Many nurses see the first year after nursing licensure as being one of the hardest. There are simply too many things that you have to consider, learn, and become used to. However this is also one of the most exciting periods of your nursing career as you work towards establishing yourself in the profession.
Getting Your First Job
The first thing that you need to do at the beginning of your first year after nursing licensure is to find a job as a nurse. This is easier said than done. It is certainly true that there is a shortage of nurses in the US at the moment, but it is still far from easy for a fresh-faced graduate to simply walk into any job of her choosing. In some cases the program through which you studied for your qualification may offer employment opportunities or a system through which it finds employment for its graduates. If that is not the case, keep the following in mind when looking for your first job:
- Contact the medical facilities in your area as well as your state board of nursing in order to find out about potential positions. Look for specific job advertisements for nurses as well.
- Apply for at least three different positions, preferably more, in order to increase your chances.
- Do not turn down jobs because of specialty or salary – you will not find your ideal job first time round, and all experience is helpful.
Signing Your First Employment Contract
When signing an employment contract you need to remember that that contract is binding and you have no choice but to abide by the rules laid out in it. Consequently you need to be aware of what is going into that contract before you sign anything. Make sure that you are fully informed regarding your eligibility and any delays involved in that, as well as to what benefits you are eligible for. Make sure that you are aware of the disability benefits that your new employer may offer and that you take advantage of them if necessary. You also need to be aware of what the retirement policies are, and, most importantly, if they are in place form, the first year after nursing licensure or not. Another important thing to consider in your contract is whether or not your employer will pay your tuition fees.
How To Become Part Of The Team
Health care professionals, especially nurses, tend to work in teams in most working environments. Usually, in your first year of nursing licensure, you are required to join a team that has already been together for a while, making you the outsider. All it takes is a little bit of time to get to know everyone. Here are some tips to make this transition smoother:
- Be friendly, but be careful about overdoing it as there are boundaries to observe
- Offer to help out instead of waiting to be asked to do something
- Project a positive attitude no matter what you feel inside
- Pay attention to how things are done in the unit and adopt the same norm
- Take note of small things, such as the habits of other members of the team (For example, where do they normally sit? You could avoid inadvertently offending anyone if you pay close attention to small details like this)
How To Build Up Confidence
One of the best ways to ensure that you are confident enough to do your job well is to make enough time for everything that you need to do. Time management is an important skill and you will feel more confident if you have made enough time for everything. If you are unsure of anything, check hospital policies or ask another nurse – remember that no one expects you to know everything, and there are no stupid questions at this point in your career as you are simply trying to avoid making any mistakes. Pay attention all the time to what is going on around you so that you don’t miss out on any learning opportunities. Approaching a doctor is daunting. There are four steps in informing a doctor:
- Probing (are you aware…)
- Alerting (Mr. X has this problem, is there something you’d like me to do…)
- Confronting (Mr. Z’s issue is a real concern, can we do Y/could you review the case in order to resolve this as soon as possible)
- Escalate (I’m sorry but this problem needs to be rectified urgently; if you’re not happy to do this I’ll have to take the matter to my superior/the specialist etc.)
Last but not least develop a coping mechanism for dealing with the inevitable stress that will arise in this job.
Surviving Work In Your First Year After Nursing Licensure
Your first year after nursing licensure is perhaps one of the most daunting periods of your career, and unfortunately there are often cases of nurses who simply cannot cope and, as a result of that, give up. This depends largely on your attitude. If you assume that you will know everything from day one, you are likely going to struggle to come to terms with the fact that you are not, in fact, a natural born expert on all topics related to nursing and that it may be necessary to get some help. Here are three basic tips that you can follow in order to survive that all important first year:
Find A Teacher
There are several ways in which you can ‘find a teacher’ in a nursing environment:
- Choose one of the nurses on your shift who has been there for a long time to be your mentor. Obviously they will need to be willing to help you out with this. However this can be easier said than done as shifts vary constantly and you may not be able to find one specific mentor to turn to.
- The more sensible approach is to develop an attitude of asking questions of anyone who is in a more senior position to you. If you are not sure of something, find someone on your shift at that moment that will be able to give you some advice on how to move forward with what you are doing.
A teacher doesn’t need to be a formal title, but merely someone who seems willing to help you when you are uncertain and who can give you much-needed advice.
Always On Task
Something that is often difficult for new nurses to adjust to is the change from working with a small handful of patients as a student to working with half a floor as a nurse. There are several ways to help you ensure that you do not get behind on your work:
- Work constantly
- Chat to your patients and chart them at the same time
- Remember not to write too much, stick to the basics in your chart, and don’t be afraid to use abbreviations (as long as they are clear)
- Focus on what the doctors want, and stick to the facts
- Multitask when possible by bringing what you will need in the future with you so you don’t have to go back to the supply room multiple times
At first you will find this difficult, but after a while you will develop personalized methods of keeping on top of your work load, just like every other nurse has done in the past.
There is another side to the coin – you also have to make enough time to relax during your shift. Nursing shifts are usually about 12 hours long. Take advantage of your lunch break, and use it to get away form the ward. Go to the cafeteria and spend some time just sitting quietly by yourself or talking to colleagues about things not related to your job. If you do not take the time to relax at least once or twice during your shift you will increase your chances of burning out. This is part of self-care – nurses who do not take proper care of themselves are not in the long run able to properly care for their patients. Consequently self-care is a responsibility to yourself as well as to your patients. Keep your eyes open for signs of burnout in yourself and in your colleagues.
The first year after nursing licensure need not be the daunting experience that many nurses think that it will be. You will be nervous and there will be times when you feel out of your depth, but this is temporary. If you approach your first year as a licensed nurse with the right attitude, and if you take all of the potential challenges and problems into account, you will make a success of your career from the beginning. Remember that no one expects you to be perfect from day one and it will take time to get the hang of everything involved in the profession.