The first day of any job can be stressful. When you don’t know anyone, you don’t know where anything is (bathroom, anyone?), and you feel like you barely know any of the skills needed to perform the job at a high level, it can feel like you’re going to drown in a sea of information, coworker names, and first-day failures.
Nurses who are about to start their first day on the job feel this stress more than others. After years of intense nursing school, industry horror stories, and information overload to the Nth degree, first-time nurses have learned everything they possibly can to be ready for day one of nursing—yet they still face the anxiety of heading to a chaotic and fast-paced nursing world the moment they walk in the door of their first nursing job.
It’s perfectly normal to be stressed about your first day on the job. Fortunately, the Provider Skills team has a few tips to make your first day a little less stressful. Follow these tips, and have a smoother first day, week, and month of your nursing career, and avoid pitfalls that can get in the way of you focusing on what matters: providing excellent care to your patients.
Prepare your gear the night before.
If you’re going to hit the ground running on your first day of nursing, you need to avoid the pre-shift panic of not being able to find your car keys or nursing gear. Some people will never learn this skill, but preparing your gear and clothes the night before work will ensure that you make it out the door smoothly and without strife—so lay out your scrubs, socks, and shoes, check and double-check that you have your stethoscope and other nursing gear, and pack yourself a delicious and healthy shift meal so you’re not stuck with a sad sandwich on such a stressful day. Trust us—you’ll need the energy that a healthy and balanced shift meal will give to you, especially on your first day. At the very least, throw some quick snacks that you can munch on through the day to make sure you’re feeding the metabolic meter and keeping your body and mind sharp.
Talk to a mentor.
If you’re feeling some nerves before your first day, it won’t help you to bottle those nerves up. Internalizing your anxiety will only make your first day tougher, so vent to someone you can trust to help you calm down and relieve some pressure that you’re putting on yourself.
A nursing mentor is a great person to talk to before your first day. They’ve been in your shoes, panicking over how to handle simple procedures and where to find medical supplies. They also managed to survive their first day of nursing and many more days after that, which is certainly something for you to keep in mind if you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Even if you can’t talk to a nursing mentor, talk to someone close to you about your nerves. There’s something freeing and therapeutic about letting out your fears—it’ll probably calm you down and make your first day a little bit easier.
Get ready to jump right in.
Not all medical facilities have the same training programs for new nurses. There’s a chance you end up with an employer that gives you two or three weeks to get the hang of nursing world before they leave you on your own with patients. However, because of staff shortages or a high volume of patients, your employer might expect you to jump in there and get to work after two or three shifts. Yikes!
Ultimately, it’s better to be prepared for less training than more training. Get yourself in the mindset that you could be performing medical procedures on day one—that way, you won’t be surprised or shocked if that actually is the case. If you get a few weeks to train, great! That’ll be an excellent surprise that will give you more confidence as you move forward in the nursing world. If you jump right into nursing in your first week, you’ll be mentally prepared for whatever happens, and you’ll probably get a lot of excellent hands-on experience and learn a lot of valuable lessons in the process.