You survived nursing school and landed your first nursing job. The hard work is behind you, right? Not quite. Your first year as a nurse will be full of learning, first-time experiences and professional growth. There will also be frustrating moments, and you may even question what you're doing and why you became a nurse in the first place. These experiences will make you stronger, and they'll provide fodder for your resume and passion for your cover letter when you're ready to apply to the next step in your nursing career.
To succeed in your first year on the job, you need to set some goals and enter the workforce with determination. Here are four tips for surviving your first year as a nurse:
1. Find the right fit for your first nursing job
Knowing how to prepare to be a nurse isn't a one-size-fits-all process. Most nurses begin their first year on a medical-surgical unit. However, if hospital nursing doesn't feel like the right fit for you, you may want to consider a career in public or community health, correctional nursing or clinic work.
If you want to work in the hospital, but you're hoping to land a nursing job in the intensive care unit or emergency department, consider looking for an internship program. Internships offer on-the-job experience in a high acuity unit paired with plenty of guidance and instruction. You'll learn many specialized nursing skills and work with populations of patients that you won't find in other areas. Experience as a critical care or emergency department nurse can also prepare you to be a nurse who goes on to obtain an advanced degree as a certified nurse anesthetist or clinical nurse specialist.
2. Connect with a nurse mentor
Finding a coworker, supervisor or another colleague to be your mentor during your first nursing job is vital to your career's overall success. If you completed a preceptorship, reach out to your preceptor with new questions as they arise. You can also ask your current preceptor or the unit nurse educator for new nurse advice.
Look for mentors online on nurse-specific resources like allnurses.com or professional websites like LinkedIn. Search for nurses in your specific nursing specialty. Reach out and introduce yourself with details about your first year as a nurse and a list of your nursing goals. Let them know that you're looking for a mentor and ask if they would be willing to talk with you and offer you feedback throughout your first year.
3. Search for new opportunities
During your first nursing job, keep your future resume in mind. Everything you do during the first few years of your nursing career should align with your overall career goals. Look for a resume template that fits the nursing specialty you plan to pursue so that you can slowly build it while you work.
Create a list of skills you'd like to develop over the course of the year. A few skills to keep in mind include administering IVs, NG tubes and urinary catheters. Ask tenured nurses on your unit for their best advice and what skills they feel are essential. Once you have a comprehensive list of nursing skills, speak with your mentor, manager and/or nurse educator to plan ways to master each one.
4. Set realistic goals
Setting realistic goals is among the best new nurse advice you can get. Challenging but achievable goals are an excellent way to use your time wisely. To enjoy a successful year, choose goals that are SMART:
- Specific: State exactly what you want to achieve in your first nursing job. Be sure to include details about where, how and when you will reach your goals.
- Measurable: If you can clearly measure your goals, you'll have a concrete way to show you achieved each one.
- Achievable: Your career goals should be attainable. You may even need to break down some of your goals into multiple steps to make them more definable – and achievable.
- Relevant: Don't worry about a nursing dream job that you know is five years in the future. Create nursing career goals that are relevant to your first year.
- Time-bound: All well-written goals have a time limit. For example, you don't want to take a full year to become independent with nursing admissions. Be sure to set a realistic timeline and then work diligently to meet each of your first-year nursing goals.
5. Prepare to succeed
Surviving your first year as a nurse may be challenging. However, it's also a valuable time and an experience to enjoy. If you're looking for creative ways to generate a nursing resume (in no time at all) that reflects all that you learn during your first nursing job, check out our Resume Builder. Use the builder to gain your first job right out of school, and to highlight everything you learned in your first year as a nurse.