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Top tips to survive your first six months as a newly qualified nurse

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After completing your nursing degree, the rigours of your first job can leave you feeling at sea. Read on for tips to tread the deep waters of your first nursing post

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Francesca Surrell

I have just completed my first six months as a newly qualified nurse. Within three days of finishing my degree in September, I moved back home and started my job in a bustling city centre hospital. I naively thought the hardest part of my new career was over, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What was to come was six months of feeling like a duck out of water. I still have a long way to go, but I want to share with you seven tips, which if I had known before I started my first nursing post would have benefitted me: 

  • Remember your achievements so far

It is easy to become absorbed by everything you are struggling with in your new job, but it is important to take stock of and be proud of how far you have come. You have completed thousands of practice and theory hours at university and they have not been in vain. You will know more than you realise and you will have more resilience than you think is possible.

  • Utilise your preceptorship period

So, you have spent the last three years as a student being observed and assessed and completing progression documentation, only to be told it is all going to begin again with your preceptorship. Don’t look upon this as a negative. View it as a chance to enhance and practice your existing skills, as well as learning new ones.

  • Accept you won’t know everything and aren’t expected to

If others try to convince you that they are at the top of their game and know everything there is to know about nursing, they are lying, simple as that. Nursing is a career in which you continually learn. You will not and are not expected to know everything. The beauty of being newly qualified is that you are in the best position to ask for help and advice. Acknowledge the experience of your colleagues and utilise it.

  • Accept you will make mistakes

You will make mistakes. It is inevitable. The thing to remember is if you make a mistake own up to it as soon as you realise. Get the help required to rectify it. Whether it is a documentation error, a medication error, a communication error… be honest and open. You will not only learn from it, but it will also highlight your personal integrity.

  • It’s okay to show emotion… you’re human

It is important as a nurse that you promote yourself in a professional manner, but this does not mean you have to be void of emotion. You are human and you will laugh, cry, and become frustrated in this job. You are dealing with people’s lives day after day and as much as it can be rewarding it can be emotionally exhausting. The more open you are, the more support you will get.

  • Take care of yourself

Practice what you preach. As nurses, we spend our lives advising patients on how best to look after themselves and then regularly neglect ourselves. It’s important to work hard, but also play hard. Make the most of your downtime and don’t spread yourself too thin. You can’t pour from an empty bottle.

  • Be proud of yourself

Finally, remember the amazing job you do. When you are going through the highs and lows of being a newly qualified nurse, remember why you decided to do your training in the first place. Look around you at all the nurses you are working with and remember that they were once in your position, so keep ploughing on. 

Francesca Surrell qualified from Keele University in September 2016, and now works as a staff nurse on a Plastics unit in the northwest of England 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • 2 days into mandatory not far off now and I am a) excited b) scared stiff. Proud of what I've achieved being a mature student and know it's going to be hard but tbh looking forward to it.

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