So you’ve finally finished nursing school. You’ve passed all your stages, and maybe your board exam too. Congratulations!!
You’ve attended your clinicals religiously, and you think they were reflective of the reality of being a nurse.
You feel ready to “conquer the world”, and, as you’ve seen so many posts on Instagram or Pinterest with mentions: “proud RN,” or “saving lives.”
You’re excited to make meaningful changes in sick people’ lives.
You know, based on what your preceptors have told you, that you’re going to be a great nurse. You’ve had decent or great feedback, and you know you’re on your way to a successful career as a nurse.
And you’ve got all what it takes: you’re a caring person, empathetic, professional, driven, and you’re a good communicator.
You are READY for this life.
Or perhaps that’s what you think.
They don’t teach you at school how to react when you’re in powerless in a situation and unable to reach for help. They’re going to prepare you and expose you to as much situations as possible, when you’re a student, but, most of the time, somebody’s always within reach.
They try to teach you how to react when your patient is decompensating very quickly, and you can’t reach the MD. But deep down, you will be panicking.
They obviously can’t really teach you about the sacrifices you’ll have to do… like the mandatory overtimes, or the weekends you’ll miss with your family, and the holidays you won’t necessarily spend with your loved ones. The lack of sleep and tiredness you’ll feel after your 4th night shift in a row.
You’ve chosen this profession because you feel like you can make a difference. And you can, indeed. And you must remember that, even in your darkest days.
There will be some docs who will try discourage you, directly or indirectly, making you feel not well-suited for the job. And sometimes, these remarks will be coming from your own breed: nurses, like you. Nurses who have once been beginner nurses, but seem to have partial amnesia. Some of them may have forgotten the struggle they’ve been through… but remember that nobody’s born a perfect nurse. In fact, there’s no such thing as a perfect nurse. There is always, ALWAYS room to grow. Nursing is constantly evolving, and the patients are also different from what they were two decades ago, so there will always be new things to learn, for both novice and senior nurses. As for MDs, a lot of them also forget they once were medical students and residents years ago. They seem to suffer from that same partial amnesia (It must be something in the air). Experience made them what they are right now. And it’ll be the same for you.
On the other hand, try to be humble and willing to learn from the previous generations of nurses and docs. That’ll make you wiser, and a nurse who’s got the best of both worlds, getting the experience and being techno savvy.
Your learning curve will never go smooth sailing. At times, you’ll enjoy learning things in a calm and peaceful environment. But oftentimes, you’ll have to learn on the spot. Your nursing instinct will have to kick in almost immediately. And if they don’t the first time, the next time you’ll find yourself in a similar situation, they will.
I recently had an interview for a position in a clinic. One of the interviewer asked me about one thing I wish to always carry with me in my practice. I paused for a few seconds, then replied: I wish to never lose my humanity when taking care of vulnerable people. New skills can be learned every single day. Experience comes over time. But for me, being a good nurse starts with the basics, like greeting my patients and their family members on their arrival, making sure my patient is comfortable and safe. Trying to make this rough time a little bit easier. And sometimes, this can be achieved by a simple empathetic smile, rather than making sure their leg dressing is perfect. I wish to never treat them like they are less than human. Because as a nurse myself, and being an “anonymous”user of the healthcare system from time to time, I see too often health care professionals who don’t seem to care anymore, who think that patients are more annoying than anything. So I wish to never loose my humanity, my sense of empathy when caring for patients, wherever they may be.
And this is the best advice for new nurses I can think of. Always remember where you’re coming from. Treat your patients the way you’d like to be treated. Or treat them the way you’d treat your family members if they were your patients. This is basics. But like we said before… that partial amnesia condition has happened to so many of our coworkers, let’s just pray we’re immune to it.
Welcome to the wonderful, yet challenging world of nursing.
Have a happy and blessed nursing career!