10 Tips To Make You A Successful New Nurse

A question I often get asked is, what advice do you have for new nursing grads or nurses switching to the ER?  While there are about a hundred plus things I could think of, I figured I would try to limit it to the most pertinent things I learned when I went into the ER straight out of nursing school.

  1. Be open to learning new things and taking in new experiences.  If you’re in a trauma hospital ask to observe or play in the traumas so you better understand the nurses role (plus see some pretty cool stuff), ask to help with stroke alerts or STEMI’s, or assist with a patient diagnosis you have never seen before.  These first hand experiences will go far in expanding your understanding of emergency nursing.
  2. Don’t go into nursing or the ER with an I know it all attitude, because you will quickly learn school taught you nothing in comparison to real life experiences!  Listen to what other nurses/doctors/techs/medics/radiology etc. have to tell you, even if it is something you feel like you already know, they may be able to expand your knowledge on the subject or teach you new tricks.
  3. Know that it is okay to not know it all or have all the answers.  In a field that is constantly expanding and changing it is impossible, so don’t be hard on yourself!
  4. Don’t be afraid to throw out an SOS if you are drowning. Everyone sinks from time to time, especially in a busy ER.  This week I had to do just that!  I had one patient that was anemic and needed blood, a septic patient with no IV access in need of antibiotics and fluid resuscitation, a stroke patient, and a chest pain.  Needless to say I was overwhelmed.  Luckily, that is what your team is there for, to give those medications for you, answer that call light, or help that patient to the bathroom, so you can focus on providing patient care.
  5. Know your hospital and state policies.  Do not work outside of your scope of practice!  Doing so puts the patient at increased risk and can lead to lawsuits or the Board of Nursing revoking your license.
  6. Never accept that violence is part of the job as a nurse.  If you ever find yourself in a quickly escalating situation, the patient is intoxicated, or you have that “this just isn’t right feeling” call security!  Don’t be afraid to call them early and often.  Their job is to help ensure your safety as well as the patients.
  7. Know your medications prior to administration!  I always look up a medication if I have never heard of it before, because let’s be honest most medication names look made up anyways!  But this provides me with knowledge of the indications, administration, and adverse effects.  It is also important to look up IV compatibility when giving medications such as antibiotics, heparin, or lactated ringers, or anytime you will have two medication ran through the same line.
  8. Follow the doctor or other nurses into the patient rooms whenever possible!  Observing their assessment, what questions they ask, how they interact with the patient, what tests they order, and plan for treatment helped to shape my own nursing practice and helps you to know what to expect for future patients with similar presentations .  You can’t imagine how much you can learn from every individual.
  9. Know that this work will be some of the hardest, saddest, and most rewarding.  You will watch patients take their last breath, console families as they mourn, and bring back patients that have coded.  You will have moments that make you laugh, and those that make you cry, and that is okay.
  10. Lastly, never say the “Q” word.

There is a learning curve when beginning out in nursing, especially in the ER.  Remember you were hired for a reason and you made it through nursing school, even with those questions that had multiple right answers but one was more right!

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11 thoughts on “10 Tips To Make You A Successful New Nurse

  1. Love this! My sister is going into nursing School soon, I will definitely send her this list. Love your site by the way, looks great!

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  2. I’m late, but I just came across your blog, and it was perfect timing because I’m just about to finish my BSN and I just accepted a level 1 trauma center ER position. your blog will help me get through, i’m sure! question though, what’s the “Q” word in number 10? lol is it quit? 🙊

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      1. It’s true! I’ve been a nurse for 45 years & learned about it early on. Also watch out for full moons! They also have a bad reputation.

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  3. I just went through your WHOLE blog! I thoroughly enjoyed. I have been a paramedic for 3 years and just got my RN.. I begin my full time night shift position in our ER this week. I can’t wait to see more posts from you!

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  4. Hello Kirsten, I enjoyed your article and the site looks gorgeous. The always trust your gut feeling and call security early part you discuss is the hardest for me. I think i struggled in that area because I wanted to keep the peace. Lol oh well we all make mistakes. Anyways, I am also a bsn rn and work in the stroke and tele unit. If you would like a different perspective, let me know. Hang in there ER QUEEN! -Ally-Rose RN BSN

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  5. Kirsten, I really enjoyed your blog and your site looks great! I like the advice you give when you say to trust your gut and call security early if needed. I think a lot of new nurses dont want to be seen as weak or scared when in reality we all are ! Anyways, I am also a Bsn Rn practicing in the stroke and tele unit. Let me know if you would like a different perspective. Keep it up ER queen! -Ally Rose rn bsn

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