Being new at something is never easy; there is always a learning curve. Take it from me. I’m new quite often, so I’m an expert. In 2010 I was a new Research Technologist assisting with various medical research projects. I started as a new Registered Nurse in 2013, transitioned into a new Nurse Practitioner in 2015, and by December of 2016, I was stepping into my role as a new Doctor of Nursing Practice. It’s almost as if I don’t want to be seasoned at anything. As soon as I perfect a craft I run away from it and aim higher. Consistently for several years now I have entered a career as a novice, dominated, and like clockwork, by the time I’ve conquered the advanced beginner stage it was time to move on to the next new nurse adventure! It’s my commitment issues that qualify me to teach you how to survive as a new nurse. It is survival of the fittest. Only the strongest can survive and if you have made it through your entire nursing program, fought through your interview and secured your first job then make no mistake…you have what it takes to survive! Let me tell you how…
Survival tip #1: Resume Independent Study
Nursing is a life long learning career. Your self-study will never cease. Be diligent. Get rid of the idea that you no longer have to study since you are done with school…No, no, no my friend! If you feel uneasy and incompetent at work then set aside time to study at home like you did during clinicals. Never be ashamed to make a mistake once. However, if you notice that you are consistently making the same mistake, then make a conscious decision to change. For example, if you failed at IV insertion three times this week then spend some time at home re-reading the chapter on IV insertion if you still have your textbooks or watch a YouTube video for further instruction. Ask to shadow someone on your unit who has a skill you’d like to perfect. “Hey, next time you have to insert an IV, may I watch you so that I can learn?”. Then once you have watched enough you’ll ask to take over and have them shadow you as you insert. Practice makes perfect. Make it known to your colleagues that you would like more practice with whatever skill you are struggling with and ask them to allow you to complete that task should it arise during that day.
Survival tip #2: Build your support system
Network with other new nurses. He/she is bound to know something you don’t and vice versa. You will each share your strengths and together you will both excel. Create study groups like you did in school if you feel it necessary. Also, your non-nursing friends and family may never understand the struggle of compassion fatigue or alarm fatigue, which causes you to wake up in a panic because you hear telemetry alarms in your sleep. Being able to talk to someone who understands is integral to your sanity and your success. If possible, prioritize applying for nurse residency positions. Everyone there is just as new as you are and they are all looking for ways to survive. Also, an integral part of your support system is a mentor. Find a seasoned nurse to confide in and ask for advice, but do not…I repeat… DO NOT overwhelm any one person. When you come with questions be sure to show that you have already thought about the answer. Share what you’ve come up with and ask for further direction. Never ask someone for help before you’ve even tried. It limits your critical thinking and stunts your growth.
Survival tip #3 Upgrade your Self-Care Game
Anxiety will be at an all time high and you will experience no shortage of stress, so self-care is very important in order to prevent burnout. Light an aromatherapy candle after work. Schedule frequent massages. Exercise and yoga are restorative activities. Meditation is great to renew your mind. Bubble baths are calming. I personally love travel! Be sure to make time for meal prep. Often times, we are so exhausted we neglect ourselves. We avoid grocery shopping and cooking which forces us to make unhealthy food choices. Don’t let this happen to you. Food prep at the beginning of the week so that when exhaustion consumes you, you are already prepared to nourish your hard working body appropriately. Finally, journaling is effective. Take all of your frustrations and put them on paper. This frees your mind.
Survival tip # 4: Eliminate those feelings of self-doubt
Keep in mind that you are not alone. Most nurses feel inadequate when they are new; they feel like they are the only ones who are having difficulty. Do not give up. This is just the process and you will overcome like all those who have come before you. There is no easy climb to the top. It all requires patience and sacrifice. Each person’s journey from novice to expert is quite unique. Create your own timeline. Never compare yourselves to others. That is the quickest way to depression or arrogance. There is no rush; Be patient with yourself. You will get it and soon you will be sharing your journey, teaching others to succeed and writing survival articles. You’ll be starting your own business and obtaining the highest-level degree in your field or achieving any other goal you have created for yourself.
At one point, I too felt like there was no way I was going to make it. But as a result of surviving, I’ve managed to climb the professional nursing ladder and have now reached the top. I now hold the highest nursing designation, Doctor of Nursing Practice; I am an independent contractor working a job that I love, and have several new business ventures on the horizon. It may not feel like it now, but you will survive! Do not allow fear and anxiety to imprison you. Live a limitless life. Don’t be afraid to be new. You were new in high school; you were new in college; and when you change jobs you’ll be new again. Conquer that anxiety that comes with being new. Survival is guaranteed and success is infallible if you put in the work it requires.
Brittany Price, DNP, FNP-C
Brittany Price, a Chicago transplant turned Los Angeles resident. Four time alumna of the University of South Florida, DePaul University, Olivet Nazarene University and the University of Miami. Doctorate prepared Nurse (DNP) entrepreneur currently working in correctional health as a nurse practitioner with a background in Med/ Surg nursing and Family Practice. Creator of a new and thriving blog site, DrNurseLA.com, and CEO of an upcoming organization called DrNurses.