Tips to Surviving Your First Day as a Nurse

nurses in their scrubs

Becoming a registered nurse is one of the hardest things to do. It takes an immense amount of dedication, patience, perseverance, education, and commitment. It requires long hours of studying, tests, and clinicals. For four years you live, breath, eat, and sleep nursing, and, when it’s time to finally graduate, you feel like a superhero. You could conquer anything!

Your elation is quickly plagued by doubt when you set out to get your first job. Are you really prepared to be a nurse? Will your potential co-workers and bosses respect you? Did you answer that medication question correctly? Will patients trust you? Are you likeable? Ugh! So many questions, so few answers. Just breathe. You are ready.

Finally, you get the phone call you’ve been waiting for. You got the job! (Insert Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch. Yeah, you feel that good.) Almost immediately, that pesky uncertainty is back. First-day on-the-job jitters are on the horizon. Here are a few things that can get you prepared and a bit more relaxed on your first day as a registered nurse.

Alleviate Stress with Preparedness

You’ve probably had an orientation before your first day on the job, so you should already have some insight into what you’re required to have with you upon arrival. Relieve stress by getting everything together the night before. Plan meticulously from the time you go to bed to the minute you walk through the door at your new job.

  • The night before, select your lucky scrubs, and grab your comfortable and sensible nurse shoes and lay them out. You’re already stressed about every aspect of this new journey; don’t allow the stress of last minute details add to it.
  • Assemble all the necessary paperwork, identification, forms, and so on that you’re expected to bring in with you on your first day. There is nothing worse than that Did I forget something? feeling, so don’t give it any room.
  • Similarly, plan out your breakfast in advance, so you can quickly and easily make it in the morning. This is essential. Nurses work long hours – an average shift of 12 hours – which often lead into overtime. With these demanding hours your body needs fuel. In addition to a large and healthy breakfast, pack your lunch and on-the-go snack items the night before.
  • Nurse essentials. You’ll need note pads, pens, and highlighters in addition to your stethoscope. Have a nurse go-bag with all your essentials, including a change of clothes and extra scrubs, (you never know what can happen). This way, after your hearty breakfast, you can just grab your already packed lunch, toss it inside your go-bag with all your paperwork essentials, and be out the door in a flash.
  • Get a full eight hours of sleep the night before your first day. Often anxiety can make it difficult to sleep, so besides being prepared, be good to yourself. Meditation may help remove these anxious feelings. Being well-rested is vital to your job skills, your judgment, and your performance.

Keep Calm and Do What You Know

  • Know your workplace. Whether you’re in someone’s home, a clinic, or a hospital, you need to know the layout. You should be able access laboratories, operating rooms, supply closets, emergency rooms, and more, quickly and easily. This also pertains to your co-workers; their names, appearances, and contact information need to be front and center in your brain.
  • Know your job description like the back of your hand, what are the policies, procedures, and job duties for your workplace?
  • Learn the paperwork. Study the various forms you will be responsible for filling out and what information you’ll need to do so. What computer systems does your workplace use? You will have time to learn these systems, but the faster you can learn and use them, the better.
  • Be cognizant of your bedside manner. Your patients probably won’t know it’s your first day. They are your customers, so be sure you’re putting their needs first. Properly engage with them with respect, and consider what information should be delivered privately.
  • Prioritize your patients for your rounds. This task requires critical thinking, and you need to strategically manage your rounds to safely and effectively assist all your patients.

Exercise Responsible Caution

Miscommunications can happen, and that can lead to mistakes; be sure to minimize yours by always talking with your patients. Confirm verbally with them all information gathered from monitoring equipment and reports from your co-workers. Check the charts and verify the information, know their medical history and allergies, understand their diagnosis, and check for special instructions.

When administering meds, always follow the Five Rights of Medication Administration: the right patient, right drug, right dose, right route, and right time. While there is much to learn and remember as a nurse, keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your work knowledge won’t be, either. Do your best and prepare where you can.

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