Practical Advice for the New Nurse




Nursing school and the NCLEX were hard. Your first year as a real nurse can be harder. Take that first year as seriously as you took nursing school.



You don’t have to work as a GN (graduate nurse) before you have taken your NCLEX. In some areas this is wise, in other areas it is not. Why risk not passing? If you need to focus on studying, do that. Once you pass the NCLEX, doors start to open. Don’t worry about getting a job before that. Pass that test first, as soon as possible after graduation!                                  


You don’t have to get a job in Med-Surg right away. It is a good idea, but it’s not for everyone. Your career isn’t over if you don’t follow the standard recommended time frame. You are an individual nurse. You can take your own path if you need to.


Look for jobs anywhere. I waited until after I took the NCLEX to look for my first job, you do what you think you can handle. If the hospital isn’t hiring, look somewhere else. Any job in that first year will be a good one (unless of course you or your employer is breaking the law!)


Get serious about your resume, cover letter and interviewing skills. Get online, do research, and look up resume formats. Cover letters are always helpful. If you are emailing your resume, often the body of the email can count as your cover letter. Don’t forget the reference page!


If an email address is readily available on the company website, consider emailing your resume with the email body as the cover letter to the manager where you want to work. Sometimes a direct route is the best way to get noticed in their busy lives.


As a new nurse, don’t worry about limited experience. Put any experience that you have on your resume. Sell yourself and your qualities. Everyone has some.


After you submit a resume and application don’t be afraid to call and check on the status of the application. Make your voice heard.


Research possible interview questions. Practice with your friends and family. Dress appropriately and don’t chew gum! Arrive early. Don’t act like you know everything during the interview. Express a desire to learn and to cultivate a team work culture. Having an attitude of a teachable spirit will get you far as a nurse.


Shake hands, make eye contact, smile and thank as appropriate everyone that you meet. Even if just in passing, smile at everyone. Everyone, from the CEO to the housekeeper. You are above no-one. You never know who is watching.


You may have more than one interviewer. Try not to let that throw you. Just be prepared for many questions.


When it is your turn for questions during the interview, ask intelligent questions. Ask about the facilities’ nursing model of care and their nurse to patient ratio. Ask them about their orientation length. These questions are very important and will give you an idea about the company. If you are not sure why they are important, look it up! If they will not give you what seems like a reasonable orientation, look elsewhere if you have the option. Advocate for yourself.


Send a thank you card or letter to all involved in your interview after your interview. Just do it. Period.


You got the job! Good for you!

Now you are just beginning.

Remember that.

Just beginning. Still learning.

You have so much more to learn and to do!


Show up early to everything. Early by at least 15 minutes. Early to the interview, early to orientation, early to your first, second, third, fourth, fifth (you get the idea) day of work.


You will get a headache during orientation. Possibly multiple headaches. You get a lot of information thrown at you at once. Bring your appropriate headache solution, such as over the counter drugs or caffeine. Write a lot of things down and don’t worry about not knowing or retaining everything right away. You will not remember it all. That is ok.


If this is your first “real” professional job where you are suddenly making an amount of money that you have never seen before, seek trusted financial advice. Just because you are making more does not mean that you should spend more.


Be very respectful of the person who is orienting you. Listen to them. No one likes to orient a know it all. Pay attention to what they are telling you. Some short cuts are fine. If they are doing other short cuts that really are not fine (like not wearing gloves, sharing their passwords, gossiping about everyone’s dirty laundry) just be wary. You don’t have to take everything your preceptor tells you as gospel, but hopefully they are very good nurses which is why they are precepting.


Don’t let your personal opinions make a huge splash right away. Get to know your new coworkers and let them get to know you.


I know that this isn’t high school, but sadly many adults have yet to realize this. Understand that you are being observed and analyzed by the “group.” Listen and do more than you speak for a while.


Have a sense of humor. There is a saying “Be able to laugh at yourself but at others not at all.” Humor will get you far in this profession!


I wish you all the best as a new nurse,

~SarahLee, RN


One thought on “Practical Advice for the New Nurse

  1. Pingback: Words, Sentences and Headaches | SarahLee RegisteredNurse

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