6 Tips For New Nurses Who Feel Anxiety

5 Min Read Published December 17, 2020
6 Tips For New Nurses Who Feel Anxiety

Becoming a new nurse should be one of the most exciting times in your nursing career. You’ve overcome some hurdles, tackled some obstacles, and still passed the NCLEX

This is by far the “Year of the Nurse” right? However many new grads may be anxious and overwhelmed about their new roles and inevitably feel challenged by their lack of experience within the profession which may cause some anxiety.

Don’t be alarmed you’re not alone; in fact, these feelings are actually pretty normal. 

Most nurses report experiencing anxiety within the first few months of orientation or within their first year in the profession. Once you have completed orientation it can be pretty intimidating to be “on your own” this is typically the time many novice nurses can start to experience anxiety. If this sounds like you, just know that you're not alone.

Nursing is indeed a stressful profession that requires you to help in coordinating, planning, and evaluating the care of your patient’s medical condition during critical moments in which their health is failing them. For a novice nurse and even a well-experienced nurse, feelings of anxiety may arise due to the uncertainty of being able to obtain the best outcome for your patient. 


Why You’re Not Alone

My first year out of nursing school was by far the most intimidating stressful time for me even working with a preceptor.  I became anxious when I knew I needed to perform a task such as (starting my first IV) or procedure (performing a PICC line dressing change), pass medications (I would reread over and over again the 5 rights of medication med pass), and lastly when it was time to communicate with a physician about a level of status change in a patient. I never knew how much information I needed to provide and I couldn’t anticipate what orders would come next to take care of my patient. 


Although while in nursing school during clinical rotations, I always projected a more confident student nurse than I actually was but performing the task independently felt totally different. I was often time unsure of the task at hand and felt unnerved at the thought of patients, their families, and my instructor watching.

What worked for me early on? 

Self Confidence!  

I had to learn different techniques to control my anxiety, trust in my clinical judgment and also self-reflecting on my level of confidence. I needed to learn to be okay with asking questions and allowing myself to grow in my role as a nurse.

 Reassurance and validation felt normal for me until my preceptor reminded me that I was “ready to fly the coop and be on my own”. Finally on my own to set out a path that I was divinely favored to begin my nursing journey.

How to deal with Stress and Anxiety as a Nurse 

Anxiety defined is as the mind and body's reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. 

It also evokes physical symptoms such as feeling uneasy, nervous, dry mouth, knots in your stomach, and feelings of being overwhelmed before a significant event.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “People with anxiety usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns (APA, 2020)”.  

What are some causes of new nurse anxiety?

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  • New environment (new job) 
  • Learning how to adapt to the systematic approach on the unit
  • Time management/staying on task/prioritization 
  • Feeling needy or not competent in your  new role
  • Lack of confidence; fear of making mistakes 
  • Communicating with patients or families
  • Delegation of the task to other staff or colleagues
  • Communicating with physicians about patients  

Here’s the good news…..ALL of these feelings are NORMAL. 

Your orientation time and your preceptor are there to help guide you through these areas and become more confident and feeling safe in your new role. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! 

Lastly, don’t be hard on yourself, time and experience is simply the best way to become more comfortable, things will take time…..     

Here are a few tips for novice nurses to help decrease anxiety: 

  1. Get rest at least 6-8 hours rest at night: this will allow your mind and body to reset each day. 
  2. Planning your day in advance: this will decrease your level of anxiety by having a prepared and organized day, thus giving you some control in what is to come. 
  3. Breathe: stay calm, relax, and take a deep breath in/out. Learning how to regulate your breathing will decrease your heart rate and inadvertently help you to remain calm. 
  4. Talk it out: talk through the situation before it becomes overwhelming, with a trusted colleague, mentor, or preceptor. 
  5. Repetition: Perhaps asking to keep the same assignment whenever possible to increase your familiarity of expectations, care, and improving upon your relationship with the patient and their interdisciplinary care team.
  6. Take care of yourself: Always remember; in order to take of your patients it’s important to take care of you…..Enjoy a spa day, stretch, do yoga, meditation, and eat healthily.

Here are a few techniques to control anxiety

  • Understanding your triggers: What were your feelings at that moment? You may have a hard time pinpointing an exact cause and that’s perfectly fine.
  • Journaling, writing down “what happened” and what you were feeling in that particular moment; focus on the BEST case scenario of the situation instead of the WORST case.   
    • Example: What if this does happen, what’s a logical way to deal with the situation (it’s not the end of the world) Be optimistic is key! 
  • Tailor your situation to you: Do what works for you. Understand that all coping techniques will work for everyone; therefore use your methods and ways of dealing with the anxiety that helps you. What you are experiencing is real and this may not work for everyone else.
  • Debrief with a trusted support group: During difficult moments that bring the most anxiety try debriefing with a colleague, charge nurse, supervisor/manager. Define what happened, what went wrong/right, the outcome, extenuating factors, and what could you have done better. Be open to receiving constructive feedback to help strengthen your craft. 

The Good News

These are temporary feelings in a permanent situation. As you grow in your role and begin to feel more comfortable and confident; you will trust yourself more and these feelings will gradually fade away. We all have been there and today we can help one another get through this.  


Ali’ce J. Haskins, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC

Motivational Speaker/Nurse Empowerment Coach 

With over 20 years of nursing experience and instruction, Nurse Haskins began following her passion to mentor, empower, and teach nursing students strategies of how to bridge the gap between “failure and success” and how this is viewed by students and nurses through inspiration and motivational speaking on her social media platform; being “Nurse_Haskins”

She firmly believes that “The beauty of life begins with purpose”.  If you follow your passion, you will find your purpose! You can follow her: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter 

Ali'Ce Haskins
Ali'Ce Haskins
Nurse.org Contributor

Ali’Ce Haskins MSN, APRN, CME-C, FNP-BC, better known as “Nurse Haskins”, inspires nurses and nursing students through her motivational journey and success advice. She started as a CNA and moved up the nursing ladder from CNA to LPN to ADN to BSN to MSN. Today, she’s a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner who loves what she does. Nurse Haskins is on a personal mission to empower others to not only follow their dreams but, to teach them how to obtain advanced nursing degrees without living a life in debt! Published author and founder of Nurse Haskins, PLLC, this influential motivational speaker has hosted nurse empowerment events and sponsors an annual nursing scholarship in honor of the life of her son. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube @nurse_haskins

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