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22 things I learned in my first year as an RN

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1. Something all new doctors and nurses learn fairly quickly (it’s a universal law in hospitals): Never, ever, EVER say “slow,” “quiet” or “calm.”

2. Do not ever say “I don’t know what day shift was talking about—he hasn’t had a bowel movement all night” because within an hour you will be engulfed by poo.

3. It’s okay to cry after your patient dies.

4. A wall suction canister works great to drain your foley bag, especially if you need to walk any distance to dump it and don’t want to wear urine on the front of your scrubs.

5. There is no “I” in nursing unless you are trying to win a spelling bee.

6. The opposing shift is not your enemy (see #5).

7. It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” and usually, if you are willing to ask, you can find someone who does. Always, always, always put patient safety before your ego.

8. Charting is very, very, very important.

9. “Real world” nursing is SO not like Grey’s Anatomy or ER. Believe it or not, we do NOT have sex in the break room. In fact, we are too tired from working hard to do anything but eat, pee and sleep during our breaks in the break room.

10. We as medical professionals often get so used to being elbow deep in other people’s body fluids that we forget that our friends and family might not want to discuss stomach contents, rectal tubes, sputum samples or spurting arteries over dinner.

11. Always assume your sedated patient can hear you. Also always assume your brain-damaged patient can hear you. ALWAYS treat ALL of your patients with respect.

12. Do not ever let a patient die alone.

13. Vicks VapoRub under your nose works great to help with not-so-yummy odors. So does putting a tea bag in your mask before you put it on.

14. It’s entirely normal to hear ventilator, tele, bed and IV pump alarms in your sleep during your entire first year as a nurse.

15. Use good lotion to keep your hands from getting too dry from all of the alcohol antiseptics we have around.

16. A good stethoscope and comfortable shoes and scrubs are worth their weight in gold.

17. Ask for help (see #5).

18. If you’re caught up, ask your coworkers if they need help (see #5).

19. When you have an opportunity to learn something new, take it (see #5).

20. When you have an opportunity to teach something new, take it (see #5).

21. If you clean your stethoscope with a bleach wipe after using it on a patient with c.diff, MAKE SURE you let it dry before you put it around your neck again (don’t worry, after you’ve accidentally bleached your scrubs once or twice you’ll never forget again).

22. Nursing is an art, a science, a way of life, and a privilege.

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Angel Vipond

Angel Vipond, RN, works in the Redlands Community Hospital ICU. She became a nurse at age 35 after recovering from a severe illness. She hopes to continue her education so that she can someday teach nursing students. Read Angel’s blog at www.angelvipond.blogspot.com.
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11 Responses to 22 things I learned in my first year as an RN

  1. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    *high five*
    Greaaaaaat list. And I’d say this list applies to all levels and years of experience in nursing.

  2. Kathy

    17-20 are sooooooo important! Actually they are all important, but new nurses MUST realize that it really is OK to not know the answer and ask!! Actually ALL nurses!! I’ve seen seasoned nurses have problems admitting they do not knw the answer! As long as you know how to OBTAIN the answer, then all is OK!!

  3. Vanessa

    What i learned in my first year of being an RN is “we can either all swim together or all sink together” (see #’s 5 and 18). Teamwork is way too important in nursing!

  4. Darla C

    I learned to listen to my patients when they tell me something related to their care….such as: where the best vein on their arm is even if it isn’t where I normally look, that pill I am about to give them doesn’t look like what they usually take, or I am telling them something that doesn’t match up with what they thought the doctor told them to do….if these things happen, stop and check it out before proceeding

  5. Do you really actually, really get time to eat AND pee during the same shift ? I

  6. SASweek RN

    If you didn’t learn something new today, you probably should have stayed home.

  7. Nurse Rene RN

    Amen to #2-NEVER tempt ‘the Fates’!

  8. jetalynne RN

    I LOVE this list!! i think it applies to every nurse, not just new =)

  9. NurseCyn2014 Student

    so new to this nursing program,, I cried so many times. Any suggestions on how to get through nursing schoool.

  10. jblank2@yahoo.com

    Great Article for new Registered Nurses! There are so many lessons we learn year after year as Nurses. It is always culture shock for new RNs due to the “realities” that are revealed after Nursing School.

    We at http://www.NursEtAl.com are glad to partner with Scrubs to bring about discussions of all issues facing Nurses today. Please visit our blog at http://www.NursEtAl.com for very informative blogs that bring light to many issues facing new Nurses. Thank you Scrubs

    • DalekRN

      #5!!! We can be so catty to each other. Patients do not get wrapped up into neat little packages at the end of each shift!