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Starting any new career can be a daunting prospect, and in a medical field such as nursing even more so.  Procedures, systems, processes and all manner of bureaucracy can culminate to create a very scary first year at work.   Here are some helpful tips to help you navigate the start of your nursing career:

1.       Ask lots of questions.

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No graduate or newly qualified nurse is expected to know everything at the start of their career.  Perhaps the biggest mistake you could make is falling into the trap of thinking that you should know answers and that you will look incompetent by asking a question.  This mindset could get you and potentially your patients into a lot of trouble.  If you don’t know, or you don’t know where to find the answer, ASK!

2.       Ask someone to observe a procedure
If you’re unsure about a procedure that you need to perform, ask an experienced nurse to watch you do it and if necessary guide you through the process.  This is a great way to gain practical experience.

3.       Check name bracelets and allergies every time you give meds


Cabrini Health
ACAS Assessor
St Vincent's Hospital

Patients can often say they don’t have any allergies, but when told they’re about to receive ‘x’ suddenly recall that they do.  So if possible, tell the patient what you are giving them prior to administering any medication.

4.       If you’re on night shift – take your sleep time, meals and exercise seriously
In order to get into a safe and productive routine while on night shift, it is vital that you apply a structured approach to your sleep time, meals and exercise.  If you struggle to get to sleep, discuss the option of sleeping pills with your doctor.  Eat a proper meal in the middle of your shift, and don’t drink coffee in the latter part of your shift so you can sleep when you get home.

5.       Prioritise your patients
In order to manage your day and your workload, identify your treatment times and which patients need you most.  You need to develop your own rhythm and system for managing your day and workload.  Be sure to write down important details that aren’t logged, as you won’t be able to remember everything over the course of a busy day, and these details could be critical.

6.       Accept that you will make mistakes
New nurses will make mistakes.  When you do make a mistake, you will need to accept that you are human, that you will learn from your mistake and move on.  You will also need to develop strategies to compartmentalise your work and home life or you will burn out.


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