A Career in Nursing: The Graduate’s Guide to Survival


This is a contributor’s blogpost …

When you’ve just graduated and should be ready to hit the work life, it’s easy to feel like a poser. You have made it through a rigorous education, survived your exams, and swallowed every book on health care there is – still, you have the audacity to call yourself a nurse. The reality is that you are a nurse and have every right to identify as one, even though you probably don’t feel like one quite yet.

Silence the voice of insecurity in your head and listen to the voices of more experienced nurses instead. They’ve gone through the same as you and know their way around the place – give it a year or two, and you’ll feel right at home in your uniform.


The Night Shift: Sleep and Hydrate

Sooner or later, you’re going to face your first night shift as a nurse. Although the tasks are the same as in the daytime, there is one major difference: most of your patients are asleep. It is a quiet and dark time, so you need to give your body enough time to cope with the adjustments – and don’t expect too much of yourself to begin with. Your brain is used to getting its rest during these long hours, so go easy on yourself.

It’s a good idea to have a quick nap before the night shift begins. Between thirty minutes to an hour should be enough, and continue resting your eyes a bit during the shift. It ensures that you’re able to stay focused and sharp even though you’re beyond sleepy.

Just make sure that you keep the naps short and sweet – a long one will most likely just make you even more sleepy and cranky. Nobody likes a cranky nurse.

Stay hydrated by snacking on fruit and vegetables that contain a lot of water. A tired mind needs hydration, and there’s no better way to get this than to enjoy grapes and strawberries throughout the night. Steer away from any large meals, though. The middle of the night is no time for a big supper, so rather choose light meals to keep your energy levels up.


Photo Courtesy of Matthias Zomer via Pexels


The other nurses: Socialize and gain knowledge

Learning to be a nurse is all about observing the more experienced ones. One day, when you’re all grown up, you’re going to have young graduates following you around and trying to keep up with everything, so take advantage of this time to learn as much as possible. You’re not the only one who should be observing people, by the way. If you’re unsure about a procedure or a situation, ask an older or more experienced co-worker to watch you do it.

Ask for feedback or general guidance to get the most out of this learning experience, as well as making it clear that you’re not here to make mistakes.

Keep in mind that it is alright to make a few errors, though, and nobody expects you to do everything right, to begin with. Textbooks and lectures are not able to teach you everything you need in this occupation, and most of the actual teaching happens on the job. Making some mistakes in the beginning and learning from it means that you’re gaining experience and knowledge – just like you’re supposed to.

It’s also a great time for bonding with the other nurses and developing a good relationship. You don’t have to ask your mentor for advice all the time. The people you work with are, after all, capable of making your daily life enjoyable or miserable. Discuss senior care, ask for advice on handling difficult patients, observe, and soak up as much knowledge as possible. Create some goodwill by sending your first nurse-friend this site, for example, or ask experts on help with handling difficult patients.

Asking for advice and offering to help where you can is a great way of starting off in a new workplace on the right foot.


Learning to Prioritize

It takes a while, but placing some tasks over others will come automatically when you get used to the work. Until then, it’s smart to make notes when you learn something new and try to evaluate which needs are more pressing as you go – at the end of the day, show your findings to your mentor and ask if you’re on the right track.

This early period is excellent for understanding which tasks you’re able to handle with ease and which once you’d rather delegate to someone with more experience. It’s important to be kind to yourself, so don’t feel discouraged if something goes wrong. Settling into this new career is going to take you a while, and the key to success is patience, persistence, and a mind open for knowledge.


Author: Urban Ponder Writing Team

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