Imagine your first day on the job. Your scrubs are neatly pressed, stethoscope around your neck, and all the butterflies in your stomach are getting you ready for the rest of your life. Getting started as a nurse comes with a steep learning curve. From responding to a crisis to dealing with unruly patients, there’s always something new to learn.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the nursing profession. For months, providers have been waking up to the painful reality that comes with being a nurse, including long hours, limited PPE, and putting their lives in danger in order to help their patients.
Considering everything we’ve learned over the last year, what would you tell your younger nurse self? Check out what your colleagues had to say and don't forget to comment below to add your advice.
1. “Never ever let any of the judgmental nurses, who judge mental health and addictions, turn you into them. If you’re not treating someone how you would want to be treated, then it’s not right. You don’t know their story.” A little compassion can go a long way. – J.W.
2. “Try to advance your education before kids because your priorities shift and before you know it you have to worry about their college and not your own.” Get them degrees, girl. – S.S.
3. “Don’t miss a learning opportunity if it be from CAN, dietary, or housekeeping.” – F.S.
4. “Organize what you want to say before calling the doctor.” Same goes for taxes. – L.R.
5. “Take care of your body! The foot and back problems will be worse if you don’t! Sensible shoes, proper lifting, compression stockings are very important.” – P.G.
6. “Learn the difference between the clit and urethra. Study a picture, study your own, just know the difference ” – S.W.
7. “Don’t put up with workplace violence. Better to be a whistleblower than a prisoner of workplace injustice/abuse the rest of your life.” – J.R.B.
8. “TRUST YOUR GUT….But also, don’t allow a doctor to intimidate you, you’re both human. He/she is not better than you no matter what their degree. Try to get ahead with documentation so you’re not staying late just to finish that. If a patient says, ‘These aren’t my pills,’ LISTEN lol. If a patient is venting, yelling, screaming, swearing… don’t just medicate them, take 5 minutes to listen to them even if you say nothing. And lastly HELP YOUR COWORKERS even if it sets you back a little. Because good nurses look out for each other and one day you might need them to help you .” – L.H.
9. “Take care of you, girl. You are replaceable to your employers. But not to your family and loved ones. It’s ok to say ‘no.’ It’s ok to rest.” Can I get a day off over here? – D.S.
10. “Marry a rich man, so you can work PRN, if you feel like it. ” – T.S.
11. “Don’t let the hospital treat you as if you can never get another job and the place will fall apart without you if you’re sick… Take time for your mental health, call in sick when you need to, don’t work all the overtime, and if you don’t feel valued, go somewhere where you are. It’s important. You are NEVER stuck!” – K.K.
12. “Slow down. You don’t have to keep up with the seasoned nurses.” Unless they start teasing you. – S.B.
13. “Do not expect yourself to know it all. Develop good relationships with the experienced nurses on the unit and find a mentor that will take you under their wing. Ask questions… even if they seem like “dumb” questions. There are no dumb questions for a new nurse. Make your own “brain” that you use to report each shift. Customize it to your particular unit. Focus on time management. The rest will come with due time. Don’t give up. It gets easier! Being a new nurse is hard work.” – L.P.
14. “Double check everything. Question everything, especially Drs. Orders. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Stand your ground when you know you’re right!” That applies to the rest of life as well. – L.H.B.
15. “Watch out for older or experienced nurses! They can be nasty. Nurses do eat their young.” – A.Q.
16. “Document everything. Patient moved their hand? Document. Said hello? Document No, but seriously xx” What about flatulence? – F.B.
17. “Date the theatre orderly, not the doctor.” – M.D.
18. “Read the Coefficient of Grace. Learn balance and understand, holding a patient’s hand and listening to their story is the greatest gift you can give.” Coefficient of Grace is a 2020 autobiography from Rena Patierno and her experiences as a critical care nurse in upstate New York. – R.P.
19. “Don’t let other nurses bully you into hating going to work.” – J.F.
20. “Get out now while you still have experience to do other jobs ” – M.D.
21. ““The day is successful if no one dies during your shift! Everything else you can fix and handle! Deep breath girl… Prostitution has its risks too and you don’t have enough rhythm to be a stripper! ” – A.H.
If you’re thinking of becoming a nurse, tuck some of these pieces of advice into your scrubs pocket for future inspiration as you begin this stressful, yet fulfilling, career.