Today in the chart

5 Truths for Terrified New Nurses Starting Their First Jobs Out of School

Getting straight As in nursing school won’t prepare you for your first crashing patient at 3 a.m.

There is a lot about the nursing field that you can only learn through “trial by fire.” Sure, you can pull all As through school, ace all your exams, and write the perfect essay with the greatest reference page you’ve ever seen. Still, none of that will matter when you’re exhausted and facing your first crashing patient at 3 am, and you suddenly have no recollection of why you decided to become a nurse in the first place.

Transitioning from nursing school into the “real world” isn’t always easy, but one thing is sure. We all go through the same challenges, fears, and hard realizations, and in the end, they make us better nursing professionals.

Still, I wish someone had been more truthful with me about what life after nursing school would look like. So, to comfort you in your nursing journey, I’m sharing a few truths you should know about #lifeafternursingschool. 

1. You won’t ever actually use a nursing diagnosis.

Yup, I said it, and I felt guilty going there, but I did. You spend extraordinary time on diagnoses and care plans in nursing school. Strangely enough, though, once you hit the hospital floor as a “real” nurse, the time you spend on that shrinks to almost nothing. Don’t get me wrong — you’ll still choose nursing care plans and diagnoses, which will be an official part of your patient’s chart. But they aren’t as big of a deal as nursing school makes you think they are.

2. Yes, everyone is as terrified as you when they start.

As my nursing instructor used to say, it’s the ones who aren’t scared that you need to worry about. It will get better, though. I promise. 

3. The first time you call a doc during night shift is the ACTUAL worst.

It’s even worse if you know you woke the good doctor up, but there’s no way around it. Just think of your shaky, high-pitched, weird voice as a badge of honor during that call. We’ve all done it, and now it’s your turn. You got this. 

4. Nurses do not really “eat their young.”

Have I encountered some rude nurses? Of course. Nurses are human. They have awful days. They can get so busy with their own stuff that they genuinely don’t have time to help, and some may rub you the wrong way. But the overwhelming majority of nurses are the best people on the planet and would never “eat their young.” So when dealing with experienced nurses, try to learn from them, be as helpful as possible, and recognize when you don’t know enough. (In the beginning, that happens often, and it’s normal.)

5. You’re not as annoying as you think you are.

When you realize that you’ve already asked about ten billion questions just five minutes into your shift, you don’t know where anything is! You might be terrified to ask the charge nurse for help again. But trust me, asking questions is part of the job. If you’re willing to ask, it means you’re eager to be better, and that’s the sign of a good nurse.

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