For any of you nurses out there, this post is for you!
Recently, I have been precepting young residents—one of which is pictured above— that are brand new nurses fresh out of nursing school. I am always honored to get to do this because I know when I was a fresh new nurse, there was a lot to learn.
My experiences have given me so much knowledge whether I learned those lessons the hard way or easy way. I am always wanting to share in hopes not everyone has to learn things the hard way.
In efforts to try and consolidate all that I’ve learned, I decided that it might do some good to share a post on my biggest tips for a new nurse.
I am still no expert and still considered a fresh nurse in the whole scheme of my career; however, if something I have learned can help someone, I’d rather share it than hold it to myself—all apart of my fountain not a drain mentality. 🙂
This is definitely not a full list; there is so many tips that I could share and so many lessons that are specific to the area of nursing you work in.
However, being on a cardiac unit in the hospital, this is my list of tips:
- Throughout the day, the patient always comes first. Our patients’ needs always come before our needs. Sometimes charting or the smaller things take a backseat when there are “fires”, emergencies, or complaints from a patient. It is okay and appropriate to get a little behind on what we need to do if it is benefitting your patient.
- Treat your patient as you would want to be treated. Be authentic, honest, patient, and advocate for them. You are the voice for your patient: advocate for them and keep them in the know. If your patient has been nauseous, ask physical therapy to come back by when he/she is feeling better. If he/she is too acute, see if testing can be done at bedside. Be honest when you are super busy. Check in on them and be their friend. They are experiencing many new emotions, new pains, and new struggles.
- Be proactive rather than reactive. Noticing the small things is important. This is a big one to help the day move smoother. Sometimes emergencies happen. Having a plan for a decline or patient complaint will always help everything be a little easier. Anticipate the need to call the doctor, and have their number/pager on hand. Having a plan does not mean a decline will happen, but it is clutch if something does.
- Communication is key. Keep everyone informed. Taking care of a patient is a TEAM approach with many specialties on board: physical therapy, doctors, occupational therapy, respiratory, etc. The nurse is in the middle. Communicate well with the team, don’t be afraid to ask the questions to the doctor to keep everyone on the same page, and advocate for your patient.
- Also a piggyback—communicate well with your patient. Create a rapport with him/her. If you educate the patient and create a rapport with him/her, it is more likely he/she will work with you and be understanding.
- Be patient with yourself, forgive yourself, and don’t you dare blame yourself (speaking to me with this one!) This is one I am often reminding myself, because I always blame myself for everything! If a patient crashes or you make a mistake, you cannot dwell and blame yourself. Some things are not preventable, so forgive yourself. You have to move on to benefit the rest of your patients.
- Focus on the task at hand. Do it well. Then move to the next million things to do. Ha! In the midst of a task, focus on that specific task rather than focusing on the other many tasks you have to do. That’s where a mistake can happen, so slow yourself down. Focus on the task at hand and that patient. Check off that list. Do it well, and then carry on to your other tasks.
- Remember the little things. There is a lot going on with a patient. Try to remember about the little things that are easy to miss: dates on the IV, allergy bands, etc. The small things may become the big ones.
- Look at the patient. This is one of the biggest pieces of data of a nurse. Every person responds differently to different things. Does your patient look in distress? What symptoms are present? This is how you as the nurse know how to respond.
- Assess and gather data for calling the provider. Odds are the provider will ask you questions to gather data on the patient. MDs have many patients, and he/she is not going to know how to respond without certain pieces of data. As the nurse, gather the data that you can to help the call go smoother and help orders into motion.
- Do what you can as an RN do in the moment to help the patient or make them comfortable. There are certain things we can do as a nurse to help the patient in the moment that are nursing discretion. Do they need oxygen? Put it on. What PRN medicines are already ordered? Give them for the symptoms. What is the vital signs of the patient? Prep for the orders that may be needed.
- Then what is it that you need from the doctor: medicine, testing, ICU bed, etc? Try to execute these new orders, and explain to your patient what is going on. Your reaction does matter— which I talk about here.
- You will never regret the times that you called the doctor/nurse practitioner. If something happens with your patient and you are undecided about calling or paging the MD/NP, just remind yourself that you will never regret the times that you did call. Err on the side of caution and call. Trust that gut instinct.
- Chart, Chart, Chart everything! You can never cover yourself too much. You will never regret the things you charted. I am the queen of double and triple charting on my unit, but it is important to cover yourself because the chart is the first thing to be looked at if something happens.
- Remember who the Great Physician is. We are simply the hands and feet. Work Hard and allow Jesus to work through you.
And for any field of work you are in, some of these may apply when put in a general sense. We are the hands and feet in our career working for a greater purpose for God. Think of others, work hard, and remember who is in control.
Thankful for nursing and all that I have learned about people, others, and life because of it.
Nurse Katie Girl