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Top tips for your first year as a qualified nurse

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You’ve done it – you’ve made it through your training and you’ve landed that all-important first job as a staff nurse. But how will you make it through the ups and downs of your first year?

With many students preparing to leave university this summer and start work as fully-qualified staff nurses, we spoke to some bright, young nurses to find out their top secrets for make it through your first year as a fully-fledged member of staff.   



Chloe Miller is a staff nurse in the Intensive Therapy Unit of Surrey County Hospital. She finished her training in 2008 and has this advice to share:   

“Don’t be alarmed if you don’t settle in straight away, it takes different people different times to settle in and don’t be surprised if you’re still struggling to get your head around things for the first six months. There is a lot to learn – for the first few months you’ll still be struggling to work out that most patients have two arms and two legs – so don’t  be fooled into thinking it will be a breeze – and don’t be put off by the new challenges that you’ll face every day. Just remember that everyone is in the same boat.

“My advice to anyone would be to use an ABC (alphabetical) diary – take notes. If there’s something you don’t understand, write it down and come back to it later. It helps to write down the smallest things – even if just to remind yourself to make a patient a cup of tea – in a busy ward it’s easy to get distracted and forget things.

“My top tip would be to get as much rest as possible in-between shifts. You get used to it over time but working long hours can be exhausting and it can be overwhelming when you’re learning new things every day.

“Also don’t underestimate the importance of having a good mentor or a role model to look up to. Find someone you admire and cash in on their experience, try and get under their wing as they will be able to guide you.”



Claire Lambson, who finished her course at University of Surrey in 2008 is now a sister in the Medical Assessment Unit at St Peter’s Hospital. These are her top five tips for surviving your first year as a staff nurse:

Tip 1: Don’t be scared, you earned this and you have passed, so you know what you’re doing. It just doesn’t feel like it right now! A nursing degree is like doing your driving test - you don’t really know how to drive until you do it on your own!

Tip 2: Write lists of jobs with boxes to tick and prioritise your day. It helps to reorder your mind and gives you satisfaction when you’ve ticked all the boxes!

Tip 3: If you start something finish it, don’t leave it and think you’ll come back to it, because you won’t. After an hour or two of doing something else your patient’s needs will change and that paper work will be forgotten. Get used to documenting in real time, not at the end of the shift, or you will find you forget things.

Tip 4: Ask for help! We know that you’re newly qualified and you want to prove yourself but don’t be a martyr -  if you’re struggling, then tell us and we will help and support you!

Tip 5: You will get burnt out after the first three months, so make sure you book annual leave for around that time. Believe me you’ll need the rest!

Just remember that everyone started off in the same boat and that plenty of people will be willing to give you advice and support.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused, just ask. Remember to get loads of rest and, above all, enjoy it. One day you’ll be offering your advice to people in the same position that you are now. Good luck!

Have you recently qualified and want to share your tips? Get in touch via Twitter at @studentNT

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Readers' comments (1)

  • sometimes even a preceptorship pack doesn't ensure good support. I've really struggled in my first post and have documented and asked for help on more than one occasion. I have informed senior staff that I do not learn from show one, do one and am not prepared to take a epidural catheter out without supervision. yet I am made to feel like I am failing my patients, the team, and the ward now I am at breaking point and seeking counselling

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