As a new nurse you will experience some type of “new nurse anxiety“. It is so normal to experience anxiety as a new nurse graduate that I would say it would be abnormal not to experience anxiety. When I was a new nurse I experienced it, and the new nurses I have precepted over the years have experienced it as well.
The goal of this article is to encourage anyone who is about to start a job as a new nurse. I want to let you know anxiety is experienced by everyone and give you tips on how it deal with the “new nurse anxiety”. I feel that if you know what expect and how to deal with the anxiety you will easily transition into your new role as a nurse.
What is anxiety?
It is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or unease about something. Signs and symptoms of anxiety include (but not limited to): knots in your stomach, constantly questioning yourself, sweating, and feeling nauseous
When is anxiety experienced as a new nurse? It is most common during the first 6 months to year of being a nurse. Anxiety will be high right when you start your new job…then decrease while in orientation (because you are with a preceptor), and then peak once the orientation period is over (because you will be on your own).
When does the “new nurse anxiety” start to go away? Anxiety starts to decrease about 6 months to a year. When you reflect back from when you first started you will notice you feel more confident and the anxiety is dramatically decreased.
The Main Cause for New Nurse Anxiety?
From what I have experienced and seen others experience, the main cause for anxiety is due to being thrust out into a new environment where you are not familiar with the people you are working with and being required to quickly learn the hospital’s systems and protocols while trying to provide care to very sick patients. This is added to the fact that you lack nursing experience and are still learning to be comfortable with your nursing skills.
Other causes of anxiety you may experience:
- Afraid of unintentionally harming a patient
- Not feeling confident in your nursing skills and judgements
- Communicating with other members of the healthcare team (example: physicians)…knowing when to notify a doctor or when/how to question an order
- Dealing with code blue and rapid response situations
- Chaos you will encounter as a nurse (juggling patient loads, paperwork, completing doctor’s orders, admissions, discharges, difficult patients/situations)
- Feeling part of the team rather than a burden and trying to keep up with the pace
Tips on How to Deal with New Nurse Anxiety
Take advantage of your orientation period! Towards the end of your orientation period (3 weeks before you will be on your own) take the whole patient load without the help of your preceptor and use your preceptor as a guide (not an extra pair of hands). This is important because you need to learn how to deal with the “chaos” that will be coming your way when you are on your own which will help you transition when you are on your own.
Give it time! Remember anxiety is normal and it takes time for it to decrease. Don’t beat yourself up if you are having anxiety! Also, if you mess up…pick yourself up, review what happened, and correct the mistake. Remember that experience is the best teacher and so are mistakes.
Find a mentor! Don’t “bottle up” your anxiety and keep it to yourself. Many people don’t talk about the anxiety they are experiencing because they think it is a sign of weakness (it isn’t). So, find another nurse on the floor you work you can talk to. You will probably find they had the same issues which will make you feel better.
Ask for help! You will be doing this your whole nursing career. If you are ever unsure about how to do something or if you need some advice, ask another seasoned nurse for help.
Balance your life! Be sure you balance your work vs. play time. Don’t pick up extra shifts until your anxiety is decreased and you feel more confident than when you first started. If you work yourself too much you will find you will be become burnt out with the job and possibly question if nursing is for you. Also, get enough rest, eat well, and exercise because all of these things play a role in how you deal with anxiety/stress.
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