5 things that make life easier for new nurses


Shutterstock | Elena ElisseevaShutterstock | Elena Elisseeva

Okay, you’re done with your internship and orientation and now you’re a real, grown-up nurse. You’re almost used to waking up at oh-dark-thirty, and your parking pass works most of the time. You nearly have everybody’s names down. And you’re working extra-double, super-special overtime because the unit is short-staffed and you want to make a good impression. So what can a new nurse do to make being a nurse easier?

  1. Set multiple alarms. I set two (three if you count the coffeemaker going off) alarms, five minutes apart. I’m not a snooze-hitter, so if I miss one, the next will wake me up. In more than a decade, this strategy has only failed me once.
  2. Make your caffeine fix as effortless as possible. I will never again be without a coffeemaker with a timer. If you prefer tea, buy an electric kettle that boils water in two minutes. Whatever it takes, make your first cup of go-juice happen without hassle.
  3. Buy multiples of the things you wear to work. I have six sets of scrubs—two weeks’ worth if I’m working short weeks—a dozen pairs of identical socks, a dozen pairs of identical underwear and two pairs of work shoes. So far, with care and rotation, the scrubs have lasted me two years. Plus, having the same stuff every day makes getting dressed a breeze.
  4. Cook for the week on your days off. If you don’t know how to cook, get really good at making salads and sides. If even salads are beyond you, know which frozen dinners are the least hideous, and buy those. I keep the manufacturers of reclosable plastic containers in business, but even I buy frozen dinners now and then. Organic and kosher ones are generally good, as is anything Indian or hippie-crunchy-vegetarian.
  5. Keep what you can at work. Make sure you have a locker or a trustworthy bunch of fellow employees, though. My pens, stethoscope and various bits stay in my locker at work so I don’t have to scramble for them in the morning. My ID never leaves my bag except when it’s on my body. Leaving for the day consists of grabbing my lunch sack, making sure I’ve remembered to dress completely and getting my bag.

Things do get easier and less stressful as you become more experienced, I promise. For now, though, make everything in your life as automatic as you can. That way you can spend your mental energy on getting through your days.

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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