22 Things I Learned In My First Year As An RN

1. Something all new doctors and nurses learn fairly quickly (it’s a universal law in hospitals): Never, ever, EVER say “slow,” “quiet” or “calm.”

2. Do not ever say “I don’t know what day shift was talking about—he hasn’t had a bowel movement all night” because within an hour you will be engulfed by poo.

3. It’s okay to cry after your patient dies.

4. A wall suction canister works great to drain your foley bag, especially if you need to walk any distance to dump it and don’t want to wear urine on the front of your scrubs.

5. There is no “I” in nursing unless you are trying to win a spelling bee.

6. The opposing shift is not your enemy (see #5).

7. It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” and usually, if you are willing to ask, you can find someone who does. Always, always, always put patient safety before your ego.

8. Charting is very, very, very important.

9. “Real world” nursing is SO not like Grey’s Anatomy or ER. Believe it or not, we do NOT have sex in the break room. In fact, we are too tired from working hard to do anything but eat, pee and sleep during our breaks in the break room.

10. We as medical professionals often get so used to being elbow deep in other people’s body fluids that we forget that our friends and family might not want to discuss stomach contents, rectal tubes, sputum samples or spurting arteries over dinner.

11. Always assume your sedated patient can hear you. Also always assume your brain-damaged patient can hear you. ALWAYS treat ALL of your patients with respect.

12. Do not ever let a patient die alone.

13. Vicks VapoRub under your nose works great to help with not-so-yummy odors. So does putting a tea bag in your mask before you put it on.

14. It’s entirely normal to hear ventilator, tele, bed and IV pump alarms in your sleep during your entire first year as a nurse.

15. Use good lotion to keep your hands from getting too dry from all of the alcohol antiseptics we have around.

16. A good stethoscope and comfortable shoes and scrubs are worth their weight in gold.

17. Ask for help (see #5).

18. If you’re caught up, ask your coworkers if they need help (see #5).

19. When you have an opportunity to learn something new, take it (see #5).

20. When you have an opportunity to teach something new, take it (see #5).

21. If you clean your stethoscope with a bleach wipe after using it on a patient with c.diff, MAKE SURE you let it dry before you put it around your neck again (don’t worry, after you’ve accidentally bleached your scrubs once or twice you’ll never forget again).

22. Nursing is an art, a science, a way of life, and a privilege.


How did we do? Did we miss any? Share in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.



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Eric F Heins

It’s also OK to NOT be upset when your patient dies. In some case it was just their time. During my time in LTC I have had the honor of caring for many patients at the end of their life. For many their suffering is only ended by death, and death is just the next step in their life.

frank lomprez

1. Nursing has to become who you are. If it is just a job. You will never make it as a Nurse. 2.You better have a sense of humor. 3. Just when you think you seen everything, you ain’t seen nothing yet 🙂

Cheryl Oscar

Always know “this, too, shall pass”. No matter how bad your day is, think about the patients lying in the beds that you are caring for. You, at least, are well enough to go home! Cheryl, RN, FNP


7. It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” and usually, if you are willing to ask, you can find someone who does BUT FOLLOW IT UP WITH….BUT I WILL FIND OUT FOR YOU.
8. Charting is very, very, very important NOT CHARTED, NEVER HAPPENED! NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU SWEAR IT DID! AND PRECISE CHARTING WITH PROPER PUNCTUATION IS ESSENTIAL. I remember seeing some of the bad examples in school and one I always recall was “Patient eating wife at bedside” Rather than “Patient eating, wife at bedside”….totally different scenario there eh??

Frank Lomprez

Remember the two most important things in life. Someone is born and then pass away. When you are with a elderly patient who is dying and they have no one left. The last person they see on earth is you. That is when you realize it was a privilege to be with them at that moment. A moment etched in time, not soon to be forgotten. Frank RN


I can use the bathroom, chew a bite of food I grabbed on the way, check my phone, and write a list of things I need to do after work all at the same time!