Starting a new nursing job can be very difficult.
Even if you're eagerly looking forward to the new adventure it doesn't change the demand of having to meet new people and learn new processes.
To help I'm going to discuss below some important things to keep in mind when starting your new nursing job.
Because there is a right and a wrong way to transition into your new role and picking the wrong way can have long-term negative consequences.
*Disclosure: This article on starting a new nursing job may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.
Top 10 New Nursing Job Tips
1. Prep for Your New Specialty
You should prepare ahead of time for the new specialty you're going into. If this isn't a new specialty for you, then you probably don't have to worry about this.
What I mean by this is researching about the nursing specialty you're going into. For example, if you're going to be an ER nurse or an ICU nurse research the type of illnesses and procedures you're going to see there.
You're going to have a nursing orientation at your facility but this is a way to help you learn and get acclimated to your new area quicker.
If you're a newly graduated nurse then what I would recommend is checking out the new grad nurse academy.
This course is designed and taught by practicing nurses to teach you vital nursing skills you're going to need in the workplace. There's a 100% risk-free trial so check it.
2. Plan Your First Day
I think it goes without saying, your first day is going to be stressful.
You'll probably have to deal with parking for the first time and then wander around the building until you find the place you're supposed to report to for orientation.
I've found that planning ahead of time helps relieve a lot of those first-day jitters while ensuring that I show up on time and make a good first impression.
Here's what you should do:
- Plan out ahead of time what you're going to wear.
- Plan/pack your meal the day before.
- Make sure you know where you're supposed to report for your first day. Either visit the place before your first day or leave early enough to give you enough time in case you get lost or there's bad traffic.
If you're really struggling with stress, check out this article I wrote on managing your stress as a nurse.
3. Learn Facility and Departmental Protocols of the New Nurse Job
When you start your new nurse job, you must familiarize yourself with the facility and departmental protocols.
Do not assume just because your previous facility or department did it a particular way that your new facility will want it done the same way.
Always check with your preceptor or your facility protocol to be sure.
Even if you don't familiarize yourself with this, you should at the very least know how to locate it on your companies intranet.
You would be surprised how many times I've had to look up a facility's policy either because of an issue with another nurse, a physician, or another staff member.
4. Learn Who the Nurse Leaders are
Knowing your facility and departmental hierarchy is very important for several reasons.
For starters, if you have any problems with either a co-worker or a supervisor, you want to make sure you go through the proper chain of command.
Generally, it doesn't go over very well if you try to bypass the chain of command. For example, a typical chain of command for nurses might look something like the chart below. :, .
If a nurse has a problem with another staff nurse, it's generally preferred to address the issue with a team manager first before jumping to the nurse manager.
Also, be aware of who the informal leaders are in your new nurse job. Formal leaders are the ones with the titles (ex. supervisor, manager, etc.). Informal leaders are the ones who might not have the formal title but are very influential.
They could be staff who have been there the longest, they could be the most liked staff, or they could be the most knowledgeable staff. Either way, you need to know who those are.
You might be wondering why you should care so much about informal leaders. It's because informal leaders may not have the given title, but they can be more influential than the actual leaders.
As the nurse who just got their nursing license (or that's new to the unit), knowing the power dynamics in your department can save you many headaches later.
To be clear, I'm not necessarily saying you need to “suck up” or be concerned about the power dynamic at your new job.
I am saying you should be aware of who the power brokers are so you don't unintentionally get on the bad side of someone who can make your life difficult.
5. Get to Know Your New Co-Workers
You're going to spend a lot of time with them. It would behoove you to learn who your coworkers are.
As time progresses, learning each person's quirks, strengths, and weaknesses will be important to you. Some questions to ask yourself about each one of your coworkers…
- Who could be a good mentor?
- Who can I count on in tough situations?
- Who has a bad attitude and just doesn't want to be bothered?
- Who's a good resource?…and for what? (People have different strengths one nurse could be a resource for knowing where things are at the hospital or who to call for problems, another could be a great resource for starting IVs)
These are just some of the questions you should start asking yourself as you get to know your coworkers.
The goal is not to make best friends. If you do, it's just icing on the cake. The goal is to create a good working relationship with them.
Related: Should Nurses Date Doctors?
6. Get to Know Your Medical Providers
Nurses are pretty much always going to be dealing with providers. So start asking yourself…
- Who are the providers?
- Who are the normal attendings?
- Are there nurse practitioners or physician assistants at that facility?
- Are you working with residents or fellows?
- What's the personality of the providers like?
- Are there physicians that the other nurses don't really like or have a problem with? If so, why is that?
These questions are important because knowing the providers you're going to be working with regularly or from time to time creates different dynamics.
We want to think nurses and providers have the best relationship, but we know that is not always the case.
7. Be Teachable for Your New Employers
It would be best if you understood the general principles of being a good nurse orientee.
When you're getting oriented at your new job, remember, nobody likes a know it all, especially if that know-it-all is wrong.
I have seen trainee nurses correct their preceptor with a “that's not how my last place did it,” only for it to be wrong.
It's possible that there is more than one way to do something correctly, and if your new facility policy dictates something else, you should go with that.
With that said there is a chance you might not get a very good preceptor. If that does happen to you here's an article I wrote on how to handle a bad nurse preceptor.
8. Strive to make a good first impression in your new nurse job
For your new nursing job, the very first impressions you make will probably stay with you for most if not the rest of your time there at the facility.
People are going to remember their first interactions with you. Even if they don't remember it exactly, they're going to remember their feelings about when they first met you.
Think about some people you're still interacting with today who gave you a bad first impression…
There's research out there you can check out here but in general, just make sure you show up with a positive attitude.
Make sure you're well-groomed, dressed in the appropriate work attire, and there's a smile on your face (even if there's not a smile, try not to look like you don't want to be there).
9. Do NOT Bad-mouth your Old Employer, Manager or Co-Workers
Do NOT bad-mouth your old employer…Let me repeat this do NOT bad-mouth your old employer, ESPECIALLY IF THEY'RE WITHIN THE SAME COMPANY!
Even if it's common knowledge that your previous employer (or manager) is lower-tier, this does nothing more than make you look petty.
It makes you look like you're the type that will bash your previous employer or boss. Others may question what you'll say about them when you're not at work.
If someone at work asks you about your previous job and why you left, you can say something to the effect of
“There's no perfect job.”
“They had their pros and cons.”
“We were going in different paths and I see an opportunity to further my knowledge at this current position.”
Be prepared for this question and have a response in mind!
As for bashing your former co-workers…let's just say with the way nurses start and leave jobs, don't be too surprised if one of your former coworkers ends up at the same facility or unit you work at.
10. Adjust your Expectations for Orientation for your New Job
Orientations are never perfect, and the one you're going to get at this new nursing job will probably not be the exception.
The nursing shortage gives a less than ideal situation for orienting (not to mention how cheap facilities can be at times). This situation is compounded when call-ins occur.
Do not be surprised when your eight weeks or twelve weeks orientation is cut short. Also, don't be surprised if you go in and out of orientation.
I have seen a new hire (who's not done with orientation) become proficient in an area, and when staffing is very short they're used for the skill they have mastered… effectively putting their orientation on hold.
Obviously, this is not ideal, but it happens. When this happens, you sometimes have to go with the flow of things.
Be honest with what you're competent in and what you're not. Ultimately don't whine if it's something you can do, and don't be a trooper if it's something you're not 100% confident in.
11. Show Up Every Day with a Smile and Positive Attitude
Nobody is perfect.
But try to make an effort every day to show up with a smile and a positive attitude even after your orientation ends and the job is not new anymore.
It will help you build your personal nurse brand. If you want more information on my thoughts on personal branding and why it's important for nurses, check out the linked article.
12. Give a Fair Trial Run Before Quitting
I'm not one of those that think you should never quit your job.
On the contrary, I'm of the mindset you should always be improving your craft and keep your resume updated so new opportunities will open up for you.
With that said, while you're not beholden to your employer so you can quit at any time you want. I think you should give a good trial run to a job before you quit that job.
The saying “the grass is not always greener on the other side” has a lot of truth. You don't want to leave a good situation (or a bad situation that was only temporary) to go to a worse situation.
If you do decide to switch jobs check out the Nurse Money Talk Job Board.
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One Last Thing…
The last thing I will mention about quitting your nursing job is that I believe there's a right and wrong way to do it.
One of the key things I think you should do that too many nurses don't do is give a 2 weeks notice. You can find out why I believe nurses should give proper notice in the linked article.
Let me know what you think and share the article.
Here's the DealHave you had coworkers start their first day on the job the wrong way?
Please share this article so we can get the word out and educate others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions that have to do with starting a brand new job.