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Nurse orientation is no joke—here’s why

IPGGutenbergUKLtd | Thinkstock + Scrubs

Image by: IPGGutenbergUKLtd | Thinkstock + Scrubs

One of the first things a new nurse should be concerned with is how long you will be on orientation. New grad nurses always ask, “How long will it take before they’ll let me loose?!” You just spent countless hours and a number of years trudging through school. You have now successfully passed your board exam and you’re ready to take on the world! If you were anything like me during that first job, you wanted off orientation sooner rather than later. I mean, how long does it really need to take?

Most organizations and most nursing units have a preplanned schedule for you. There are certain requirements you have to fulfill before you are “free.” Some will have an orientation checklist, while others will have a set schedule. In most instances you are assigned to one (or two) preceptors who will be your immediate resource for everything that happens on the job.

If you were to ask what the “average” length of time for orientation is, I would answer with the vague-but-true response of “It all depends.” Every area of nursing will require a certain amount of experience or “time in grade” before you are ready to practice independently. I think all areas of nursing need a minimum of two months, but I’ve heard of nurses completing orientation in less than a month, while others will have orientation last five months.

The caveat about your length of time on orientation depends solely on you as a nurse. You as a learner. You as an employee. Certain tasks and responsibilities will be easy, while others will be difficult. And what was easy for you might not be easy for someone else.

Most facilities and nursing units believe in training you properly, verifying that you are doing a safe and efficient job, and having you feel comfortable in your abilities before you are taken off of orientation. If any of those qualities are lacking, your orientation may be extended.

And yes, before you ask the question, there is such a thing as retaking or redoing orientation. And yes, there are instances when a nurse does not successfully complete orientation in their given job. Nurses who do not complete the orientation requirement have been known to switch jobs and, in some cases, are asked to step down or are terminated in some extreme cases.

This is not meant to scare you as a new grad—it simply emphasizes the importance of your orientation. Take your orientation seriously, become a sponge and ask questions. It’s during this time that we set the framework of our skills and develop our abilities. This is where we learn to perform at our best for our patients.

How long was (is) your orientation?


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6 Responses to Nurse orientation is no joke—here’s why

  1. breehat

    The nurse orientation they told me was to last for 4 weeks. But I only stayed 2 weeks, and according to the Nursing Services director, I failed. It took me 5 hours to do the medcart for 35 patients by myself alone, and not only that I have to do wound care, fingerstick, enema, cleaning of trach tubes, etc. They said I was too slow . I had to remind them I was new, and as a new nurse, I was cautious to administer my meds in the fear of med errors done hastily. I negotiated with them to start me with at least 15-20 patients in their maximum time limit of 2 hours, if I had to do all , aside from meds , without any help. But they did not listen nor they didn’t want to give me a chance. I was so discouraged and I cried. They were “new nurses” before too. So, I gave up and resigned. Worse, they did not pay me for those 2 weeks. BTW , I was a fresh newly-licensed NCELEX-passer then with no experience other than doing volunteer work in clinics.

    • Inmaculada Sánchez-Barrancos

      This is really awful! Did you speak with a worker union? I’m sure you are a really good nurse and you feel you failed.
      I’m struggling with my job too because I haven’t enough support and I have troubles with the languaje. They give me a deadline but I’m doing my best day by day. Anyway, I have something clear, like a new nurse if you fail in your job the most of time is not ONLY your fault, isn’t ONLY your mistakes because 90% of times people confuse support/ orientation with appraisal

    • smagill72

      Not all nursing units deliver this described orientation. I hope in the future you will be able to find an employer who can offer you a preceptor since you are bridging between completing your education and starting your career. What you describe does sound like an overwhelming amount for a new grad. Anxious to hear how things progressed for you.

  2. NewGrad2014

    Orientation for my first full time RN position on nights was 10 shifts. Obviously this wasn’t enough time for a new grad. I struggled the first 2 months while being bullied by fellow nurses for not being able to complete all my duties r/t not enough training with that facility. Luckily my new position with a different organization is at least three months. In my eyes the more time with orientation the better.

  3. Prynetic

    For military LVNs its 2 weeks to 2 months depending on acuity. Then for the RNs its 6 months.

  4. RNinDC0216

    My nursing orientation lasted 10 weeks and it was a combination of classroom sessions and shifts on the floor. The shifts could be day shift or night shift depending on the preceptor. There was weekly check-ins with my educator as well as my preceptor. There was a midpoint evaluation on week 5 with my preceptor my educator and the nurse manager on the floor and if any adjustments needed to be made they were discussed. There was a final evaluation on week 10 and myself and my preceptor needed to sign off if I was ready to be “free” as well as the manager approval. I completed in 10 weeks but I do know other nurses on my floor that needed an extra two or three weeks.