4 Things to Know as a New Nursing Graduate

Your alarm clock buzzes, and you sprint to get up, you’re filled with feelings of joy, nervousness, excitement and curiosity. You’re a new nursing graduate and it’s your first day putting that degree into action! You’ve worked hard earning those letters behind your name (LPN/VN, RN, ADN, and/or BSN), but now the moment of truth…how will your first day go?!

First Day Jitters

It’s a sure bet that you have preconceived ideas of how your first day will go and are questioning if your preceptor will be encouraging or one of “those” crotchety nurses who eats their young. Regardless, you’re stoked to be a nurse, make money, and start your career! 

Picture this: As you arrive to the floor and meet your preceptor, he/she seems cool however, they are ambivalent to your presence and not the nurturing nurse you had hoped for. If this scenario rings true for you, don’t get discouraged. Many of us have experienced this same scenario at the beginning of our nursing careers and I promise you IT GETS BETTER!

Been there, Experienced that

As a seasoned nurse, I still remember my very first day on the job, you never forget those terrible preceptors. My preceptor’s name was Karen (yes, seriously) and she was the most wretched nurse you could imagine. By lunch time, I was in my car crying and feeling inadequate and questioning my capabilities as a nurse. She had broken me down and failed to build me up and I was spiraling down a hole of self-deprecation. By now, you may be feeling the same or perhaps you were lucky enough to have a wonderful preceptor. 

The advice I’m about to share with you will help you along your journey as you transition into your role as a nurse and tackle the obstacles that will ensue. I want you to remember we were all new nurses at some point – unfortunately, some fail to remember what it was like.

Real Tips for Real Situations

As a new nursing graduate, you’ve got all the textbook knowledge, but until you’ve been on the floor seeing your own patients, textbooks aren’t enough.  I’ve compiled a list of the top 4 things to remember as a new nursing graduate when clocking-in on your first shift. 

  1. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. First and foremost, as a new nursing graduate, THIS IS NORMAL! The best way to counteract these feelings of inadequacy is to remind yourself that you’re in the infancy stages but you’re eager to learn. This is a great opportunity to be open to the multiple ways of nursing. That overwhelming feeling will subside as time moves forward and you become comfortable in your new role. 
  2. Always put safety first and the rest will fall into place. I hear so many preceptors grinding into new nursing graduates about a particular way to insert an IV or drop an NG tube, etc. If it’s safe and effective, take their advice, but be ready to learn from the next preceptor’s recommendations too.  Be sure to also review hospital safety measures for things like accidental Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure or Patient Fall Protocols so you’re prepared for the unexpected.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I don’t care how silly it may seem or how “dumb” it may sound, there is no stupid question and never let a seasoned nurse or any healthcare professional tell you otherwise! A new nurse who doesn’t ask questions because they think they know it all is alarming. The new nurse who is too scared to ask questions, so he/she relies on new grad counterparts for advice isn’t safe either. I encourage new grads to seek information out and do some of your own research to formulate questions. There’s nothing more exciting than getting an opportunity to educate and nurture a growing mind. Be bold, humbled and eager to speak up and ask. 
  4. Take care of yourself first! Don’t feel obligated or pressured to pick up extra shifts as a new grad. I know I felt internally obligated to do so because I want to be accepted and trusted by my manager, charge nurses and colleagues; I wanted to be a team player. This will not help you gain trust or acceptance, rather you’ll be on the fast-track to burnout. Pick up shifts when it benefits you and supports your overall health. Find a mentor who supports you throughout your journey and who can help answer your questions and build your confidence. 

About the Author
Special thanks to Christine Diltz RN, BSN, the Founder and CEO of NurseRX, for providing the content of this article. Christine is a neonatal and pediatric ICU nurse who’s been in the travel nurse industry for over seven years. She’s helped numerous nurses learn and understand how to become a better, smarter travel nurse. 

About NurseRX
NurseRX is a launchpad that streamlines the process of transitioning staff nurses to travelers. We pride ourselves on teaching you all there is to know about reading and understanding your travel nurse contract. For more information, please feel free to check us out at www.nurserxusa.com and follow us on Instagram @nurserxusa