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10 tips for your first week on the job

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You studied harder than you ever thought possible, cramming thousands of drug names and diagnoses into your brain. You survived the NCLEX and the anxiety after the computer went black. Then, you landed the interview and dazzled the nurse recruiter. Just when you thought the butterflies finally migrated out of your stomach, it’s time for you to start your first week on the job!

Never fear—these 10 tips will help you ace your first week of being a nurse while staying cool, calm and collected!

1. Arrive early
Take some extra time to look through the charts of your assigned patients. This can help decrease your anxiety. Also, being aware of lab values can clue you into any big changes.

2. Give your boring scrubs some creative flair
Splurge on a cute lanyard to display your new ID badge! Just make sure it breaks away to avoid a harmful accidental tug on your neck by a patient.

3. Sweat the small stuff
When talking in multidisciplinary rounds or to a discharge planner, explaining the big picture is essential. But, as a nurse, comforting patients on the small stuff—say, relieving abdominal cramping—is ultimately your nursing responsibility.

4. Challenge yourself
The sickest patients will teach you an array of things. Use the opportunity to learn from your preceptor in those tough situations.

5. Research your questions
If you need data on anything from drugs to anatomy, check out these apps for nurses for clinical information at your fingertips while you’re on a coffee or lunch break. Just remember to be aware of your facility’s rules about mobile phone use on the job—and follow them!

6. Be clear about expectations
Depending on which shift you’re working, different responsibilities will fall to you. Speak up to be sure you’re getting the right tests done and filling out any necessary paperwork for that shift.

7. Follow up on certifications
Is there a certain amount of time you have to get ALS certified? Ask your nurse manager when to get certified to be prepared for anything.

8. Pack the right snacks
Got a 12-hour shift? Be prepared with healthy snacks—otherwise you’ll head straight for the vending machine! Keep small, quick and portable eats in your purse for a pick-me-up when you’re tired. Remember to stay hydrated; just because you’re taking care of others doesn’t mean you should forget to take care of yourself! Ice water can help you stay awake and is a better alternative to coffee.

9. Stay away from gossip
By doing a job well done and staying on top of charting, no one will be able to say anything bad about you. Don’t get involved with the unit gossip.

10. Be confident
As a new nurse, you will be overwhelmed at first, but it’s nothing you can’t handle! Ask questions, get involved and enjoy your first job in this profession of saving lives!

Alison Lazzaro is currently pursuing her BSN at The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College). She wants to become an RN in either oncology or the operating room, and will begin taking master’s courses in the fall.

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