Nursing is one of the most essential medical professions in the country, and nurses provide care to people of all ages. If you’re interested in going into the nursing field, you may have your expectations set by television shows and movies that show busy medical professionals in nurse scrubs or jogger scrubs running around an emergency room. Like with most things, however, the reality is often starkly different from fiction. To help out those who are considering going into nursing, we had a chance to interview an experienced nurse who shared some tips for people interested in the profession. We’ve left out the nurses’ names and personal details to protect their anonymity, but below you’ll find some of the helpful advice they shared with us.
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1. Never Be Afraid to Ask for Help
One of the biggest things I had to work on when I got started in nursing was knowing when to ask for help. I felt like all of the classes I had taken in nursing school meant that I was supposed to know it all. When I ran into a problem, I had trouble asking more experienced nurses for help because I thought I’d look silly. What I discovered was that nursing is a fast-paced profession that requires total commitment to teamwork and communication. I was supposed to be asking questions! Once I got over my fear of reaching out to my mentors, my life got a lot easier and I was able to deliver a better level of care.
2. Stay Hydrated
When working a long, busy shift, it can be easy to lose focus on your own health. I discovered that hydration is a crucial component in staying at the top of my game, and now I make sure to stay hydrated throughout my shifts. Dehydration can sap your energy levels fast and make you feel more sluggish. This is not a good thing! You don’t have to gulp down water to stay hydrated, and doing so can actually make you feel uncomfortable if you need to use the bathroom and you’re stuck on the floor. Instead, I take sips here and there in between patient drop-ins or while I’m entering patient data into our system.
3. Yes, It Gets Hectic
If you think that nursing can get hectic, you’re right. On top of over-scheduled appointments and lots of codes and acronyms to keep up with, you’re also going to face emergency situations. Yes, it gets hectic, but this is once again where teamwork comes into play. Rely on your team when the going gets tough. You’re all in this together to help patients, and when you work together, the trying times get a little bit less trying.
4. Yes, It Gets Boring
Of course, nursing can also be very boring. Try to make use of your downtime. Instead of scrolling through social media or chit-chatting with colleagues, consider continuing your education. I find that studying new policies and procedures during downtime is very helpful to stay on top of changes. You can also use downtime to prepare so that when things get busy again (which can happen at any time), you’ll be prepared to handle whatever comes your way. If you’ve been sitting around and an emergency walks through that door, you might get caught off-guard.
5. Wear Comfortable Clothes
Comfortable clothing is a must when working as a nurse. Comfortable shoes are some of the most important parts of working as a nurse but don’t forget comfortable nurse scrubs or jogger scrubs. Some facilities have specific rules regarding what you can and cannot wear, but the goal is to abide by the rules while staying comfortable. Nurse scrubs and jogger scrubs should be made from a breathable material, but make sure they can also fit comfortably under PPE if you need protective outwear for long periods of time. You’re also going to be doing a lot of walking, stretching, lifting, and bending, so your scrubs need flexibility. No tight clothing, but don’t wear loose clothing either. Also, be careful with nursing accessories so they don’t get caught on equipment and other hazards.
6. Make Notes
Maybe you weren’t allowed to use notes for exams in school, but now that you’re working as a nurse, keeping notes is a great idea! Even today, I still carry a notepad around to jot down quick info that I need to remember. You can use a smartphone to do this as well, but this will depend on your facility’s policies.
Always remember that patient information is to be kept strictly confidential. This is for the patient’s privacy and for your own protection against HIPAA violations. You might also consider keeping a cheat sheet in your pocket that lists helpful information about values or equations that you use on a regular basis. It’s best to pull this out and consult it when you’re away from a patient’s view.
7. Get Good Sleep
I really wish someone had told me about the need for quality sleep when I first started nursing. I was younger at the time and felt like I could continue on the same sleep schedule I had been on when I was in school. Once I started working, I quickly found out that the amount of sleep is important, but the quality of sleep is even more important. Depending on what type of facility your work in, you may find yourself on a rotating shift. You may also be required to cover certain shifts, work holidays, overnights, and more. This can lead to an erratic sleep schedule, so it’s important to make sure you get quality sleep.
You’ve Got This!
The last thing I’ll add is that you are much more capable than you give yourself credit for. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you first start out in nursing, but you’ll quickly discover that you’re more than able to handle the tough stuff. Remember to rely on your team, and never be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. In no time, you’ll be ready to pass along your own experience to help nurses who are just starting their own journeys.