comes, and to put your best foot forward as you step across the threshold into your unit.
Do Something That Makes You Feel Powerful
When I graduated from nursing school and began preceptorship in the Level I Trauma ICU of my hometown, I remember feeling so inadequate and so, so new. I needed something to counterbalance these feelings. So amidst the stress of precepting, I began teaching piano lessons. I had played piano for 10+ years, and teaching elementary school kids was something I enjoyed.
Teaching piano was also an excellent metaphor for what I was going through. I remember playing Für Elise for my little 7-year-old student when her eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She couldn't believe that such beautiful and harmonious melodies could come out of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." "How can I do that?!" she asked. "All it takes is practice and time!" Hmmm…you don’t say??
Pick something you enjoy and that you're good at, whether it's skating, basketball, painting, or gardening. But pick it up again and let it remind you that you are capable of getting good at things.
Get Yourself Some Self-Care Days
Self-care culture seems to be at an all-time high right now. Treat yourself, take yourself out, get massages, buy yourself some nice outfits. Get those feel-good endorphins pumping.
You Are Currently Building Empathy
One day, you will be teaching someone who feels exactly like you do now. Do not let bitter situations make you jaded. Don't let someone else's pain continue through you and onto someone else. Remember how you feel in this moment and give to others what you may be needing right now.
Get Out Of Town
Yes, maybe it'll take some time for you accrue PTO, but it doesn't need to be a month-long escape. About three months into your new job, take a long weekend and fly somewhere. Get a mental and physical break from your routine and do some activity that puts you in a different headspace. Then when you get back, start planning the next one in a few months. These little benchmarks will help you get through tough times!