22 things I learned in my first year as an RN
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.