Most nurses feel out of place in their first nursing job, straight out of nursing school.
It's completely normal to feel that way because once you finish nursing school and the unit orientation, you lose a lot of the safety net you once had.
You no longer have other students you can discuss things with or a lecturer to explain things when you get stuck.
To make matters worse, there can be an unrealistic expectation from yourself and others that you must act and perform at a high level right away just because you passed your NCLEX.
When Do New Nurses Feel Confident?
For most new nurses, it takes around one year to start feeling comfortable and for the anxiety and feeling like an impostor to disappear. Bear in mind that some people adapt faster and may feel comfortable within six months; for others, it may take a full year or even a little longer to feel like a nurse.
Why Do Nurses Feel Anxious In Practice?
Nurses have a tough job.
You're responsible for patients' health outcomes and realizing that responsibility can bring out intense feelings of anxiety and fear that you will make a mistake.
It's no coincidence that “impostor syndrome” appears as soon as your orientation ends and your preceptor leaves.
Suddenly, you alone are responsible for your patients getting better.
Feeling anxious is a normal response and shows that you care about your patients and profession.
How Long Does It Take To Feel Confident As a Nurse?
The good news is that this performance anxiety you feel as a newbie nurse won't last forever. Over time, you will build experience, and experience will help you build confidence.
For most nurses, confidence arrives at around the one-year mark. So, it's a slow, steady process that does not happen overnight.
In the meantime, you need to accept nervousness as part of the learning curve of being a rock-star nurse.
The best way to work through this anxious period is to:
- Trust the clinical judgment you learned in nursing school.
- Get okay with asking questions when you're unsure about something.
- Learn to be patient with yourself.
Nobody feels confident as a rookie nurse unless they are psychopaths!
Building Confidence In Your Practice
Even though, as a new nurse, you may feel you'll never get confident being a nurse there are strategies you can try to help yourself build it.
1. Take a New Nurse Course
Part of the reason why you're nervous is that there's so much you don't know.
A new nurse course (like this one) can help because it will teach you things new nurses should know that nursing school doesn't teach you.
2. Learn to Advocate For Yourself
As nurses, we are taught to always advocate for our patients, but there is nothing wrong with advocating for ourselves.
It will help you gain control of your work-life balance and help you build confidence in your practice.
3. Follow a Healthy-Living Lifestyle
If you take care of your body, your emotions will be more balanced, and you will have more resilience to overcome your anxiousness and build confidence.
How often do we teach our patients to eat healthy meals, get more sleep, and then go home to watch a Netflix series way into the night while binging on takeout straight out of the containers?
4. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
One thing that builds confidence is repetition. For instance, you can ask to be assigned the same patient from admission to discharge.
Watching the patient's condition improve because of your care is a tremendous confidence builder. It also helps you feel more connected to the profession and patient care.
All novice nurses experience a myriad of emotions while gaining experience in their practice. That's normal.
It's normal to feel nervous and anxious your first your practicing as a nurse.
Try to relax and trust the process.
Understand that these feelings of being unsure will diminish over time and be replaced with quiet confidence and self-belief that you are a stellar nurse.