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What to Expect in Your First Year as a Nurse


Even if you did well in nursing school, your first year on the job can be a struggle. This is how to survive it.

If you become a nurse, your first year on the job is often the hardest. Being in a new environment, suddenly having to use new skills, and the new responsibility of being a nurse hit you all at once. It can be overwhelming. This is how to survive the first (and maybe hardest) year of being a nurse.

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Keep learning on the job

Even if you were a straight-A student who passed the NCLEX in 75 questions, don’t expect to know everything on your first day (or week, or month) of work. There’s a big difference between nursing school and the real world, and you’ll have to listen and keep learning. Don’t expect to be able to do everything flawlessly in the beginning. Instead, remind yourself that you’re still new at this.

Also, remember that school and tests can only do so much. Being book smart is important, but there are some things you can only learn on the job. There’s a good reason why graduating from school is called “commencement.” That experience marks the beginning of something, not the end. Give yourself permission to become a beginner again, and learn accordingly.

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Reach out to others

During nursing school, you probably got to know your classmates. You hung out, were able to talk through problems together, and bonded while sharing a difficult experience. In your first year of work, though, you’ll often be on your own, because you’ll have to work by yourself and because you won’t know anybody yet. There’s also the well-worn saying that “nurses eat their young.” Bullying and hazing does, unfortunately, happen among nurses and it’s the newest ones who bear the brunt of it.

Working on your own and being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the only ways to achieve independence is to get out there and work independently. During your first year on the job, you’ll do well to reach out to your co-workers and make connections. Talk to people. Ask questions. Learn the specifics and quirks of the organization where you work and find a place to fit within your job’s social structure.

Are people going out for pizza after a shift? Go with them. Is it someone’s birthday and there’s cake in the break room? Talk to people and have some cake. Just don’t try to make too big of a splash. When you come into a new organization, your goal should be to find out how it works and learn what roles you can fill in it.

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Keep setting goals

Things get easier after your first year on the job. Or, more accurately, you get more accustomed to them. You make connections with your co-workers, settle into a routine, and what was once overwhelming becomes a regular task you can do with ease. When that does happen, you’ll likely want to go further and get your BSN so you can continue your cycle of learning and not get too entrenched in a comfortable routine.

Whether you’re beginning your nursing career or taking the next steps, Ameritech is there for you. Visit our program pages to learn more about our nursing and RN–BSN programs, and follow us on Facebook.