Getting rid of orientation willies

nervous-kittenAs a new nurse with a (very small amount) of experience under my belt, I’m about to start a new job and once again I have the orientation-willies. Since I’ve already undergone a lengthy orientation as a brand-spanking-new nurse, I have a healthy fear and respect for orientation and also have in place a good set of coping skills (read someone to talk to and access to an elliptical trainer!).
It doesn’t matter if you have 30 years as a nurse under your belt or you are just starting out as a new grad: all nurses must endure the dreaded (in my case) orientation. In fact, that’s probably one of the first drill-like questions people will ask when a nurse first gets out of school: “How long is your orientation?”  The longer the orientation the better!

When I started, I knew I’d be orienting to several units and the process would take a few months total. Other than that I was clueless. I even managed to screw up my schedule and showed up on a couple days to orient when I wasn’t even supposed to be at the hospital. Talk about making a good impression.

I’ll never forget some of the harder lessons I learned during these first 12 hour shifts. First, nursing school hadn’t taught me a thing about giving a “good” report. Secondly, becoming a part of a team on the floor is essential for survival as a nurse. And lastly, I experienced real-live nurses who came in all shapes, sizes and personalities.

As to reports, most nurses can tell stories of giving a report that was questioned to the point of harassment. Sometimes nurses are ridiculed and criticized during report and yes, all nurses are known to give an inaccurate or lacking report. It’s called being human!

Giving report is an art form–the basis which is learned in orientation and then built upon. I can distinctly remember the first report I gave as a new nurse, and the seasoned nurse actually had to stop herself midway through her chastisement of me by saying, “Really, I am not yelling at you, but you really don’t know what you’re talking about!” I wasn’t sure what to think, but I did go home and cry after her tongue lashing.

And then there is team work–and not the trite kind of thing you see on those corporate inspirational posters. I’m talking life and death teamwork. The first time you experience it your world will be rocked!

I became part of a team in my first job by default. I was part of a huge group of incoming graduate nurses, and we clung together like static-y socks. These new nurses and I became a kind of support system that never failed me in my first year as a nurse. Through the first death of a patient’s baby to the night I had back to back emergency c-sections (3 in a row!) these nurses always had my back. They were there when I needed to vent, cry or freak out.

And then there are nurse personalities. There is no “perfect nurse” out there in hospital-land. Throw away those Betty-boop ideas. Some nurses bring their problems and bad attitudes to work and others bring their positivity and talents to the floor. In the end, nurses have to work together despite how they “feel” about one another.

Case in point: I worked with a nurse who I truly thought was the grumpiest, most cold-hearted women I had ever met. She didn’t have a nice word to say about anyone and she was abrupt and rude to me. Yet she was at my side when a patient of mine had a sudden fetal demise, and this nurse transformed like magic into nothing short of a saint. She was inspirational when the crap hit the fan. It was amazing. I learned at that point never to judge people based on a fraction of interactions with them. It takes looking at the big picture to truly know someone.

Orientation can be crazy and scary and fun and amazing. And then there’s  preceptors–I will blog about them next time! So what does a new nurse need to do to make it through orientation in their first job? Just this: a willingness to work hard, learn on the go, and the ability to cope with a high level of stress.

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