5 Tips for New Nurses

Nursing students in simulation.

Being a new nurse is hard! You’re thrown into an incredibly important position, with important decisions to make that can make or break your patients’ day.

That said, you don’t become a professional nurse overnight, so here are some tips to continue to build on your undergraduate education.

1. Be a sponge.

Learning doesn’t stop once you graduate. In order to hone your skills and become proficient, you need to absorb knowledge from everyone around you, not just your preceptors. Every nurse will have their own tips and tricks to certain things, whether it is patient care, skills or even charting. But you can learn so much from the other disciplines you work with. Participate with some of your specialty therapists on your patients; ask your respiratory therapist how they make adjustments to certain equipment. Being a sponge lets you absorb knowledge from everywhere, so you better understand the working pieces to high quality and safe health care. 

2. Stay uncomfortable.

Most new nurses will ask when do you start to finally feel comfortable in a position. Truth is, the anxiety will wear off, but only if you challenge yourself to keep learning and don’t get too comfortable. There are daily nuances and opportunity to learn; seeking them out will keep your mind sharp!

3. Practice your skills.

It’s ok not to be a professional at certain skills, but you need to keep trying to get proficient. All too often are there new nurses that don’t feel comfortable doing a skill, so they don’t seek out opportunities to practice. Next thing you know you are years into practice and no better at these skills than when you started. Find the go-to person for the skills you are uncomfortable with, and learn the tricks of the trade!

4. Prioritize self-care.

Nursing can be physically and emotionally draining. Get into a self-care and stress management routine on your days off to stay fresh. Whether it’s exercise, travel or sleep, maximize your days off! Shared experiences with your coworkers are often bonding exercises, and you’ll likely establish some lifelong friendships with some of your coworkers.

5. Know your worth.

Find a position that works for you personally and professionally. If you ever feel less than supported by coworkers or management, it’s ok to look elsewhere. Not every position works for every nurse; there is no one size fits all. If your first position isn't what you expected it to be, see if you can shadow a different unit or floor. Nursing is a versatile degree, and not everyone works in hospitals. There are certifications you can get to expand your employment opportunities in the operating room, business or even law.

Nursing school is difficult, but you are joining the ranks of the most trusted profession in the world! Keep an open mind so you can continue to develop and grow professionally and become the best nurse you can be!

About Dennis Alex (DNP ‘18, BS ‘12)

Dennis Alex earned his bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2012 and his doctorate in nursing practice in 2019, both from UB’s School of Nursing. He began his career as a step-down ICU registered nurse at Roswell Park Cancer Institute from 2012-2013 and then worked as a float registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital from 2013-2019. Once Alex became a nurse practitioner, he became a hospitalist at Buffalo Medical Group, working with Mercy hospital, St. Joseph Campus and Suburban Hospital. He has spent the last few months coordinating COVID-19 treatment at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Published November 23, 2020