On My Own: One Month In

One month ago today, I was heading to my first shift sans preceptor. It was an important milestone for me, since I had to take medical leave at my PCU job just before I was supposed to go off orientation. My confidence in my acute care nursing abilities has been rocky ever since.

But guys, I think I can do this!!!!

I know I still have so much to learn. I know that my time management skills can always be improved upon. But I am successfully taking 5-6 patients per shift and managing! I know that my charge nurses and co-workers have my back. I know I don’t have to be the expert but that I also have something valuable to offer. I know the other nurses trust me, as do my patients.

As I look back over the past month, I also marvel at how different my own attitude is this time around. Rather than rant about the barriers and frustrations, I find myself thankful and humbled to have the privilege of taking care of people when they are sick and vulnerable. The barriers and frustrations certainly still exist, but I’m just so glad to be here, they don’t faze me as much.

So what are the keys to a more successful experience in acute care nursing? I think I’ve figured out three…

  1. Ask questions. The most seasoned nurses on my floor still ask each other questions and seek each other out for help. That has been a real eye opener for me. I came out of nursing school terrified that if I didn’t know all the things, I had failed as a nurse. Now I laugh at myself for ever believing that. It’s a process – none of us stop learning or growing. And if you don’t ask questions, you miss a chance to tap into the wisdom and knowledge of some amazing nurses.
  2. Try. I hate starting IVs. Hate it. My start rate on the first try is dismal. When an IV infiltrates or gets pulled out, I have palpitations about the thought of putting in another one. Part of it is a confidence thing, but most of it is not wanting to hurt my patients. I had gotten into the habit of identifying the nurses who are better than me and asking them to do it for me. Until one nurse pointed out that I was never going to get better at it unless I at least tried. So I’m trying. I’m still not very good but I’m getting there.
  3. Give yourself a break. We don’t have magic wands. We can’t be everywhere at the same time. But I’m coming to terms with that. As one of our experienced nurses pointed out to me, there’s no point in beating yourself up. You adjust your time management strategies and move forward. Now I understand where all those “priority” questions in my NCLEX prep books came from … part of our job is thinking critically about who needs us first and how to still make every patient feel that we’ll be there when they call.

As circuitous as my nursing journey turned out to be, I’m still in the right place. And that feels really amazing.

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