Many new nurses will feel anxious when they start their new job.

Along with anxiety, overwhelm, and an overall feeling of incompetence are common occurrences.

Expectations of working independently may trigger doubts about your abilities.

This phenomenon is sometimes dubbed impostor syndrome and raises feelings of self-doubt in new nurses.

How to Stop Feeling Incompetent as a New Nurse

The way to stop feeling incompetent as a new nurse is to acknowledge that the feeling is common among new nurses. With time that feeling eventually goes away as you gain more experience.

New Nurse Academy

Trusted by 430,000+ future nurses and new nurses everywhere. Check out the course that helps new nurses bridge the gap and transition smoothly to becoming nurses.

What does it cover?

  • IV Insertion
  • EKG Reading
  • How to Chart
  • How to Prioritize
  • Nursing Interviews & Resume

Just to name a few.

Focusing on Imposter Syndrome

To stop feeling like an “impostor” is to acknowledge that others also feel that they do not deserve their position and that feeling like that does not indicate in any way that you are incompetent at your job.

You Are Not Alone in How You Feel

The feeling of inadequacy among novice practitioners was researched by Clance and Imes (1978). They found that people promoted to positions with increased responsibility develop impostor syndrome.

It’s thought to occur because of the adjustment period required to gain and master the skills for the new position.

It can happen to anyone.

Just like new nurses can feel inadequate in their first nursing jobs because they doubt their ability, feel that they are not ready for the qualification, or worry that they cannot meet all the expectations patients and colleagues have of them.

Also, experienced nurses who have been promoted (or have taken another role), like becoming a charge nurse or a nursing educator, can suffer from the same syndrome.

So, it seems like impostor syndrome and feeling incompetent comes with the increased responsibility of the new job.

Who Struggles From Imposter Syndrome?

It’s a very common feeling, and Clance and Imes identified that approximately 70% of employed people suffer from impostor syndrome.

Many sufferers include high-performing females, but it can also happen to males.

Even celebrities are not exempt.

Maya Angelou, the famous writer, and Albert Einstein, the theoretical physicist, both suffered from impostor syndrome and thought they did not deserve all the accolades their work amassed. 

Hopefully, knowing all this makes you feel a little better about yourself.

Feeling incompetent means you’re human and recognize your job’s responsibility.

Not only that, it shows you want to do a good job because you feel your work is important to other people’s well-being.

How To Stop Feeling Like An Impostor

In this video, I discuss roughly when you’ll start feeling more comfortable as a new nurse. If you haven’t already subscribed to my YouTube channel, yo can go here to subscribe to the channel.

Impostor syndrome is a negative emotion that causes stress and anxiety in your life and may even make you feel like quitting nursing altogether.

Living with the constant fear of failure and self-doubt can make you do self-destructive silly things.

Some impostor syndrome sufferers make drastic decisions to leave the nursing profession or do not accept the promotions they were given.

If they get promoted, they request to return to their previous role soon after.

To ensure this is not you, here are a couple of strategies you may want to try to keep impostor syndrome in check.

1. Acknowledge It’s a Normal Feeling

a nurse sitting down feeling incompetent and sad

Acknowledge that it’s normal to feel inadequate when starting a new job.

Impostor syndrome is a real phenomenon that happens to most people who are stepping into a position that bears more responsibility than the one they are used to.

Sometimes, just knowing that you’re not alone and that what you feel is normal is enough to make you feel better.

2. Show Yourself Some Grace

Be patient and gentle without criticizing yourself too harshly, especially in the first few months.

Everyone feels like the odd one out when starting, but as time goes on, you’ll feel like part of the team.

Make friends and build relationships with your teammates to help you fit in. 

New Nurse Academy
Trusted by 430,000+ future nurses and new nurses everywhere. Check out the course that helps new nurses bridge the gap and transition smoothly to becoming nurses.

3. Seek Help When Needed

Nobody can survive on their own all the time, especially in a job like nursing. Try to offer help and ask for help from your colleagues.

There will be times when your colleagues are swamped, and you can offer to help them. At other times, you can ask them to help you.

It’s not a crime or a sign of weakness or incompetence to ask for help with your tasks. Helping your friends will make you feel like a part of the team and help build your confidence.

4. Ask Questions

Keep on asking questions. If you’re not sure how to do something, ask someone.

Don’t try to figure it out alone because it will take you twice as long, and you will likely make a mistake.

Rather ask for help from the beginning, and you will learn for future reference. 

5. Practice Personal Reflection

Reflect on your strengths and positive experiences.

If someone praises your work, accept their compliments and reflect on what you did right to get that response instead of brushing off the comment.

This way, you can figure out where your strengths lie and can increase your confidence. If you can build your confidence, the feelings of self-doubt will reduce.

Key Takeaways

New nurses tend to feel incompetent, especially at the beginning of their careers.

These feelings of inadequacy may prompt you to leave the profession altogether, which is not an ideal solution at a time when there is a worldwide shortage of nurses.

To help reduce impostor syndrome’s impact, as a new nurse, you can try a few of the strategies mentioned above to help you improve your confidence.

New Nurse Academy
Trusted by 430,000+ future nurses and new nurses everywhere. Check out the course that helps new nurses bridge the gap and transition smoothly to becoming nurses.

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