Being a New Nurse

Thoughts on Being a New Nurse

Being a new nurse is hard. You graduate from college, prep for your NCLEX, pass your NCLEX, and think you’ve accomplished this massive feat of becoming a nurse. And you have, but you have also just begun.

You think you know an adequate amount of information, and you know a lot. But what you don’t know is that you will never know it all. No textbook will prepare you for handling drug-seeking, yelling, threatening patients. For dealing with overbearing family members with patience and humility, as they are only worried for their loved one. For holding a straight and professional face when a doctor yells at you for the first time, for the second time, for the third time. For being able to withstand a 12, most the time 13 hour shift where you are mostly on your feet, you don’t get to use the restroom more than once or twice, and you are lucky if you have time to eat. For the days when you drag yourself out of bed, into your car, and through the hospital doors with a sense of overwhelming dread for the long shift ahead of you. For the days when you nearly call in from having an anxiety attack over all the unknown that being a nurse entails. For the times that you sob in the Pyxis room from feeling inadequate, like a bad nurse, because you had patients unhappy with you, doctors unhappy with you, and you missed all of the IVs you attempted that shift. For when the “mean nurse” demeans you in front of a patient and blows your confidence level back to ground zero. And this does not even scratch the surface of what you did not learn about how to deal with so much sickness, so much death, so much stress that accompanies dealing with human suffering on a day to day basis.

Textbooks taught us a lot of knowledge, but what they didn’t teach you is that 95% of nursing is on-the-job training. Yes, what we learned in the textbook can help us explain and teach to our patients, which is extremely important

They didn’t teach you the accomplished feeling you have after leaving a good shift, where you handled your assignment with competency. The feeling when a patient says “you are such a nice nurse, you make my stay less painful”. That feeling when you get that beautiful flashback of crimson red blood upon inserting an IV. Or how it feels to gain the trust of a difficult patient after working with them for 36 hours straight. When a family member hugs you and says “mija we love it when you’re our nurse”.  The swell of pride you get when you have actually made a positive difference in someone’s life, and you realize that is your job. Textbooks don’t teach you how to talk to physicians on the phone, or how to advocate for your patient against someone who has far more experience with you, but when you finally learn how to do so it is a proud moment. The textbooks don’t teach you how to work effectively with people that are so different than you, but they also don’t tell you that the strength of a bond between nurse coworkers is strong as steel. The textbooks don’t tell you that for at least your first year, if not longer, as a nurse you will have to learn so much more, to grow so much more. You have yet to learn how good it feels to finally feel confident in yourself. You have yet to learn how challenging, draining, and yet rewarding your new career can be. It is so much more than just a job.

As I have approached and passed my one year mark of being a nurse, and after working in two different hospitals and units during this time, I still do not know how I feel about it. Nursing is what I spent 4.5 years getting a degree in, and it is an incredibly stable job, so it is what I will try. Most days I do not like it and my anxiety and depression rears it’s ugly head on my work days. I struggle immensely. Yet there are many rewarding moments, and knowing that my job has the potential to directly impact so many people gives me a sense of purpose. Maybe in time I will get over my barriers and begin to truly feel my place in this crazy wild field. For now, I’m hanging on day by day (or rather night by night). Prayers and praise to all nurses, new and seasonsed, out there for all the you do.

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