After graduating from Boston College in 2014, I worked on an intermediate medicine unit for over a year where I was able to see a range of diseases and illnesses. I appreciated this experience straight out of nursing school because it gave me a strong foundation on general nursing skills. I am glad that I did not immediately work on a floor with a focus on a specialty because it did not corner me in. Instead, it exposed me to a variety of illnesses with their own unique challenges, which allowed me to figure out the population I ultimately wanted to work with. We got everything from cardiac, GI, renal, psychiatric, and neurology patients. I discovered that I enjoyed working with cancer patients the most, which is why I applied for and am now working on a hematology/oncology/bone marrow transplant floor.
I’ve had a couple notable experiences in my first year as a registered nurse. One good moment that justified my reason for becoming a nurse was when a patient’s daughter called my floor to thank me specifically for the care I provided her father. I was able to connect with her family well; and it made me proud when the medical team personally thanked me and one of the doctors sent a note to my nurse manager. It made me realize I was doing something right! On the flip side, there are also sad moments. I’ll never forget hugging one of my patient’s sons after she passed away and feeling his tears hit my forehead even though he tried really hard to hold them back.
The best advice I could give to a new graduate is to never hold back on asking questions, even if you think it’s a foolish one. There’s so much to learn even after passing your boards and becoming an RN. Think of it this way – if a question came up that was pertinent to your patient’s care and safety and you held back because you were intimidated by a doctor (and trust me that happens when they turn to you for updates during rounds and you realize you’re not just a nursing student anymore), you’d be doing your patient an injustice. My second piece of advice would be to brush up on your pathophysiology and never be afraid to look things up – when you understand the pathophysiology behind an illness, you become aware of the reasoning behind the treatment you are providing, but most importantly you are able to anticipate what could go wrong with your patient. The last piece of advice is to work hard and take it day by day – you’ll be very task-driven the first couple months of practice and the critical thinking skills might not come until later without you even noticing it. And that’s completely normal and okay!
Every nurse has her own style; every floor has its own perks and culture; and every hospital has its own rules. However, trust that nursing school has prepared you well enough, and that you’ll only get better each day wherever you go.