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How do I deal with new-nurse stress?

Being a new nurse can be quite a shock to the system. It’s not uncommon for new nurses to become overwhelmed to the point of asking, “Did I choose the right career?” Here are some tips on coping with new-nurse stress and my takeaways from my own first-year experiences.

Tip #1: Hang in there!

Tip #2: Don’t give up!

Tip #3: Have a glass of wine and take a deep breath, because a year from now you will look back and be thankful for the invaluable experience you are getting during this stressful time.

Along with any new job in any new field comes the stress of finding your way, gaining confidence, getting to know your coworkers and making your mark. Now, add having people’s lives in your hands and you compile the stress level to an almost unbearable degree…especially as a new nurse.

I think it took me about a full year before I started to not feel like “the new girl” anymore. Other factors—the floor that you work on, the pace of the environment, how critical the patients are, how supportive your coworkers are—can also impact your comfort level and the length of time it takes to reach it.

Nursing isn’t known for being a low-stress profession. But if I weigh the positives and negatives, my scale always tips in the positive direction. What other profession do you know of that allows you to truly impact the life of a person? What other profession allows you to connect with people and develop relationships during a most trying time? What other profession allows you to work three days during the week and make more money than most of your friends right out of school? What other profession allows you to, if you choose, pick up and travel to a new city every three months with a secure job in each place? What other profession allows the opportunity for continuing education in a growing field that is top of the job market (the nurse practitioner)?

I know you are stressed and probably questioning your skills and battling with your confidence level. But try to remember that every nurse was a new nurse at some point. Building the experience of “experience” will allow you to more aptly juggle a six-patient assignment, prep an OR patient while anesthesia breathes down your throat, hold a dying patient’s hand because you’re all he’s got, assist a sterile procedure and run a code on night shift.

The bottom line? Don’t give up. If months from now, things still haven’t changed and you still find yourself burying your head in your pillow at night after a 12-hour shift, then don’t be afraid to look for another nursing position amid the hundreds of specialties, hospitals and “nurse needed” jobs out there. Don’t give up on the field (I could be a walking nursing commercial!). Have a positive outlook. It can only get better from here.

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Nicole Lehr

Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.
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2 Responses to How do I deal with new-nurse stress?

  1. melissa

    I got some relief from reading this post. I am a new nurse (one month) and feel totally overwhelmed!! I hate the floor I am working on but I think it is because I have not mastered time management, all of the charting and paperwork along with dealing with doctors and co-workers. I have asked myself if I made the wrong career choice. I hate to feel like that because I worked hard to get here. Keeping my fingers crossed that things will work out.

    • lnorvell

      I felt this way too, I dreaded going to work each night and wondered quite a few times if I had picked the wrong career. I work weekend nights on a med-surg/tele floor and was completely overwhelmed for awhile. I had a very hard time with trying to manage 6 patients, all the paperwork and charting, along with trying to figure out newly ordered or admission medications because we do not have a 24 hour pharmacy. Slowly it has gotten better and I no longer dread going to work although I do still have some nights where I am so overwhelmed I could cry by the time I get off in the morning. It is these times that I remind myself I haven’t even been doing this for 6 months yet and how much better it has gotten even in that short time… I just remind myself that time management skills get better with practice and that even experienced nurses have hard shifts sometimes and this usually helps me get through those rougher nights.

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