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20 tips for nurse noobs

szefei | iStock

szefei | iStock

Stepping out of your student nurse shoes is much tougher than your teachers lead you to believe. Upon completion of your nursing program and successfully passing your national certification exam, you would think things might get a littler easier? Nope. Sorry.

Starting that very first nursing job brings a whole new set of challenges. Here are 20 brief tips I think every nurse “noob” should read as they start their nursing journey:

  1. Get used to being scared; it’s your best ally.

  2. Ask more questions than you answer.

  3. Don’t ever fake it. If you don’t know something, tell someone. It’s OK.

  4. You have to earn respect; don’t just expect it.

  5. Avoid all gossip. If you want to gossip, go back to high school.

  6. If you’re not early, you’re late. Timeliness is next to godliness.

  7. Write everything down. You will forget 80 percent of what you hear. (“What you do not keep in your head, you will keep in your feet.”)

  8. When you want to run: Stop, walk and listen. If you hurry, you will make a mistake.

  9. Put your own mask on first. Take care of yourself before you take care of others.

  10. Learn how to say NO to overtime. Learning your job does not require living at your job.

  11. DO NOT rush orientation. Make your mistakes with your preceptor.

  12. It’s OK–in fact, it’s expected–that you make mistakes. Don’t dwell on them; learn from them and don’t repeat them.

  13. Find a mentor. Your mentor may NOT be your preceptor.

  14. Surround yourself with people who love your profession. Don’t let the naysayers ruin it for you.

  15. The grass is NOT greener on the other side. Don’t be too quick to play the job hopscotch game.

  16. Grow a thick set of skin, and do not back down when advocating for your patient.

  17. Become a premiere team player. You cannot and will not survive this job otherwise. Play nice in the sandbox.

  18. Thank all those who help you, including the transporter, the aide, the secretary and the housekeeper. Remember your TEAM.

  19. Never apologize for doing your job…and that includes calling a physician in the middle of the night.

  20. Never stop learning something new, ever. Seek it out. Pursue knowledge and career advancement. Contribute to the growth of our profession.

 Care to add to the list?

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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16 Responses to 20 tips for nurse noobs

  1. brittanys

    Thank you for posting this! I start my first “real” nursing job on Monday, and I am excited, but completely scared out of my mind!

    • Scrubs Staff Scrubs Blogger

      Congrats and good luck on your first day, brittanys! You’ll have to come back and let us all know how it went!

  2. con-angel

    Don’t just dismiss the older nurses or staff personnel you can learn lots from them.. whether LPN, older RN, nursing assistant or just the occasional patient you might encounter.

  3. tleonard

    Great tips. I precept this summer and hope to take the nclex in the fall. Nervous but extremely excited!

    • Scrubs Staff Scrubs Blogger

      We’re so glad they helped you, tleonard. Good luck this summer and on the NCLEX in the fall!

  4. mimic1983 LPN

    I loved these tips. I interviewed for my first RN position on Monday. Still waiting to hear from them. *fingers crossed* I am both excited and nervous to start my new career though I’ve been working as an LPN for a year. One thing I might add: Really listen to your patients. Sometimes, you learn critical information just by giving them your undivided attention.

  5. NurseGlynda

    Don’t listen to anyone who warns you “Nurses eat their young!” It’s a fallacy. If you find yourself in an environment that is hostile to new nurses, FIND ANOTHER ENVIRONMENT! This is the reason so many new nurses turn tail and leave. There are so many of us who are thrilled to pass on the baton to new grads.

  6. Carol in Missouri

    Great advice! #1 is great. To add to #12, our Pharmacology Instructor in LPN school gave us my favorite piece of advice- “Any nurse that tells you they have never made a mistake is a liar or just out of school and hasn’t worked long. The worst mistake is the one that wasn’t caught. Be mature enough to admit you made a mistake, notify the correct person to nullify any damage and then, once it is over, figure out what caused the mistake and how to avoid making the same mistake again.” Now, go on for your next mistake! Best advice I ever got, for any situation!!!!

  7. Smithteamracing RN

    Help your coworker with the heavy patients.

  8. Pearl78Rn

    Just because you are book smart doesn’t translate being floor smart. Don’t come across as a know it all when you start because its a bad turn off to others and you will make mistakes and it can be dangerous to patients and others. Be humble and apply your knowledge and develop time management and critical thinking skills and nursing skills.

  9. 12RN21

    This is a great article and an awesome reminder! I just finished week #3 has a brand new nurse at my hospital’s new grad nursing residency.

  10. sun78910

    Awesome advice. For the first year focus on yourself and the job only. It’s tough, but don’t get caught up in worrying about what other nurses think of you. We expect you to ask questions, we expect you to be behind and we expect you to be stressed, because you’re learning. As you gain experience you will become quicker and less task oriented. As long as you are doing the best you can, asking questions and asking for help when you need it, you are doing great.
    Also, senior nurses do not (or at least should not) expect you to be much of a help to them, as you are just learning the basics. Plus the more experienced nurses are there and (for the most part) want to answer your questions and help you.
    If you do end up working with experienced nurses that are totally unhelpful and try to make you ‘prove’ yourself to them-just avoid them as best you can, you’ll have the last laugh. If you spend your first year really focusing and learning the job, you’re going to make a great nurse- and those nurses that weren’t so nice to you in the beginning are going to need you one day!

  11. citizen88

    I’m sorry, but I completely disagree with #4.

    TRUST is earned.

    RESPECT should be a given.

    This IS a problem in the nursing profession. Why would this publication tell new nurses they are unworthy of respect until somehow proving themselves?

    Please, author, explain to me which human beings you know that are unworthy of respect?

  12. Roquel Peiffer

    Thank you for this article. I am feeling a bit anxious about starting my new job as an RN. I just graduated in May and in less that 6 days, I’ll be heading into my first job. Fingers crossed that I do well and have what it takes to stick it out!

  13. us2weibles

    Listen to all the Nurses, do not ignore what the LPN/LVN says because you are an RN and they are not, we are valuable parts of the team and can have as much knowledge as the RNs on the floor. LPNs/LVNs can help you and guide you too!