Nurse orientation is no joke—here’s why
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?