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How to Thrive in Your First Nursing Job

Your first year as a nurse is an exciting time full of opportunities and challenges. As you embark on the newness of the nursing profession, know that it is possible to thrive and not just survive in your first nursing job. 

If you’re nervous about transitioning to nursing practice, this blog is for you. It is a common experience for nurses who are ready to begin their careers to anticipate some of the challenges shared by new nurses, such as:

  • Managing time in a fast-paced environment
  • Organizing daily tasks
  • Confidence in day-to-day nursing skills
  • Knowing when and how to communicate effectively

Interdisciplinary collaboration and patient interaction will grow more familiar and comfortable with the time and experience you gain throughout your first year as a nurse. Read on for a brief look into the nursing profession to help you understand what you can expect as you transition to nursing practice. 

Understanding the Nursing Profession

The responsibilities of a nurse may vary depending on your work setting and patient population, but many of the routine duties of the role are common to most nursing jobs. For example, a new nurse working in an ambulatory clinic or a hospital setting will carry out many of the following tasks in a typical day:

  • Collecting patient health histories
  • Taking vital signs and performing physical examinations
  • Providing education on disease prevention and plans for managing illness
  • Administering medications
  • Documentation in electronic health records

Alternatively, some nursing positions do not focus on direct patient care but instead use a combination of nursing skills and knowledge to augment a non-clinical role. For example, nurse informaticists may apply clinical understanding to improve workflow and technology processes for efficient, quality care. Nurse educators may teach students and other nurses, while forensic nurses may use their nursing skills within a legal context.

You can prepare for managing new nursing responsibilities with tips for time management in nursing and the following additional recommendations to ensure you are ready to conquer your first day with a positive mindset.

Preparing for Your First Day

One of the most important aspects of a successful first day as a nurse is preparation. Practically speaking, this means getting a good night’s rest, planning your commute, wearing comfortable shoes, and enjoying the process as you grow into your new nursing role. Other preparatory activities might include:

  • Reviewing maps of the healthcare facility to familiarize yourself with the setup
  • Organizing your nursing supplies and any required documents for your first day
  • Familiarizing yourself with general expectations found in employee handbooks
  • Visiting the website for your new organization to learn about the personnel

A successful first day as a nurse might mean completing orientation and training activities, becoming integrated into the new team environment, and experiencing some positive patient interactions. Closing your first day with self-reflection will help you consider the feedback and support received from your new colleagues, which can set you up for future success as you acclimate and grow into the role.

As a student, time spent in nursing simulation labs will be beneficial as you transition into nursing practice. Every new workplace comes with unfamiliar territory, but you can lean on your prior clinical experience to help you acclimate to the patient care environment.

Navigating the Workplace

When you begin your first nursing job, building relationships with colleagues and superiors can help you navigate the physical workplace and align yourself with the organizational mission and goals. Initial training is commonly focused on understanding hospital protocols and procedures relative to the job you will be performing. Examples include:

  • Safety policies for infection control
  • Information management and technology 
  • Standardized protocols for disease-specific management
  • Human resources 

During orientation and your early days on the job, you will learn to navigate the different hospital departments and how they work together to provide quality care to patients and families. By taking the initiative to seek guidance, you will begin to establish connections, develop routines, and gain confidence.

Refining Essential Nursing Skills

When you begin your nursing career, you will initially be on a growth trajectory starting as a novice care provider. School will equip you with the knowledge to enter the nursing profession, and your compassion for others will fuel you. Be patient with yourself because time and experience will make you more proficient with nursing skills.

Nursing is a profession of lifelong education. Unique patient care scenarios require that excellent nurses stay current with the best practices that are frequently evolving through evidence-based research. You can thrive in your first year as a nurse by making a plan for ongoing development and mentorship.

SJC nursing student

Handling Stress and Burnout

Common causes of stress in nursing include busy schedules and fatigue that can arise from the physical and emotional demands of the job. To manage stress and avoid burnout, nurses can proactively seek health and wellness support and prioritize time for self-care and rest.

Creative ways to handle stress on the job include:

  • Setting realistic expectations for yourself and others
  • Going outside when the weather is nice
  • Joining colleagues for lunch
  • Keeping a friendly and lighthearted attitude

Developing meaningful friendships with coworkers who can provide additional support and mentorship in the early years of your nursing career is worth the effort. These relationships can foster long-term professional growth with commitment to collaborative initiatives and shared passion for improving the lives of others in your chosen nursing specialty area. 

Remembering the reasons that motivate your work as a nurse can make a big difference in handling stress and burnout. Take time to regularly reflect on the fulfilling aspects of the call to be a nurse, like the human connection and commitment to serve others in their time of need.

Growing Your Career

Mentors in nursing are a vital part of growing your nursing career. As you look to professors from your nursing school and more experienced nurses in your workplace, you will have resources to encourage and provide guidance for your future.

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs provide the foundational education for pursuing further advancement into graduate nursing programs. Some nurses choose to move beyond their initial practice area into career concentrates such as:

  • Nursing Education
  • Health Informatics
  • Advanced Practice 
  • Nursing Administration

A fulfilling career in nursing starts with quality, affordable education. Saint Joseph's College of Maine offers a fast track to reach your goals if you are looking for an educational program that will prepare you to meet the challenges of a new nursing career successfully. 

Unlock Your Full Nursing Potential with an ABSN from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine

The online ABSN program at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). It can be completed in only 15 months for those with a prior bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.

Additional program features include:

  • Clinical placement support for sourcing local preceptors
  • 100% online coursework
  • Readiness for practice with NCLEX pass rates over 90%
  • Two on-campus immersions with hands-on simulation training

Visit the program page today to claim your brochure and receive more information about the Hybrid Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

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