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  • Surviving your first year as a nurse

    Author: Karen Keast

An Australian College of Nursing (ACN) 2015 Emerging Nurse Leader (ENL) has urged graduate nurses wanting to survive and thrive in their first year in the workforce to continue learning, avoid office politics, connect with nurse leaders, prioritise self-care and embrace opportunity.

Jenyfer Joy, who began work as a registered nurse at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital in 2016 after completing her Bachelor of Nursing (Advanced) at the University of Western Sydney, is a mentor to student nurses.

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Here are Jenyfer’s five essential tips for nursing graduates wanting to excel in their first year in the health workforce:

Keep learning. In many ways, your education is just beginning. Seek to learn about your organisation, your area of practice, your new role and embrace all learning opportunities. “I first started in radiology and I had no idea what it was all about,” she says. “I’d had no exposure to that kind of nursing, so it was really about going back to the basics again and starting from scratch.”

Steer clear of office politics. “There’s a lot of distractions in the workforce but just really focus on what you went into nursing for - which is to provide best patient care and high quality care to the patient and their family as well,” she says. When new nurses receive negative comments or treatment, they should strive to rise above it. “People have that perception of the new graduate as not knowing anything, having no experience but just forget about that and don’t focus on that - focus on your strengths.”


Medical Officer- Rehabilitation
St Vincent's Private Hospital Northside
Human Resources Advisor
St Vincent's Hospital
Registered Nurse/Clinical Nurse (Accident and Emergency Department)
SA Health, Flinders & Upper North Local Health Network
Registered Nurse
South Coast Radiology

Connect with nurses. Connect with your new graduate coordinator, nurse educators, your manager, senior nurses and nurse leaders. Seek a mentor, inside as well as outside, the nursing profession, Jenyfer advises.

Look after yourself. The demands of nursing and shift work can take an emotional and physical toll on new nurses. Jenyfer says it’s important to seek a balanced life. “We’re exposed to a lot of trauma and a lot of emotional distress, so take time out of work to look after yourself, to exercise, healthy eating and getting good sleep - just the basics.”

Embrace opportunity. Making the most of the opportunities that come your way, and taking your career to the next level is completely up to you, Jenyfer says. “You’re an adult now, you need to take responsibility for everything you do - it’s your career. Grab all the opportunities you can in your first year because that’s when you’ll get the most support.”

Jenyfer says the ENL program has elevated her nursing career. Now working in a permanent position in ICU, Jenyfer is pursing a career in critical care and she also wants to help develop and nurture the next generation of nurse leaders.

“I’ve learnt that leadership isn’t about a position, it’s all about being the best leader you can be. The program has changed my way of thinking…it’s changed my career completely, to be honest.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords