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What You Need to Know About Your First Nursing Job


Your first job as a nurse can be tough. Here are six survival tips to get you started.

After countless hours spent in labs, studying with your classmates, and testing in the classroom, you’re finally done with nursing school. You’re licensed, pinned, and you’ve secured your first interview with a healthcare provider. But, this only the beginning. Once you land that first nursing job, a new level of work begins. A hospital or a treatment center is not the same as being in a classroom. Quite frankly, your initial nursing assignment can be pretty intimidating. Here are a few pointers on doing well in the face of your first real job:

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1. Ask questions, and talk to everybody

Everyone in a hospital or a private practice holds information you could benefit from. You should definitely ask your preceptor for guidance, but don’t stop with them. Keep in mind that other staff could also have insights into how things are done. LPNs, MAs, receptionists, and everyone in between will have a unique perspective on your new place of work. Talk to people during your first year of nursing! You never know when you’ll learn (or who can teach you) something essential.

Related resource: Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Nurse

2. Learn the policies and the paperwork

Every employer is going to have slightly different rules, forms, and ways of doing things. Take some time to familiarize yourself with how your new job handles bedside reports and other patient information, whether or not there’s any software you need to be familiar with, and what paperwork goes where. The minutes that you’ll spend trying to find a document or figure out a form will add up, and you’re only going to have so much energy during your shift. Learn how your native work environment functions quickly so you can spend your precious energy on your patients rather than paperwork.

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3. Organize yourself

There’s going to be a lot that you don’t know about and can’t control in your first job. To counter that uncertainty, organize what you can. Make sure that your scrubs are clean and good to go in the morning, do meal prep on weekends and have your meals packed before you head out, and always get a good night’s sleep. A new job is going to present you with plenty of chaos and unpredictability. The more orderly and prepared you are going into it, the more likely it is you’ll succeed.

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4. Learn efficiencies

The amount of tasks you have to perform each day might, initially, seem overwhelming. Find out which parts of your new job you can cluster together. What tasks are near each other? What possibly overlaps with what? It can be as simple as just filling your pockets with everything you’ll need for multiple patient check-ins so you don’t have to make multiple supply runs. Or, take notes as you go so your documentation will be easier and faster at the end of your shift. Those little efficiencies will equate to more minutes in your day.

Related resource: 5 Ways Nurses Can Build Rapport With Patients

5. Be prepared for the night shift

If you’ve never worked it before, you might be intimidated by the night shift. As a new nurse, though, you may not be able to avoid it. If you get assigned to the night shift, don’t worry: plan. There are plenty of ways for nurses to cope with the graveyard shift. It’s also an opportunity. By working after dark, you’ll immerse yourself in a world that simply doesn’t exist during the day. Doing the graveyard shift means that you’ll avoid the typical commute, you’ll likely qualify for a pay upgrade, shifts will be quieter, and for the working parents out there, childcare options will get a lot easier. Who knows? You might even decide that being a night owl is for you.

Related resource: 3 Things You Should Never Stop Learning as a Nurse

6. Remember, you’re not done learning

It’s very tempting to see the end of nursing school as a capstone or ending. While the pinning ceremony and graduation do mean the end of classes, you’re just getting started. “Commencement,” after all, means “beginning.”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with new tasks and information, that’s OK. Everyone feels that way when they start their career. At Ameritech, we can teach you the technical skills you’ll need to become a nurse, and we are proud to do so. Life as a nurse will present you with extraordinary rewards and challenges that no degree of schooling can prepare you for, but we do our best to prepare you in every way.

There is much more to nursing than meets the eye, and Ameritech strives to set its students up for success by giving them all the tools they need to enter the job market as prepared as possible. To learn more about our nursing, RN–BSN, or other programs, visit our program pages or follow us on Facebook.