When starting your first nursing job, it's quite common to feel both excitement and nervousness. Maybe even a little ‘lost' in the new environment.
Thank goodness for the orientation period when a nurse preceptor prepares you for real nursing, not textbook nursing.
Below I'll give you some of my top tips so you can get the very best out of your nursing orientation.
New Nurse Orientation Tips
One of the most important things during your new nurse orientation is to be proactive and ask a lot of questions.
Here are some more important tips.
1. Be Proactive
Preceptors are usually chosen because they're experienced and have much knowledge to share.
Nobody knows everything when they start a new job, and the orientation period lets you brush up on the skills you may not have mastered in nursing school.
Follow your preceptor closely, and whenever you're unsure of a procedure or situation, ask them to demonstrate a skill or supervise you to ensure you feel confident in how you work.
Attend any educational workshops offered by your employer.
Whether it's a refresher course on cardiac drugs or therapeutic use of IV fluids, that information can come in handy one day when you have a patient with this condition in your care.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Asking questions can benefit you and your preceptor as it helps them judge your knowledge level, and it helps you find out how things are done in the unit.
It also shows that you're engaged in your work and are teachable. Both of those characteristics are welcome in a newly appointed staff member.
You can also ask your preceptor to quiz you on your knowledge to make things more fun. It could be quizzes on your knowledge of drugs, lab values, or any other info pertinent to working in your department.
Having fun like that will help you master the knowledge required faster and help build a better relationship between you and the preceptor.
3. Take Good Notes
You will need to learn many things during your orientation, including your coworkers' names, unit routine, charting, policies, procedures, etc.
It's impossible to remember everything you hear or see, and taking good notes will help you recall the information later when you need to practice on your own.
You don't have to write down everything your preceptor says, but take notes of all the patient care procedures, how to chart patient care tasks, routine observations for every patient in the unit, and the most important department policies and procedures.
Those notes will become your treasured resource once the orientation period is over. So, don't be afraid of whipping out that notebook and writing things down.
4. Find a Good Support System
Your preceptor or mentor will be the first “go-to” person when you start a new job.
Besides the preceptor, it's advised that you get to know your team members as soon as possible.
Find someone you're comfortable with to help you adjust in those first few weeks when everything seems new and strange.
The orientation period will go smoother when you have trusted people you can talk to about your challenges and patient care concerns.
Make sure you're not too proud to ask for help when you need it, and also offer help to your coworkers if you see they're stressed.
Building relationships from day one will help you become a confident team member.
5. Don't Be Late
Make sure you arrive early on your first orientation day to give yourself time to find the place you're supposed to be without being late.
Being on time makes a good impression on your new coworkers and preceptor. It also shows you're serious about your job and have a good work ethic.
6. Come Prepared
During orientation, you may have days where you will attend lectures from the HR department that provide insight into how the facility operates.
During these meetings, you'll probably learn how to use their computer systems along with any other pertinent information.
You may be allowed to wear your normal clothes for those lectures. So, find out beforehand when you need to attend those.
If you start your orientation in the unit where you will work, you will need to wear normal nursing scrubs. Make sure you have them with you to change if necessary.
It's also a good idea to bring the usual nursing gear along, like a stethoscope, penlight, pens, and a bag for the electronic devices if those are used in your area of practice.
You don't want to constantly borrow stuff from coworkers because you left your things at home.
You should also read all the onboarding materials sent to you by the employer.
Those usually contain important information like your manager's name and contact details, so you know who to report to on your first day.
7. Bring Packed Lunch
Nothing is worse than working a full 12-hour shift on an empty stomach because you forgot to bring a packed lunch, and there's no time to go to the cafeteria to buy food.
Make sure you bring some healthy snacks you can access easily during short breaks on the floor. This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Avoid packing junk food, as it will send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride. Stick to healthy fruits, seeds, and nuts that keep hunger at bay but are easy to carry in a small bag or even your pocket.
8. Let Your Preceptor Observe Your Work
Once you're familiar with how things are done in the new unit, ask your preceptor to let you do all the patient care tasks and observe your work.
That's a great way to ensure you do things correctly, and it will give you a chance to get used to the workload and prevent those overwhelming feelings when the orientation period is over.
9. Practice Calling Doctors
Calling doctors is one area that new nurses often find challenging to do.
You might be unsure when to call the doctor and what to say to them without appearing stupid.
Let your preceptor practice these calls by role-playing them with you. It's an important skill you need to master to ensure safe patient care.
10. Be Patient With Yourself
Even though some days you may feel you'll never be a “good” nurse, don't get discouraged. The learning process takes time.
Most health institutions have orientation periods lasting at least a couple of months to ensure you feel prepared before you're expected to care for patients independently.
If you're feeling down, try to reflect and see how far you've improved since the first day you started. The feeling of competence will come after you've worked on the unit for at least a year.
So don't be too hard on yourself; if you feel unsure about something, ask your preceptor. That is what the orientation period is for.
A couple of months into your orientation, you'll start to feel more confident in your role as a nurse and coworker in your unit.
You can plan your day and do patient care tasks without being prompted by your preceptor.
Your coworkers will get to know you and trust you to perform safe patient care.