First Month as a Registered Nurse

WOW. What all can I say about nursing. Well, actually, there is a ton I could talk about. In this post I’m going to focus on a few different things: my thoughts on the NCLEX, the biggest high & low so far, how I am practicing self care while being at the bottom of the totem pole, and my biggest lesson that I have learned the first month of being a RN.

NCLEX

If you are a nurse, I’m sure you will agree that there is no one test that is more intimidating or unnerving than the NCLEX. Its mystic unknowns hold the key to success in the field of nursing and it is the single thing all of nursing school builds up to. I am in no way an expert, and can only speak on my personal experience, but believe me when I say that IT SUCKS. I studied my a$$ off all through nursing school, and made really excellent grades because of that.  With all of the knowledge I gained through work experience, clinicals, and classroom…. I still walked out of the NCLEX feeling like CRAP about myself. The best advice I wish I could have given myself is to do your best and be happy with that. If you apply yourself, this test is designed to allow success. Crazy things happen and excellent nurses occasionally don’t pass on their first try… but if you do your best and really apply yourself you can walk out feeling content in that. Please, don’t be as crazy as I was after taking it. I walked out, called everyone I knew and told them I failed, went to my favorite spot for lunch and shed a silent tear over my salad. It was embarrassing, and devastating, and in the end I found out that I passed and all of that emotional turmoil was for nothing. Just remember, you are more than the NCLEX.

How to maintain yourself identity while starting a new job:

It’s no joke that they start you on the bottom of the totem pole as a new grad nurse. You often have to abide by someone else’s schedule, all the requests for the seasonal time off have already been submitted, and you just need to squeeze in where there is a need. Sometimes these feelings lead you to a negative self care state, here is how I’ve been avoiding negativity:

  • Take time for yourself — pick something and do it regularly. Call it a guilty pleasure, call it me-time, call it whatever you want but set a schedule and do something JUST FOR YOU
  • Cherish friendships — nurses can be notorious for ‘eating their young’ and making it difficult on the new grad. Cherish the friendships you will make with those who are willing to take you under their wing
  • Set a routine — wether its getting up extra early to start on day shift or re-adjusting to working mid shift or even a dreaded midnight, a routine and schedule is so important. Don’t loose control of your health. Meal prep. Exercise. Hydrate. Sleep.
  • Be true to yourself — its easy to start a new job and become a new person, no one knows you so you can be whoever you want, while this can be tempting (especially when trying to fit in on the unit) being sincere will only make your life easier

Biggest high:

Getting my dream  job, hitting that first IV, giving a patient good news, seeing a chest cracked at the bedside … all of those were good things but the biggest high was when I had a patient tell me thank you for obviously loving my job. This encounter was totally unexpected, and forever shaped the way that I will look at my work as a nurse. This patient was critically ill with many more things to think about than if I loved my job or not. He could have said thank you for taking care of him, thank you for the soda I brought his family members, thank you for the blanket, or thank you for a multitude of other things that we hear every day. Instead, this man said thank you for obviously loving your job. This impacted me to the core. I was so taken aback that it was not until my shift was over that I truly processed what he was saying. His words made it clear that he could tell that I was happy, that I was doing my best, and that I was taking care of not only his physical needs but his emotional needs to the best of my ability.

Biggest low:

Having a patient die unexpectedly will forever leave an impact. This is more frequent in the ER, as compared to other locations in the hospital, but it doesn’t get easier. As nurses, we learn to cope, we learn to compartmentalize, we learn to have a quick turn around time, but it never makes it ok. There are some instances where we can’t do anything and that is hard for a group of nurses who fix people every day. Unanticipated turns for the worst make this job very difficult.

Biggest take away lessons:

  • You can do anything with enough coffee and a good stethoscope.
  • You will constantly be learning.
  • You are one person. Do what you can with what time you have.
  • The patients will be the same everywhere, but it’s the institution and the staff that can make or break it.

Is anyone else a new RN or in nursing school? I would love to continue writing about my experiences as a new grad, a nurse resident, and what I love about working in the Emergency Department. If you have any topics you would like me to talk about or tips to share leave a comment below or send me an email.

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