Nursing Orientation: 10 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Time
By Kathleen Colduvell RN, BSN, BA, CBC
Starting a new job? Nurses fresh out of nursing school aren't the only ones who struggle with nursing orientation. Nurses who change specialties and even seasoned ones can get first-day jitters.
Orientation can be overwhelming, but it's designed to ensure all nurses receive consistent information regarding policies, procedures, and documentation within their new healthcare facility.
When You're A New Nurse
Generally, nursing orientation will pair an experienced nurse with a relatively inexperienced nurse in order to facilitate this. The orientation process is then overseen by a clinical nurse expert or a nurse educator within the department.
Orientations can last for as little as a few weeks on a medical-surgical floor to several months in an ICU. It is during this orientation process that a new-to-practice nurse will learn both in a classroom as well as on the unit floor. Hospitals structure orientations differently based on the needs of the unit; however, as with most things in a hospital, orientation can and will be unpredictable.
Nursing is extremely detail-oriented and a new unit can be daunting. As a new to practice nurse, I wish someone had told me things to remember and be prepared for.
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Nursing Orientation
- Nursing school only teaches the basics. In fact, it covers only a VERY small percentage of real world nursing.
- Orientation is overwhelming. Be mentally prepared to feel like you’re sinking.
- Classroom education will only take you so far. Straight A’s in the classroom do not always translate to solid nursing abilities.
- Always ask questions. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t understand something or know how to complete a task.
- Observations are worth a thousand words. Try to observe as much nursing care as possible, even if it isn’t your patient.
- You don’t have to do it all on your own. In fact, delegating tasks is a sign of great leadership.
- Prioritize your learning. Learn the most common drugs on your floor: generic name, actions, side effects, and so on.
- Don’t be a doormat. Know that sometimes it is okay to say no.
- Speak up. Touch base with your clinical educator and ask for a new preceptor if your current one is not a good fit.
- Find a good support system. It’s okay to cry and ask family and friends for support and guidance.
Still feel unprepared for your first day of orientation? That’s okay. Most nurses are never truly prepared. The following tips can help make your orientation as smooth as possible while reducing anxiety and stress!
Be Prepared and Get Organized
Start waking up earlier each day or staying up later each night to prepare for the long shifts.
- Have your uniform ready the night before!
- Pack a healthy lunch and snacks the night before.
- Ask if you need to obtain your own stethoscope.
- Know which certification cards you need to bring the first day (ie PALS, CPR, ACLS)
- Complete all necessary paperwork and/or online educational offerings as required.
- Review any information relevant to your nursing specialty.
- Look over onboarding information sent from the hospital which may include managers names.
- Study the hospital’s webpage to find key information such as cafeteria hours, parking locations, and unit specific information.
- Download helpful medical applications to your cell phone. Be aware, some hospitals do not allow cell phones in the units.
Meet, Greet, and Remember Names
Try to meet and remember as many names and faces you can prior to starting on the unit. Take notes about doctors, nurses, and support staff to help maximize the number of people you know. Seeing familiar faces can help reduce first day jitters.
- Ask to meet with schedulers on the unit. Discuss policies for taking time off and vacation availability. Get any known requests in ASAP.
- Seek out new educational opportunities.
- Stop talking! Listen to others and their experiences. It will be more helpful than sharing about your life.
All the Extra Stuff
- Bond with fellow new orientees.
- Identify the nurses that can act as a resource once off orientation.
- Don’t be scared to speak respectfully to physicians and advocate for your patient.
- Document in the here and now. Don’t wait until the end of the shift.
- Gather all supplies before entering a patient’s room.
- It’s okay to mess up but remember what went wrong and don’t do it again.
Nursing orientations can last for months and sometimes it will still not feel like enough. Understanding your limitations is important in succeeding in orientation.
Ask questions, take the time to look up information regarding a patient’s disease process, and always seek out those on the unit that can help you achieve your goals of becoming a successful new nurse.