So you finally graduated from nursing school and passed the NCLEX exam. The tough part is over, right? Wrong! There is still one more thing you must do: you must actually begin working as a nurse.
It can be very stressful transitioning from nursing student to nurse, and new grads entering the workforce can battle a whirlwind of emotions. Here are three common struggles new nurses face.
New Nurse Struggle #1: Exhaustion
When I graduated from nursing school, I began working immediately. I couldn’t work as a registered nurse until I passed NCLEX, but I had already secured a job in a hospital. My husband and I were also very tight on money at the time, so we really couldn’t afford a vacation. So I went straight from nursing school (and all the work and stress that entailed), to NCLEX, to my job.
It was pretty intense and exhausting.
Once I started working at my new job, I had to go through a nursing residency program, which is like nursing school all over again. I had to take exams, complete competency check-offs, take classes, and of course, work.
I can remember that everything was moving at lightning speed, and I was learning all of this new information. I was utterly exhausted, especially since I hadn’t really recovered from nursing school and NCLEX.
But here’s the good news for those of you struggling with this right now: Life is about to get so much better for you! After you make it through the transition period, you’re going to find that you have so much more free time on your hands.
You won’t have to spend your days practicing NCLEX questions. You won’t be cramming for nursing school exams. The orientation (or residency) program will soon come to an end, and you’ll finally be able to work as a nurse.
And without the pressure of nursing school or exams looming over your head, you’ll actually get to enjoy your days off again, too. Oh, and you’ll get to do two things on your days off that you probably haven’t done much since you started nursing school: Have fun and sleep. Life will feel great again!
New Nurse Struggle #2: Anxiety
Anxiety is also a huge struggle for new nurses, and there are many things that can induce anxiety, stress, or fear.
I can still remember many of my worries:
- I would worry that I would make some crazy medical blunder and actually harm a patient due to my lack of experience or knowledge.
- I would worry that I would call a physician and ask for something really dumb.
- I would worry that I might not hook up medical equipment properly.
- I would worry that my coworkers would think I was dumb, or that I wouldn’t get along with my coworkers.
- I would worry that I would call a code (or rapid response) when it really wasn’t needed, and so on.
But here’s the good news: The anxiety and fear that you’re feeling is going to diminish over time. You’re going to be working in the same setting over and over again. You’re going to learn the common diseases your patients have, the signs and symptoms of those diseases, the medications used to treat those diseases, and more. You’re also going to learn the quirks of your coworkers, as well as the physicians you’ll have to contact.
So all of your anxiety will begin to melt away as you build confidence and learn how to perform these skills, manage patients, and so on. It will become second nature to you. You’ll look back and think to yourself, “Wow, I can’t believe I used to be so worried about all of this.”
If you do find yourself struggling with fear and anxiety, don’t let it conquer you. Remember that some fear is actually a good thing, for it will keep you on your toes and help you stay alert.
If you have a fear of talking to physicians, practice as much as possible. I have an article/video that can help you learn tips for how to talk to doctors as a nurse.
In addition, if you find that you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask. You’ll have plenty of people who can tell you answers to your questions.
And finally, if you do make a nursing mistake, don’t get too down about it. We all make mistakes. Instead, learn from it, pick yourself back up, and be better next time. I’ve made several videos designed to help new nurses transition into the field of nursing, so you might want to watch some of those new nurse tips.
New Nurse Struggle #3: Nursing is Too Hard!
When you were a nursing student, you worked with a preceptor, and all of the responsibility ultimately fell on that preceptor. However, once you start working as a nurse, you’re going to be on your own, and the responsibility will fall on you.
If the patient is coding, you’ve got to take the initiative and take care of them. You’ve got to make sure the meds are given. You’ve got to assess the patients and ensure that everything is done before your shift is over. So it can be really intense and overwhelming, especially when you’re new. (And nursing is hard work!)
You might even have a few breakdowns and cry yourself to sleep, wondering if you’ve made a huge mistake.
But, here’s the good news: It does get so much easier over time. You’re going to learn tricks that will help you work faster. You’ll learn how to document more quickly. You’ll learn nursing time management tips. You’ll learn how to perform nursing skills more quickly as you do them every day. You’ll learn where to find supplies.
And it really ties back to the previous points I’ve made: You have to give it time. At first, it’s really hard work and very overwhelming. It felt like I had so much to remember. But in time, things begin to fall into place and become routine. Everything will begin to make sense to you. After six months to a year, you’ll feel so much more comfortable. After two or three years, you’ll feel like a pro.
Don’t Quit Nursing Prematurely
Unfortunately, I have seen some nurses get so overwhelmed by this new experience that they dropped out and quit nursing. They were fighting that initial uphill battle, and they quit before they reached the downhill ride. You have to give yourself time to adapt and learn all of the new things that is being thrown at you.
Conclusion: Becoming a Nurse is Hard, but Hang in There!
All these new nurse struggles I have listed – exhaustion, anxiety, and feeling like nursing is too hard – are common to the nursing profession. You might even say that they are nothing more than the “signs and symptoms” of being a new nurse.
The key is to never let these feelings defeat you. Give yourself time to adapt, learn, and grow into the profession. Don’t quit prematurely, because when you look back a year from now, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve grown, and you’ll be glad that you stuck with it.
Whatever you do, don’t give up, and hang in there. You’ve got this!