Posted on September 20, 2017
What They Don’t Teach You in Nursing School
While you learn a ton of information and skills throughout nursing school that are essential for your medical career, finishing school is just the beginning of a lifelong journey of learning. As you progress in your career, you’ll soon discover that some of the most valuable lessons and knowledge you acquire come from experience.
But that doesn’t mean you have to wait years to gain wisdom. Instead, read the common advice and tips experienced nurses often give to those who are just getting started in the nursing field. These are important nuggets you won’t learn in nursing school that will help you to find success and enjoyment in your career.
Be Mindful About the Jobs You Take
When looking for your first job (and the jobs that will follow), be sure to choose a place of employment that is supportive of new nurses by offering mentoring programs. This means they are invested in you and want to see you succeed.
Also select an organization whose culture is closely aligned with your values. Use interviews as an opportunity to learn about the culture, leadership and management styles and to determine if there is a quality orientation and training program for new hires.
Always Remain Compassionate
Remember that you went into nursing to help others. This means that, no matter how difficult things may get, your patients are your priority. Take the time to foster relationships with your patients and their families that have clear, open and compassionate communication. Your patients will feel that you truly care about them and you will feel fulfilled knowing you’re giving your best to your patients.
Never be afraid to speak up, whether to ask a question about something you’re not familiar with, to discuss something you are uncomfortable with or to voice your opinion about a patient’s care. Just because you’re not a veteran in the field doesn’t mean you don’t have great ideas, knowledge and solutions to contribute.
This also means that, if you aren’t familiar with a procedure or medication, you should take the time to ask about it and research it so you can gain an understanding of the potential side effects and clarify any orders before you administer it to the patient. Don’t hesitate to seek the support of seasoned team members.
Be an Active Member of Your Professional Association
Join the local chapter of your professional association and be sure to engage in events so you can network and get to know other professionals. In addition to networking opportunities, professional organizations offer continuing professional education, mentorship and leadership development opportunities. You will also discover that you will have a greater ability to effectively advocate for the nursing profession through your organization than you would on your own.
Seek Out Mentors
Seek out a mentor you trust early in your career who will provide the support, encouragement and direction you need in your first couple of years. A good mentor will not only enhance your clinical experience and help you gain leadership skills, but will share the knowledge and insight they’ve gained in their own career.
The right mentor will challenge you to be your best and to achieve the goals you have set for yourself – or get clear on your goals if you’re unsure. Remember that the mentor/mentee relationship works both ways, so find ways to help your mentor in return.
Find Your Niche
Just as with any career, it’s important to figure out what area of nursing truly lights you up. Get familiar with the wide variety of career possibilities that the nursing profession offers and see which ones “fit” you the most. Which ones get you excited to go to work every day and enable you to best utilize your unique talents? Working in the area of nursing that most resonates with your values and passions will be critical in getting you through the inevitable difficult periods of your career and prevent burnout.
Plan for Your Future
This goes hand in hand with finding your niche. Depending on what you want your career to look like in 10 or 15 years, you may want to consider prioritizing advanced education early in your career so that you have a road map of where you’re headed.
Advanced education will open doors to professional opportunities that would not otherwise be available and enable you to grow on both personal and professional levels. However, ask questions of nurses with experience in the degree and area you are considering before jumping into a program and find someone to shadow beforehand. This will prevent you from choosing the wrong degree and career path.
Nursing is demanding work, both physically and mentally. In order to be your best for your patients, you need to take proper care of yourself. This means eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. It also means taking time for you by carving out time to do things you enjoy and that rejuvenate you, like spending quality time with loved ones or pursuing a hobby.
Follow this advice from seasoned nurses from the start and you’ll be well on your way to having an enjoyable and rewarding career for many years to come.