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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Nurse

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Published: 13 September 2015

Cover image for article: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Nurse

Nursing can be shocking when you actually get into it. The blood, the vomit, and the faeces are usually of no consequence. Most nursing students are able to handle these run of the mill horrors. However, some things come as a shock when a student graduates and gets a job.

These are the things I wish I knew before I became a nurse. They aren’t well-kept secrets, but they are consequences of the job that you may not realise beforehand.

1. Don’t Settle for the First Job you Get

Your licensure or registration as a nurse opens up a world of possibilities for you. You will be excited for your first job and ready to give it your all. But once you start you will begin to see the cracks. Maybe you will notice you are short staffed. Maybe your co-workers won’t be supportive.

Since this is your first job, you may mistakenly believe that this facility is representative of how all nursing is. This is not true. If you are unhappy in your first nursing job, keep looking for alternatives until you find one that suits you.

2. Practise as Many Skills as Possible

When you get on the floor, you won’t have the time to practise your skills as much as you think. Sure, you may get to put in an IV here and there, but that’s not going to make you an expert. If you want expertise, you need to work on muscle memory. This means that you have to do the skill over and over so that your brain knows the steps even when you don’t.

Don’t just focus on IVs, either. You’ll want to work on catheters, NG tubes, drug calculations, assessment skills and anything else they teach you in school. Practise as much as you can because it will make you a better nurse.

3. Nursing Doesn’t Start Until Orientation

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a NurseNursing school is very hard work, and no one is denying that. It is nothing like working as a nurse, though. Once your feet hit the floor and orientation starts, you are swept up into an entirely new world that has shockingly little to do with what you learn in nursing school. You should know this is normal.

It takes a while for a new grad to get their feet under them. For instance, you have two patients at most in school. When you are a nurse, you can expect at least four, potentially six, and you hope not eight. Orientation may be the most difficult part of transitioning into being a nurse. You learn the day-to-day needs of your patients, and that is very often overwhelming. Don’t give up. It gets easier.

4. Time Management is the Most Important Skill You’ll Learn

Although all of the skills you learned in nursing school will help you in time, none will be more important than time management. You have a specific set of tasks that you need to get done before the end of the shift. Logic says to make a schedule and follow it.

Unfortunately, nursing doesn’t move in a linear way. You may be going through your schedule and get distracted from it many times. This means that you have less time to do the routine tasks on your schedule. Yet you cannot avoid being interrupted. This is the essence of time management. Learn how to manage this phenomenon early, and you will have a much easier time transitioning.

5. Nursing can be Hard on your Family

Your family may be very supportive of your desire to be a nurse, but not many nurses or families know that having a nurse in the family can be stressful. Nurses work weekends and holidays and nights . . . all times when others are taking a break. Although some nurses work 12-hour shifts, the four days off may be taken up by recuperating or trying to fit in family time between naps.

Some relationships can break up due to the stress of nursing. Your mood may be affected, and this will translate to your family. Some nurses may not be able to see their kids as much as they want. The solution? Time management, just like you use on the floor, can help you manage your family time, too.

Author

Portrait of Lynda Lampert
Lynda Lampert

Lynda is a registered nurse with three years experience on a busy surgical floor in a city hospital. She graduated with an Associates degree in Nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast in 2007 and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States. In her work, she took care of patients post operatively from open heart surgery, immediately post-operatively from gastric bypass, gastric banding surgery and post abdominal surgery. She also dealt with patient populations that experienced active chest pain, congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease, uncontrolled diabetes and a variety of other chronic, mental and surgical conditions. See Educator Profile