The transition from “nursing student” to “practicing clinician” comes with a measure of uncertainty. New nurses getting ready for their first day on the job often find themselves asking the question: Am I as ready and prepared as I need to be? It’s completely normal to ask this question and to feel nervous as you begin your first nursing job.
While there is a wide gap between being a student and being a clinician, be encouraged by this: You’ve already overcome some of the challenges you’ll soon face again.
- Course work prepared you to press on when you feel overwhelmed
- Clinicals trained you to perform under pressure
- Your NCLEX® prep trained you to recall information quickly and accurately.
These are all experiences that will benefit you in your first nursing job! If you’re feeling a little apprehensive about your new life as a nurse, here are three things to keep in mind:
1. You’re Not Alone
Your first year as a nurse is kind of like your freshman year of high school. As you walk into that hospital or care facility, those freshman feelings and questions resurface.
“Where’s my home room?” becomes “Where’s the supply room?”
“That teacher scares me!” turns into “My preceptor terrifies me!”
“My back hurts from lugging these books around” is now “My feet hurt from walking more than 4 miles a shift.”
But just as you weren’t the only freshman in high school, you’re not the only new nurse. There are others experiencing the same things — you’re not alone!
More importantly, the veteran nurses you’ll encounter have been where you’re at and understand the journey. Some will be more patient than others, but the majority of your colleagues will be supportive and help you calm those I’m-new-here butterflies.
2. You’ll Learn on the Job
There are some common phrases you’ll hear when you begin practicing as a nurse such as: “The only thing nursing school teaches you is how to be a nursing student” and “This isn’t what they taught you in class, but on the floor…”
While those refrains may be a little excessive, the general idea is that the majority of your education happens on the job, not in the classroom. The only thing that can adequately prepare you for real-world nursing is real-world nursing.
Think of it this way . . .
Nursing school has given you the foundational knowledge you need to continue learning.
Here are a few things you can do to lessen the on-the-job learning curve: ask lots of questions, take copious notes, keep studying, determine to learn at least one new thing each shift, connect with other first-year nurses.
3. You’re Going to Make Mistakes
There is no such thing as a perfect nurse. You’re new and you’re still learning. That means you are going to make mistakes.
Don’t look at a mistake as a failure, but rather as an opportunity to learn. The key to improve as a nurse with each new day is to avoid making the same mistake you made yesterday.
Be honest enough to say, “I’m not sure; let me ask.” Be humble enough to say, “I’m sorry; that was my mistake.” Be resolute enough to say, “I’ve learned now. I won’t make the same mistake again.”
If you’re a nursing student preparing to take the NCLEX® exam, UWorld is the gold standard for NCLEX prep. We can help guide your success from classroom to clinical with thousands of questions that mimic the exam, detailed rationales, vivid illustrations, and precise performance tracking. Discover why over 700,000 nursing students have trusted us for their exam prep since 2015.