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From student to staff nurse: My advice for the newbies

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One year after qualifying, Lucy recalls the whirlwind of her first few months of being a qualified nurse

Lucy Alford

Lucy Alford

I couldn’t wait for the final year of my nursing degree to finish so I could get my teeth stuck in… and get paid for all my hard work!

I felt like I was more than ready to qualify at the end of the course, but in fact those first six months were the biggest learning curve I’ve ever had.                          

No student should ever underestimate how reassuring it is to have a trusting mentor hover near you while you care for patients.

Similarly, no newly qualified staff nurse should rest on their laurels while they practice being a staff nurse while waiting for their PIN.

Enjoy this time and ALWAYS plan for the day when you are free from these gaurdian angels.

My one bit advice for any student nurse or newly qualified staff nurse is to always plan ahead, think “one day, I’ll just have to know this”. Take time to learn all the bits and bobs that keep cropping up that you really should know by now.

“Take time to learn all the bits and bobs that keep cropping up”

Are there any “stupid” questions that you’ve yet to find an answer for? Find out!

The day I got my PIN, the day I’d been waiting for for three years, came and went in a blur. My supernumery period had ended, lectures were a distant memory, a lot of the elements of that first day were the sameas any other…except for giving IVs.

Boy, was I scared the first time I gave that IV.

I had attended the study days, I’d read up, I had watched numerous times whilst other RNs gave them. I knew the risks of many drugs, I knew the procedures inside out. I even spent a lot of that first day with another member of staff watching me give them, but the first time I administered an IV medication with just me and the patient in the room, was the same feeling of driving for the first time after passing your test with NOBODY in the car!

One year later, whenever I give an IV drug, I think back to that day.

I’ve learned so much over the last year, mainly about myself. As a student you always feel like a student, devoid of much personality. As a registered nurse I feel I have flourished into the person I want to be.

“The first six months of qualifying is like a whirlwind”

I pride myself on the fact that, although the care I provide has been influenced by so many inspiring leaders that I have met throughout my training, it is ME that provides this care, and ME who is part of this team, and ME who is proud to work for the NHS.

Now, I’m not the newbie. I’m teaching the newbies, which feels very strange. In fact I feel like I’ve been doing it for years now.

The first six months of qualifying is like a whirlwind and the second six months is where you truly find your feet.

So if you are about to qualify, don’t stress.

It’s an exciting challenge, and the best thing is…there is always a handful of people you can ask when you get stuck. Ignore all the political issues, they’ll settle down, and SMILE…you are about to embark on a fantastic career that rewards you EVERY day!


Lucy Alford is a regsitered nurse working in Bristol on a GI Surgical Ward
Her personal blog is


My Top Tips

  1. Read up on your specialty before you start, but don’t stop there - keep on reading
  2. Have a tiny notebook for your top pocket (mine had sections on epidurals, analgesic ladder, bleep numbers, equations and I used it solidly for six months)
  3. Get to know your team. You can’t work as a team if you can’t talk to them. Nurses and doctors don’t always converse that well but if you can’t chat over a coffee in a staff room you can’t work together cohesively on the ward
  4. W P W I cannot emphasise this enough. Have the TTAs been Written, in Pharmacy or are they already on the Ward? Well organised discharges will leave you stress free. I was always so worried about sending someone home. Trust me, TTA [/] will not do on your handover sheet, if you are on a busy ward you’ll need to know this. I also had a checklist in my notebook of things to do before discharge (follow-up appointments, referrals to practice nurse for stitches, restarting carers etc)


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