Tis the season of nursing school graduations, and I would like to personally congratulate each and every one of you for making it through the trials and tribulations of nursing school – I understand the pain and sacrifice you’ve endured.
As a new graduate of nursing school just five years ago, I specifically remember thinking upon my graduation, “Nursing school was the hardest thing I have ever experienced!” It was a mutual feeling among all of my nursing school peers that had been shared for quite some time. Well, that was until we began working as new nurses!
My Reality Shock
My first job was a charge nurse position for a sub acute rehab facility, which was day shift 7am until 3:30pm Monday through Friday. The schedule was very attractive, and the thought of being in a charge nurse position straight out of nursing school was also attractive, especially since I knew that the company was providing an extensive eight week orientation. I was very excited to begin my new career as a Registered Nurse and also very eager to please my nursing management – to show them what I was made of.
Well, let’s just say that I quickly found out that working as a RN did not turn out to be fashionable, and at times, it was down right scary! During my first shift at my facility, I was supposed to have a unit orientation with a preceptor, and the goal of the day was to shadow her and perform a few hands-on skills as to get comfortable in the new setting. Instead, I was thrown onto the floor with a full patient assignment of 15 patients, my assigned preceptor also had 15 of her own patients and I prayed the entire eight hour shift. I was so upset and taken back that I could not leave without discussing my first shift with the director of nursing (DON). In our discussion, I used key terms such as “Patient Safety”, “Patient Ratios”, and “Structured Training” to emphasize my level of concern and the sincerity of my intent to do a good job. My feelings were acknowledged, and I was commended for bringing my concerns to her.
A lot of things were said in regards to me being “new” and that it will take “time” for me to adjust to my new role as a RN, all of which I thought was fluff to get me out of her office. Frustrated and uncertain if this was a right fit for me, I informed her that I wasn’t sure I’d want to continue working at the facility. She grabbed my hand and then uttered these following words:
“Nursing is a commitment to doing what ever it takes to provide safe and effective care for our patients regardless of personal gain, and it is unfortunate that the people in charge of signing our checks use our compassion against us.”
Although at that timed that statement did nothing other than add to my frustration and concern regarding working in my new position, it has since then stuck with me and has been proven to be true in every single position I’ve held as a RN – a topic for a future blog.
For me, reality shock hit me HARD! I constantly struggled with the idea of getting out of nursing altogether and going back to the food and hospitality industry during the first 6 months as a new working RN. I sought out advice and guidance from prior nursing school professors dand friends who were in established nursing positions on a weekly basis. I cried nearly every shift. I desperately began working on building a positive reputation for myself. Regardless of my frantic attempts to bring some form of stability to my crazy shifts, each shift was an uphill battle. For every problem that was resolved, 10 new problems surfaced. I had to do something or I was going to lose my mind and throw in the towel for good!
Finding a Way to Deal
Firstly, I focused on mastering my own craft (i.e. honing in on executing effective and timely patient assessments, safe medication administration, evaluating effectiveness of nursing interventions, establishing nurse-patient relationships, enhancing interdisciplinary communications and collaboration, etc.), which helped me gain the first level of comfort within my new position as a RN. Secondly I became quite vocal in sharing my concerns with management, which provided an additional level of stress within my new role, but in the long run helped me establish a working relationship with the team. Thirdly, I began holding my colleagues accountable for their performance – an extremely difficult task as a new graduate RN, but a necessary feat nonetheless. Finally, I began analyzing my overall level of satisfaction within my new role and started identifying things that I could personally change.
Since I found myself out numbered by a nursing staff that was “set in their ways”, I decided that the best thing I could do was move onto something better, and so I entertained the idea of continued education. With the numerous educational needs identified within my clinical setting during my first 6 months as a RN, I eagerly enrolled into an online RN to MSN program and my world has greatly improved! I finally found my passion within the realm of nursing – Nursing Education.
As I worked through the MSN program over a three year period, I became more and more empowered with insight and understanding of nursing. I was finally able to see how I could make a difference on a larger scale. Since then, I have served as an adjunct faculty for a local community college, and have been utilized by hospital management as a head preceptor for new graduate nurses, and new hires alike. I love my new role within the world of nursing, and I am certain you will find your passion too!
It’s rough out there kiddos, but do not fret… It gets better as long as you are determined to make it so.
I once thought that nursing school was the toughest thing I have ever experienced, but I quickly found out that I was incredibly wrong!