The 10 Most Important Things I’ve learned in my first year of nursing

IMG_2110.JPG     You never really know how quickly time passes until you’re sitting down to get your one year evaluation. It really seems like 5 seconds ago I was accepting a job offer as a new grad nurse, and here I am now. I still have so far to go in terms of experience, but I have learned an insane amount in this past year. Although it was extremely tough to narrow it down, here are the top 10 things I’ve learned in my first year as a registered nurse.

  1. It’s okay to not be perfect. There are so many aspects of nursing, from the bedside patient care to communication and time management. It would take over a lifetime to manage to handle all of these, every shift, absolutely perfect. And that’s just not realistic. If you can put your patients’ and your safety and health first, you’re already ahead of the game.
  2. Remember to take care of yourself. As nurses, we immediately put the needs of others ahead of ours. This often leads to compassion fatigue, burnout, stress, and just making yourself sick. On your days off, make sure to practice self-care! Do things that you love and that relax you so you come back to work feeling refreshed. My personal favorites at the moment? Playing with my puppy, taking barre classes, practicing yoga, and lots of face masks!
  3. Ask for help. Large patient loads with high acuity can make for a lot of craziness. Work as a team with your coworkers to help you get through the craziest of shifts.  Don’t be afraid to ask them for help! Nothing feels better than knowing that you have your fellow nurses to help insert an IV in an infant with you, or stand by yourself during a critical situation.
  4. Drink water. I know this one sounds so silly, but think about how many jokes there are about nurses not drinking any water or going 12 hours without peeing. You know how important these simple tasks are for your health, so make sure to do them. Practice what you preach to your patients.
  5. Figure out what organizational system works for you. Everyone’s brain works differently, which means everyone manages their patient care differently. Even if I remember everything I was told in report, you can guarantee I’m going to write down all of my patient care. My report sheets always have medication times, diets, critical labs, and any other pertinent information I may need during my shift. When I’m not on the floor, I use my planner to write all of my important work events, like staff meetings. They call these things brain sheets for a reason!
  6. Don’t forget why you chose this profession. There are going to be tough shifts. There are going to be days when you feel like you aren’t enough, or you just want to go in your car and cry. It’s happened to me quite a few times this year. But I always think back to why I chose to be a nurse- to help others. So even if a day doesn’t go my way,I know there’s purpose to me working and to push through. After all, every bad day is always followed by a better one.
  7. Fake it ’til you make it. Confidence in nursing takes quite a bit of time to gain. Your patients, however, probably don’t want to know how nervous something makes you. Even if it’s your first time inserting an IV or catheterizing someone, you don’t have to tell them! Take a deep breathe, smile, and tell yourself you got this. You have all the skills already, and they will get better with time.
  8. Expect the unexpected. Absolutely anything can happen in a hospital! Even though I can’t expect what will happen, I always try to stay as prepared as possible. My scrub pockets are usually filled with all different supplies I may need- alcohol swabs, saline flushes, IV caps, gauze, tape, and lots and lots of pens. This way, I don’t have to go running out of a patient’s room when I need something immediately.
  9. Try to better your practice everyday. There are always new policies, procedures, equipment and research in your hospital. Keep up with all of these! By making sure you stay up to date with the latest information, you can provide the best care for your patients. And those journals management leaves around that we all ignore? Read them. You never know what you’ll learn.
  10. HAVE FUN! Nursing has so many ups and downs, but when push comes to shove, it’s really a fun profession. Enjoy joking with your coworkers, or singing songs with your patients. Appreciate all of the little things that make each day happier, and try to add a bit of sunshine into everything you do. You never know whose day you’ll make 🙂

Have anything else you think should be on my list? Comment below!

Here’s to the next 365 days of nursing!