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5 tips for new nurses

Not only did you diligently plow through all your required courses, but you also passed the licensing tests and landed your first nursing position.

Now comes the challenge of applying all your hard-earned skills to your new job.

Nursing can be stressful for the novice, says Samson Omotosho, PhD, who also is an RN and an online instructor in the nursing program at University of Phoenix. “The new nurse comes with a lot of knowledge from school, but what is lacking the most are the skills and the attitudes that help on the job.”

Here are five tips to help new nurses make the transition:

Find a mentor.

Many organizations assign mentors to new nurses, but if that isn’t the case at your job, it’s critical to ask an experienced nurse to mentor you, Omotosho says.

“Take the time to get to know the staff,” he encourages, “to be sure you choose someone who demonstrates the type of expert knowledge that you need, and who is well respected and savvy about the organization.”

Know the extent of your job.

It’s up to you, Omotosho emphasizes, to fully understand what your job duties entail.

“Carefully read over your job description and commit it to memory,” he advises, “because your job description not only defines the expectations that your employers have of you, but it’s also a boundary to make sure that you are practicing within the scope of your particular nursing license.”

New nurses who want to do well from the outset, he adds, should also pay attention to the policies, guidelines and handbooks of their units or organizations so they’ll know how things are done — and not done.

Get to work early.

“It’s advisable for a new nurse to show up 15 minutes ahead of when her shift is supposed to begin,” suggests Gemma O’Donnell, MSN, who also teaches in the nursing program and works as a case manager for Medicaid.

This extra effort on your part, she notes, puts you slightly ahead of the game at the start of your shift. “The nurse who is going off duty will likely be appreciative of your gesture,” O’Donnell adds, “and your early arrival will give that nurse ample time to share the status of each of your patients with you, without having to rush.”

Chart as you go.

“Even though it can be difficult for a new nurse to stay on top of charting each of your patient visits in between your rounds, it’s important to learn how to do this,” O’Donnell stresses.

You’ll find that it’s usually the nurses who get behind in their charting who wind up having to work late and skip meals, she says. “Make a point of incorporating charting into your regular routine as soon as you begin your job,” O’Donnell recommends, “and soon it will become easier.”

Be flexible

Be flexible.

If you’re asked to work on another floor or to fill in for someone who is absent, try to be accommodating, O’Donnell advises, though it’s key to only accept patient assignments within your skill set and for which you are appropriately trained.

“Managers and supervisors love people who are flexible and are willing to step up and help,” she notes. “And it will be well worth the effort to gain their respect, even if it might seem challenging to you to work in an unfamiliar ward.”