Being a New Graduate Nurse: The Feelings, Experiences and the Questions.

15 Sep

      You are a new graduate Registered Nurse starting out on your unit but let’s rewind six months ago when you went through some drastic changes that easily could have been a feature reality show on TLC or the Discovery channel: You’ve made it through your final year.  You pass your pre-grad, you graduate from your program, you walk across that podium and smile like you are constipated shaking the hands of the Dean Chancellor and everyone else on the faculty as you get that degree in your hand.  After celebrating that you are finally graduated, you go back studying like the world is going to end for that CRNE which seems to determine your fate no matter how you look at it.  You write the CRNE not remembering how you got to the examination centre, writing it or even remembering some of the questions but you keep on thinking what would happen if you did not pass the CRNE.  After six agonizing weeks of hell you get the best news of your life that you pass the CRNE so you are now an official Registered Nurse while at the same time landing a new graduate position in a hospital working as a nurse.

     So far so good right?

     But then reality hits.  You are now responsible for everything you do and I mean EVERYTHING.  You are now to trying to juggle what you learned in your four years of nursing plus squeezing in what your clinical teachers and what your pre-grad preceptor has taught you.  You try to remember the right ways that your lab and clinical teacher taught you but you find out that the department you work in does things a bit differently which sometimes causes your mind and thinking to do a summersault.  These are just a few things that as a new graduate nurse you are faced with and perhaps what many new grad nurses are faced with. When I got hired as a new graduate  in the emergency department I was like a child opening his first toy on Christmas morning.  I was happy, excited, contented, flabbergasted, the whole nine yards.  I mean come on, this is the ER we’re talking about right?     As with any job however, there are some challenges that you come across that over time you learn to overcome and adapt to.

      One of my obstacles I faced was prior to me being a new graduate, I worked in the ER as a clinical extern therefore creating job role conflict.  As a clinical extern, I was there to assist nurses and other staff members in the department with anything which included anywhere from helping changing a heavy patient to assisting in a code where I needed to help do chest compressions.  Being an extern was great because I was able to be everywhere and was always be able to jump in and help when the time needed.  Once I became a RN, the roles changed.  I had my own specific area, my own patient assignments therefore, I was only able to help out in my area.  I couldn’t just run off and help someone who needed help or I couldn’t simply stop what I was doing to go run off and do something; I had to prioritize. This was a challenge for some other staff in the department who forgot that I was now a RN and not a clinical extern and would sometimes grab me in the middle of the task and ask me to help them with something.  This leads to my second challenge, the responsibility.

      You now have complete responsibility on what you do which means that you have to triple check if not sometimes quadruple check your stuff to ensure that everything is done right.  I would not call this a challenge but it becomes a challenge when the amount of time used to triple check everything might work against you.  As a new graduate nurse, you will (and I still do) certain things slow because you are still learning.  The last thing you want to do is rush something fast to only find out later on that you made a mistake.  Though taking your time to do something is great, time as mentioned can work against you which leads me to another challenge that I personally face and continue to do so; time management.

     This is perhaps my biggest struggle that I have as a new graduate and likely a skill many other new graduates face.  It’s one thing when you have two or three patients or even four patients with your pre-grad instructor but when you are by yourself and have the responsibility of managing four patients in an environment where the turn over can potentially be fast (especially in the ER) it can be quite challenging.  I personally still find this a challenge for me because throughout my clinical experiences the time management skills I had and were taught throughout school were based on if I was on a floor or a unit.  When you are in a fast pace environment such as ER, you learn to adjust your time management skills to adapt to the fast pace environment.  For someone who is used to working at a constant speed and having time on their hand, this can be quite challenging (which I found out quite easily.)  Despite these challenges which I believe every new nurse will face, I will say that working in the ER has been a blessing. The staff here (and I mean entire staff from the physicians to the nurses to the unit clerks to the patient transport representatives to even the housekeeping staff)  all make the department a great place to work.

     So what advice do I have for upcoming new graduate nurses, pre-graduate students or current new graduates?  First, believe in yourself (I know I sound like a 3am Anthony Robbins self help infomercial) but seriously trusting yourself and having self confidence is key.  Everyone makes mistakes and if you don’t know the answer to something, ask.  As a number of fellow experienced nurses in my department have told me “a nurse who asks few questions are the ones that you want to be careful of instead of the ones who ask a lot of questions.”  Second, everyone has different learning patterns and ways on how you learn and do things.  It does not mean you are stupid, or dumb or slow, it just means you learn things differently.   This leads to my third advice, don’t feel discourage or better yet don’t let anyone make you feel discouraged.  I will admit I have these feelings while working as a new graduate and sometimes like a stubborn cold sore they tend to flare up again.  As a new graduate nurse it is very easy for you be discouraged.  You are working with other staff members who have more experience than you, you might have some nurses who give you that “you should know this by now” look, you sometimes feel nervous when talking to a doctor about a situation and don’t want to appear as a “newbie”, and sometimes even a patient might even question your ability because they can sense that you are fresh young and new.  As nurses, we are constantly learning everyday and our learning curve increases exponentially with our years of experience.  Try not to let someone’s words of discouragement get to you and if it does, focus on something positive.   A couple of weeks ago I was being attacked my own feelings of discouragement and began doubting myself as a good nurse.  Half way through my shift I heard two comments that made my day. “You did an awesome job today.” and “You were a really great nurse today, thanks for taking care of me.” Though for some that might mean a little pat on the back, for me it transformed and transcended my feelings of self doubt to encouragement.  You see, sometimes you worry over the biggest things when it’s the little things as a smile, and acknowledging someone that can make someone else’s day, and in turn yours.

      New graduate nurses should remember that we are now the upcoming new nurses for our health care.  We carry vast amount of knowledge as well as our new learnt experiences.  We are definitely not perfect ( no one is) but as we continue our new path and career we will be absorbing vast knowledge.   With time comes experience; don’t feel discouraged, mislead, and confused thinking that you are not a good nurse when you know deep down you are.  Remember a good nurse isn’t just a nurse who can just read off an ECG flawlessly, insert a Foley catheter with ease, predict an illness before the doctor can, insert an IV after the first try or able to have all their tasks and meds done ahead of schedule and have time to relax. A good nurse is also one that is able to make their patient smile, laugh and have that patient remember who you were and what you did for them, even it was something little like giving them a warm blanket or  asking them if their okay.

     Let’s now fast forward six months ahead.   You are no longer a “new graduate nurse.”  You are now a nurse working on your unit.  You are still learning new skills, tasks procedures but you now have learned to be confident.  More importantly, you push away your discouraging feelings and continue to believe that you are a good competent nurse that will provide the best care you can for your patient that day.  This is what passing that CRNE was for.  This is what graduating from your nursing program was for.  More importantly, this is what makes you stand out as a good nurse from others.  Don’t give up……give in.

Dwight Barrett RN. BSc. BscN. aka medsoulbrother


Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Uncategorized


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9 responses to “Being a New Graduate Nurse: The Feelings, Experiences and the Questions.

  1. Mevin

    September 16, 2012 at 12:21 am

    True said Dwight…it’s totally different when you are own your own and your nerves get on to make sure you are doing everything correctly….in my case, I have recheck things, 3, sometimes 5 times to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Hopefully it’ll get better as we gain the experience needed. But good luck with all the new nurses!!!! 🙂

  2. medsoulbrother

    October 7, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Mevin, I would rather quintuple check and get it right the first time then not do it and get it wrong. I believe it will get better as we continue our career and we will able to not only critically think faster, but also perform tasks quicker and think outside the box making us better nurses for the future. Of course that all takes time.

  3. Andi C

    July 9, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Dwight could you give some advice about male nurses and how they can adapt to multitasking if they are not used to doing it? My husband is a new nurse and very discouraged because he does things very slowly and thinks that people will be inpatient with him. This may be true, but any help that can be gained from experience male nurses to aid in helping him to do a more efficient job would be great!

    • medsoulbrother

      July 17, 2014 at 2:02 am

      Hi Andi C,

      Sorry for the late reply. As far as being “slow” my first question I would like to ask is what kinda of nursing is he doing? If he is in a high paced environment such as ER I can see the somewhat urgency in doing tasks a bit faster however if he is on medical surg unit or any other kind of unit where there is no need for immediate rush to things I really do not see why he needs to rush as long as he gets things done.

      However, with that said unless management or team leaders have made comments about his performance then he should continue to take his time until he is perfected this skill. I would rather someone do a skill slow and right the first time than someone doing it fast, incorrectly and then needs to be done again.

      Surely overtime once he does the same skills over and over it will become second nature to him however if he still feels that he is being pressured into rushing his work and skills maybe he should start looking at another area where he does not feel so pressured. Team work to me is
      always the best way for a nursing unit to work but if people don’t communicate and provide nice helpful advice and tools, it makes the environment stressful.

      Hope that helps!!

    • elumbab

      February 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      Hi. I am a new grad RN and I have been working in a hospital with a preceptor. Yesterday was bad. She said, “youre still orienting?” In a very insulting way. Then later on while I was crushing meds for a patient, she came to me and said, “you’re still slow.” Well that made me feel so bad, but I just kept doing what I needed to do. Then there was a last minute discharge, so I asked a question after she rattled a bunch of words to me. I looked through the chart to understand better, called case mgmt, then went to this preceptor to ask one question; to that she yelled “Noooo!” very loudly and harshly in front of patient and family. Later on, she came to apologize. But what she did made me feel so bad. I remain calm and standing. I just kept reminding myself that God is watching. She never said one good thing to me. Still I remain calm and suck it all up. She has people laughing about me and talking behind my back at the nurses station. It is very tough. That is why I went online to see of other nurses are experiencing the same thing or is it just me who is slow and being laughed at. I have been working/orienting for 8 wks now. I am slow compared to these nurses that have been there for 5 to 8 yrs but they want me to be really fast. The hospital is different or maybe it is me. I am slow. But I am concerned that I might make a mistake and harm a patient. I move fast but, there is always something coming up that slows down my flow. I am glad to read this posting. I thought I am the only slow nurse. Thank you.

  4. lillchicken007

    July 20, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Hey 🙂 I am in my last year of Nursing this year and at this very moment looking for a grad year and I stumbled upon your post. Thank you so much these are the exact things I am worried about next year!!!

  5. One call insurance doncaster

    July 28, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for sharing such a plsasant idea, paragraph is fastidious, thats why i have read it entirely

  6. elumbab

    February 24, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    One of my preceptors make me feel discouraged. She says Im slow. Im orienting into medsurg floor. She yelled and snapped at me yesterday. It was not a good day for me. I felt bad the whole day and drove home thinking of how she butchered me with her comments. I am a new grad recently hired into medsurg. Not a new grad program. Straight into floor with preceptors. What a lovely thing she did.

  7. Newbie

    April 17, 2015 at 2:49 am

    I’m a new grad RN and seriously thought I was the only one experiencing everything you described!!! I feel so much better knowing I’m not alone and will be much kinder to myself and not doubt or compare myself to other RNs, experienced or otherwise. Thanks so much!!


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