Written by Kate Avery, RN
Working as a new nurse can be nerve-wracking. Nursing school is meant to prepare you for the working world, but many recent graduates feel under-prepared. Not all all nursing programs are created equal and this can lead to growing pains in the first year as a new nurse. The nursing program at Oakland Community College, in Michigan, did a fantastic job teaching the essentials needed to excel in our first year as a nurse and throughout my career in the ICU and as a preceptor for new nurses.
Here are my five tips for success in your first year.
1. Critical Thinking: What is My Big Picture?
Critical thinking skills are heavily emphasized during nursing education. Don’t forget the big picture: providing safe and optimal patient care. This means viewing the patient as a whole patient, not focusing just on that lousy blood pressure. Micromanaging minor aspects of the patient can lead you to miss more significant problems, leading to safety concerns. It’s essential to use critical thinking skills to provide high quality patient care.
Working as an ICU nurse has shaped my critical thinking skills. When precepting new grads, I often find that the missed step in critical thinking comes from not seeing the bigger picture. Nursing is a big puzzle. Everything fits together; you simply have to figure out how.
2. Time Management is a Must!
Time management is a critical skill that you need to build during your first year as a new grad that can make or break your shift. Every shift is different. Some may be busy and some may beor slow but making sure that you manage your time appropriately will allow you to accomplish more in your shift, leaving more time for your patients and making you a better nurse and teammate.
Delegation (a complex skill to learn) is passing along tasks that others can achieve so that you can focus on strict nursing tasks. We need to lean on others when we need help, similar to when we help our coworkers.
3. Keys to Handoff Excellent Report
Nurses need to develop an adequate flow for providing a report. Utilizing this skill can be a time saver during handoff reports. It's essential to use critical thinking skills to decipher crucial aspects and not provide unnecessary information. Working as an ICU nurse, it’s essential to be told what lines the patient has, any running drips, critical vital signs, and any family dynamics that may affect patient care and safety.
4. Clear Provider to Provider Communications
Calling or speaking to a provider can generate a lot of anxiety for new grad nurses. But, there are great tools available to make sure communication is clear between providers and nurses. Remember that communication needs to be open between nursing and providers to advocate for the patient's best interests. It’s essential to understand how to communicate patient changes to providers in a timely fashion to prevent patient deterioration or harm.
One universal tool for clear communication is the SBAR template (situation, background, assessment, and recommendations). This is a great starting point to ensure that your communication is clear and relays the essential information.
We have to communicate with doctors, and yes, some are more unpleasant than others. The culture of multidisciplinary teams in healthcare has dramatically decreased negative communication interactions between physicians and nursing staff. You may find a more friendly communication style between providers and nurses in specialty settings because of the frequent interactions that are generated from routine communication about patient status changes. The nurse often catches or notices critical patient changes, and it is their duty to gain comfort in effectively communicating with providers.
5. Professional Development is the Key to Growth
Education is the key to professional development. Many research studies and books have been published highlighting the important need for nurses to continue advancing their knowledge and professional growth. As nurses are required to constantly and continuously learn and evolve in our careers, it’s essential to make sure that you take education seriously both inside and outside of the hospital. This could mean educating yourself on an interesting topic or a disease process that you do not understand. Giving professional growth the attention that it deserves will make you a more proficient nurse and grow your skills in the long run.
Nursing programs cannot teach every possible skill or disease process necessary to be successful as a nurse. We have the opportunity to take their education and skills into our hands to optimize the care we provide to our patients.
I know from experience that if you focus on excelling in these areas, you will notice a massive difference in your nursing abilities. It takes time and perseverance. Choose to learn and grow into the nurse you aspire to be.
About the author:
My name is Kate Avery, and I own Avery Content Services LLC. I am also a wife, mother to three crazy kids, nurse, and NP student. My life is messy, but I live and love my way through it and am manifesting what I know I can achieve. For more information about my services, please visit averycontentservices.com.