Readers’ advice: If I knew then what I know now…
In the March issue, we asked readers what they wish they had known as they started their practice and what advice they wanted to share with new RNs. Here are some of the responses, which highlight the importance of finding supports, building relationships and continuing to learn.
Angelica Drzazgowski, RN, BSN
Nursing school can be very stressful, and you are just starting your career; it is important to learn good self-care strategies to prevent burnout and transition to life as a nurse. Take advantage of counselling services, find a support network of people who you can talk with, make time for hobbies and practices that bring you joy, and take care of your physical health. Above all, make safety for your patients and yourself your number one priority. Also, remember that you are still learning and be kind to yourself.
Gina Vavak, RN
What I wish I’d known when I started my practice is that I should’ve been more patient with myself and not to worry and stress so much; my knowledge and skills would grow and still continue to grow. What I would share with new nurses is to take time for yourself when you are not nursing to keep yourself sane and fresh. Remember to always have your patients’ best interests in mind. And lastly, smile, be kind and be compassionate. Think “this could be my family I’m caring for.”
Nitasha Chrispin, RN, BN
Many nurses start their career working in a fast-paced environment, which can limit our ability to practise holistic patient care. As a new acute care nurse, my patients’ plan of care was driven by their primary diagnoses. Since working in the community, I’ve come to appreciate the value of assessing all factors that impact my patients’ current condition. For a patient hospitalized with a COPD exacerbation, a lung assessment is required, but it’s just as crucial to evaluate what influenced the exacerbation. Upon discharge, social stressors, environmental factors and other dynamics will ultimately determine the health of that patient.
Lyra Salire, BN
Transitioning from a nursing student to a novice nurse is not an easy task, but it is important to keep an open mind. You may not always land your dream job, but never take any nursing job for granted. Every situation is a learning experience and provides invaluable lessons that could not be found in any textbook. Continue to ask questions and never stop learning. Nursing is a constantly evolving field, and we are called to provide care using evidence-based practice. Also, be confident in your skills, but don’t be afraid to ask for help when necessary.
Never let the fear of the unknown stop you from moving forward in your career or your life. If there is a position you look at but wonder “Am I qualified... could I do that?” don’t hesitate — go for it! If you are frustrated where you are, make a change. Embrace the newness of a different position, new challenges and new things to learn! That’s one of the great things about nursing — you can take your skills into so many different areas.
Amanda van Rietschoten, RN, B.Sc., BScN
Know yourself and protect the time and things you need to look after yourself. Seek out both social and professional support before you graduate. Being a new grad is hard, but you will have greater strength throughout this transition if you are going through it with others who care about you. Consider joining Nursing the Future (www.nursingthefuture.ca), a national, non-profit, research-based organization designed to support new grads. I found their “survival guide” essential for giving me perspective when I was a new grad.
Maria Sheryll D. Munoz, RN, BN, GNC(C)
Portage La Prairie, Man.
When in doubt, approach, inquire and clarify. Recognize it’s never a sign of a lack of knowledge or weakness when getting a colleague’s opinion; many errors could have been avoided by asking a question. When faced with an error, be prompt in admitting it. This will help implement necessary interventions and avoid aggravating circumstances. Share new ideas; new information is always vital and a great resource. Resistance can get in the way, but be mindful there are still some who are receptive. Keep yourself updated; it’s always helpful to read about new medications, medical terminologies and diagnoses. When workplace policies are rolled out, read and familiarize yourself with them.
Alison Dobbie, RN, MN, CCHN(C)
The most important element of nursing practice is an RN’s therapeutic communication skills. New nurses frequently focus on becoming proficient with their technical skills (i.e., starting IVs, giving medications, catheterizations, etc.), but it is the rapport and therapeutic communication skills with the client that the client will remember and that will have a lasting impact. How the RN made the client feel in that moment is the most important and essential part of the nurse-patient interaction; it’s not how well the RN provided the technical care.
Linda Spence, RN
You will encounter all kinds of nurses: embrace the best and leave the rest. Be part of the team. Take your breaks and use them to build relationships with your team members. Ask for help and offer yours. Be careful how and when you use technology; it can be viewed as rudeness. At the end of every day, stop and reflect. What went well? What could you have done better? Remember, you are a work in progress. A successful nurse never loses the desire to learn. Be a student all your life — open, curious and accepting.
Deborah Thorne, RN, BN
Be patient with yourself: Rome was not built in a day. Find an experienced nurse who will mentor you or who you can talk things over with. Everyone makes mistakes. Be honest about them and learn from them. Ask questions: no one knows everything. Ask for help if you need it and remember nursing is a 24-hour job. Treat every patient as if they were your loved one. Nursing can be hard, frustrating and exhausting, but it is also rewarding, diverse, full of learning and the career I love. I hope you do, too.
Bev Chambers, RN, M.Sc., IBCLC
Although we learned about assessing clients in a holistic manner, the emphasis in practice was on the physical. I was very task oriented and needed to learn how to care for the person as a whole. I wish I had known how to conduct a more thorough health history that encompassed discussion around the social determinants of health such as food security, housing and support systems. Instead of telling clients what to do, find out what they are already doing and what they already know. Start a discussion. Explore client concerns. Connect with clients and build a trusting relationship.
Brenda Rosenau, RN, BSN, MA
Know that the profession can be demanding and competitive. Know that if one area of nursing doesn’t agree with you, you have so many other clinical areas to pursue. I have worked in clinical, front-line, education and administrative settings. I love front line most of all, probably next to teaching. Front line, I am where the action is; I am influencing change by my direct actions as a nurse. I work with a collaborative interdisciplinary team, using my critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Please teach, mentor and support colleagues throughout your career. When we support each other, we support the profession. Take breaks, seek counselling for stressful patient situations and try to find balance in your life outside your work.
Valerie Poersch, RN
Having been an RN for 38 years, I ponder what advice to pass along to new RNs. What stands out for me is this: don’t be afraid to be human! Simple as that is, it is something I have struggled with over the years. Our clients want compassion, not sympathy. Compassion comes in the form of a hug for a sick child or sharing tears with a newly diagnosed cancer patient. It does not make us any less professional. What it does is allow us to connect on a very human level, and sometimes that is the greatest healing gift of all!
Other resources for new nurses
Association of Registered Nurses of Prince Edward Island
Nurses Association of New Brunswick
- Graduate Nurse Scope of Practice practice guideline
- Supporting Learners in the Workplace practice guideline
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
- Careers in Nursing website
Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association
- New Nurses of Saskatchewan professional practice group. For contact info, see SRNA Chapters & Member Groups