By Melissa Wirkus, associate editor
Graduating from nursing school is an accomplishment in itself. You now have a sturdy foundation to make your mark in the nursing world and implementing some strategies for success will help you navigate your way to a prosperous and fulfilling nursing career.
Commitment and good organizational skills are strategies that are important to the success of every new nurse, said Karen Siroky, senior director of education for RN.com, the industry's leading nursing resource provider.
“It is going to take some time to gain all the skills and competencies needed as you start your career. Stay the course,” Siroky advised. “Find an organizational tool to help you track what you need to accomplish during a shift—this could be as simple as a check-off sheet, but with many competing priorities. Jotting information down will assist you in staying on top of key priorities.”
Never stop learning
Kimberly Horton, MSN, RN, FNP, DHA, vice president and chief nursing officer at Mercy Hospital and Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California, said it is important for new nurses to keep a positive attitude about their progress and to always keep learning.
“Don’t be discouraged when you’re in a situation that you are not competent in yet,” Horton said. “Nursing is not easy, but it is very rewarding. Don’t stop studying when nursing school is over. Don’t throw those text books away. The first six months to a year after a new nurse gets their license they should go back and read about every patient diagnosis after their shift.”
Siroky also advises nurses to be open to constructive criticism. “No one coming out of nursing school knows it all. Let others who are more experienced assist you in your growth,” she said. “Use your resources—not only the person orienting you, but colleagues, other new nurses, journals and the Internet. All can help you become more comfortable in your new role.”
Find a mentor
Both Horton and Siroky agree that one of the best strategies for a new nurse is to find a mentor.
Whether it is a preceptor during orientation or a seasoned nurse that you admire, it is important to find a mentor during your first years as a new nurse.
“Finding a mentor can be critical for some nurses,” Siroky noted. “Having that sounding board will really assist you as you grow in your career. Your ‘key’ mentor may change over time—if you continue your education you may need someone different to mentor you through school. The same may be true as you change positions.”
If you have not found a job yet, researching a facility, unit and staff before taking a permanent position will lay the foundation for success. It is important that you get solid, in-depth clinical experience in your first position, which is why researching is important to ensure a good match, said Maria-Jean Caterinicchio, RN, MS, director of workforce development for Orange County Memorial Care University and board member of the Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL).
“New graduates should look for a long-term relationship with a facility and how it is going to benefit them,” Caterinicchio said.
Research is also important if you have already selected a job. Planning your career path and learning about alternative nursing careers is important for succeeding as a new nurse. You should have an idea of what career goals you want to accomplish and where you want to be professionally in a few years.
“The experience of nursing is limitless,” Caterinicchio said. “Only you can put the boundaries on your practice. Keep an open mind and always be an advocate for the patient.”
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