If you’re a recent nursing grad eager to get your career off to a great start, there are some things you should know about your job. Things that come with experience. Things you can learn from successful nurses. Here’s the Rx to not only survive in the demanding field of nursing, but some shared secrets to help you move up the ladder.
This is a key trait you will need to embrace. You’ll often encounter belligerent, angry or uncooperative patients or family members. You may have days when fellow nurses, staff or doctors snap at you, fail to complete a task on time or just “lose it” after a hard day. Be patient. Resist the urge to snap back. Take a break or simply turn away and get busy with your next task. Don’t take it personally. If you become the “rock” when others snap and argue, your supervisor will notice this promotable trait. In revealing the true nature of forbearance Civil War nurse, Clara Barton noted, “You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.”
Some patients and families are under tremendous stress in hospitals. You may be used to stress and have learned to control your emotions, but most people aren’t you. So take a minute to understand what they may be going through as a loved one faces life and death situations. Showing a bit of kindness and compassion toward patients is rewarding in its own right, but it can also prompt patients and their families to mention your empathy to your supervisor. Susie King Taylor, the nation’s first African-American U.S. Army Nurse noted, “It seems strange how our aversion to seeing suffering is overcome in war—how we are able to see the most sickening sights, such as men with their limbs blown off and mangled by the deadly shells, without a shudder; and instead of turning away, how we hurry to assist in alleviating their pain, bind up their wounds, and press cool water to their parched lips, with feelings of only sympathy and pity.”
Follow through on every task assigned to you. And always be on the lookout for things that seem out of place: a patient not acting normally; meds sitting on an empty food tray; IVs not properly set up; or a patient that’s simply too quiet or depressed. As a professional healthcare worker, you need to continually apply your tradecraft to these signs and situations. Being diligent and ever vigilant will get you noticed among your peers and supervisors.
Be a Good Communicator
This is extremely important in your profession. Obviously you need to effectively communicate charting data and relaying instructions to peers and doctors in a clear and concise manner. That’s expected. But you need to also ensure that the day’s seemingly inconsequential details are promptly and accurately communicated to those who need it. It’s often these details that can prevent an overdose of meds, or a misread monitor reading from endangering a patient. For an idea on what not to do, check out this video on Effective Communication in Nursing.
Have a life outside of nursing. One that levels the emotional field, taking out the lows with some positive personal highs. Partake in activities with family and friends and avoid talking shop. Many nurses take their work home and experience burnout. Eventually, they leave the profession. Before you get to this stage, talk to senior nurses and ask what they do to stay balanced. Supervisors can tell if you’ve learned to balance your career with your personal life. Check out this video on Teaching Nurses to Live Their Priorities and Achieve a More Balanced Life.
Want to move up in your nursing career? Take a lesson or two from some successful nurses—past and present.
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