It's time; can you believe it? That is to say, you are a new nurse graduate and—after many years of studying and passing the NCLEX—are excited to start your career off on the right foot. But let’s be honest for a second: Starting a new job can feel intimidating for anyone. So, if you are a nurse preparing for your first nursing shift, it is essential to ensure a successful start to your nursing career.
Here’s how to prepare yourself as a nurse mentally and physically and five tips to survive your first day as a nurse:
Establish a Start-of-Nursing-Shift Routine
Who knew building a start-of-shift routine could be so much fun—especially if you're a nurse? So, whether you are a person who thrives on organization or likes to do things on a whim, we have a few pointers to keep in mind when building an awesome start-of-a-nursing-shift routine.
First, get ready for your nursing shift the day before your shift is scheduled. Writing down your nursing shifts or making a calendar are all great ways to mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. Likewise, if you are already on the clock for a string of twelve-hour shifts in a row, may you have mercy and luck—just kidding! The reality is while working a rigid schedule of twelve-hour nursing shifts can seem challenging, many nurses prefer these types of shifts as they allow for a better work-life balance. So, whether you are scheduled to work typical nurse shifts or not, it’s best to organize yourself for your nursing schedule.
Next, lay out your scrubs—that’s right, just like you did (or maybe your parent did) in middle school: Pick out your outfit and have it in plain sight. This could mean hanging your nursing scrubs up in a separate part of your closet or folding them on a chair in your room and making sure they are pressed and ready to go. To be candid, nobody appreciates a wrinkly scrub uniform—especially on your first day.
Finally, pack your nursing bag with nursing supply essentials such as your stethoscope, name badge, pens, etc. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a nourishing snack for your nursing shift. But we will get to that later.
Be Familiar with Nursing Policies
We get it. Reading an employee handbook on rules and regulations is about as riveting as watching paint dry. However, every hospital or medical setting will have nursing policies that are unique to their facility rules, and it's a nurse’s responsibility to be familiar with them.
Nursing procedures and policies are commonly outlined in a medical facility’s employee handbook or manual. Therefore, it’s crucial that before starting your first nursing shift, you ask to review the nursing procedures and policies handbook. If you have any doubts about certain legal procedures or practices, make sure you clarify and ask questions directly to your employer. After all, non-compliance in nursing can lead to serious consequences such as patient harm, disciplinary action, and legal repercussions.
Get to Know Technology Systems in Nursing
Technology in nursing is making a positive impact on patient care. That said, sometimes, a new nurse can feel overwhelmed and even intimidated by the eruption of innovation and technology in a nursing environment. Don’t fret just yet. From automated IV pumps and Electronic Health Records (EHR) to smart beds and centralized command centers, there is no avoiding the use of technology while working as a nurse. So, whether you are a nurse who is comfortable with adapting to new nursing technology systems or needs a little time to get used to it, don’t be afraid to ask questions about each technology system’s functionality. By embracing technology, you can enhance your role in promoting health and wellness and provide better healthcare services to patients.
Pack a Healthy Snack for Nurses on the Go
Want to really show up for your first nursing shift ready to go and alert? Make sure you pack a few healthy snacks to munch on during your nursing shifts. The unfortunate truth is that busy nurses are likely to skip meals due to the nature of their job. However, the key to staying nourished and clear-minded while working a nursing shift (especially those twelve-hour-long shifts) is to pack a couple of snacks that are easy to grab. Types of quick and nutritious snacks for nurses could include the following:
- Trail Mix
- Cottage Cheese
- Fresh Fruit
- Deli Rollups
For an extended list of awesome snacks for nurses, check out Quick and Healthy Power Snacks for Busy PRN Nurses.
Strive for a Great Nursing Work-Life Balance
Nursing can be your ticket to financial security and a fulfilling career. That’s because nursing is a promising career with plenty of opportunities. At the same time, nurses must understand how to create a great work-life balance. This could mean looking at a new nursing career that involves creating a schedule around your unique lifestyle. A popular way to do this is to work as a per diem or PRN nurse who picks up shifts where a hospital facility needs coverage. Becoming a PRN nurse can allow for more freedom outside of work as well as scheduling flexibility.
In any scenario, being a nurse requires you to get enough sleep, eat well, and arrive to work on time and ready to go. More importantly, having a positive attitude and remembering why you wanted to become a nurse in the first place can help you survive your first day on your nursing shift. Oh, and one more thing: You got this!