I see you, new grad nurse. I was you. Sixteen years ago, I started my first job as a nurse. I remember it well. In a way, it feels like a lifetime ago. On the other hand, it feels like it was just yesterday that I was crying and throwing up before my shifts those first few weeks and months. I felt like it was going to be like that forever. The good news is—it wasn’t. Those first few months are now just a blip in my nursing career.
In the beginning, I was so excited to start my new job as a nurse. But those feelings quickly changed to dread, doubt, and fear. I remember watching the housekeepers come in and take out the trash, longing to join their team instead. I was sure I had made a terrible mistake becoming a nurse.
I’m sharing my early experiences as a nurse to demonstrate that it’s challenging to start your nursing career. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and that you might have made the wrong choice. You’re not the only one experiencing those feelings. When I look back on what got me through, it was the fact that I found my tribe. I found a group of people to connect with that were a strong support system. People held me up when all I wanted to do was fall down and quit my career before it even really began.
Where do you find this essential tribe that makes nursing a wonderful experience?
Seek out helpful nurses in your unit. You’ll quickly learn which nurses are patient and willing to help you get to know the unit and the culture. It’s ideal to find many mentors that can help guide you during any shift you’re working. It’s important to feel comfortable going to these mentors with questions and concerns that come up or when you feel overwhelmed.
Fellow New Grads
New grad nurses in your tribe won’t necessarily be teaching you because they will also be learning. But, they will be valuable support because they are currently on a similar journey. These fellow new grads may become some of your best friends as you support each other with true empathy to get through the challenges of working as a nurse. Bounce ideas off each other and share concerns or new tips and tricks. No one else knows what you’re feeling and going through more than a fellow new grad.
Joining a unit or hospital committee is a great way to not only get involved, but to find more people to add to your tribe (support system). This will enable you to meet more people. It also shows people that you’re wanting to be a part of something and get involved.
Online Groups or Forums
Take advantage of having the world at your fingertips. Even if you’re not ready to jump in and post or comment, just reading about other new grad nurses’ journeys can be validating and reassuring during times of uncertainty. You can learn from others’ experiences and see you’re not alone.
The key takeaway is to not suffer this alone. Seasoned nurses that you’re learning from were all where you are now. Talk to them. Share your feelings with them. If they’re not receptive to teaching or don’t want to listen, that’s fine. Move on to someone else. You’ll find people that want to teach, mentor, listen, and take you under their wings.
Remember, this time period is only temporary. You’re a new grad nurse for just a short time. As you learn and gain confidence and competence, you will feel more comfortable each shift. Even though this feels like it’ll last forever, in the end, it will only be a small fraction of your nursing career. Before long, you’ll be the one that the new grads come to for guidance and answers. You’ll be part of their tribe.
Joanne Potter BSN, RN is a writer that specializes in health and wellness. She has fifteen years of experience as a Registered Nurse in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Her years working on the frontlines at the bedside enable her to write with a deep understanding of what patients want from their communities.