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Starting A New Nursing Job? Here Are 10 Tips To Start Off Strong

Beginning a new nursing job brings on both great excitement and nervous anticipation (and maybe even a new professional wardrobe - nursing scrubs, anyone?!). A smooth transition to a new work environment is the first step to your success. Here are 10 tips from experienced nurses that will help you avoid missteps and make the most of your opportunities: 

1.  Engage in Employee Orientation

New employee orientation is a great learning opportunity, says clinical instructor Jean Mills, RN, MS. New employees, even nurses with years of experience, should actively participate in orientation. At the conclusion of the orientation, if there is any uncertainty about a procedure or if you're uncomfortable working unsupervised, don't hesitate to ask for a reorientation, suggests Mills.

2.  Maximize the Benefits of a Mentor

Your assigned preceptor is a storehouse of knowledge. You can maximize the benefits of a mentor by working closely with her and getting her to share her wisdom with you. If you find you're not getting along, ask the unit manager to assign you to a different mentor. In addition to formal mentors, seek out seasoned nurses who are willing to serve as informal advisors, suggests Nancy DiDona, EdD, RNC.

3.  Avoid Unhealthy Dynamics

It's easy to become embroiled in unhealthy dynamics within the department, especially when you're trying to find your feet at a new job. Learn to impartially reflect on the situation and develop a professional response. Saying "This is what I've heard" or "Perhaps we can handle this better" are ways of diffusing the tension. 

4.  Be a Team Player

Helping a coworker out is a great way to build goodwill. In the future, if you find yourself in need of help, they'll be more likely to return the favor. Staff Nurse Patricia McLaughlin suggests socializing with colleagues and getting to know them outside the work environment. If you don't want to do lunch or celebrate a birthday with them, at least make an effort to get to know the person behind the professional. 

5.  Ask Questions

If you're unsure about something, don't hesitate to ask. This not only benefits you but also the person you're questioning. It can allow a unit manager, for example, to see things in a different light. Be teachable and develop a questioning attitude - this can often prevent errors in a busy healthcare environment. 

6.  Observe Experienced Nurses

Observing experienced nurses and long-term employees is a great way to improve your own interpersonal skills. There is a great deal to learn by observing their interactions with physicians, their handling of challenging patients, as well as their management of difficult situations. 

7.  Prioritize and Delegate

In the healthcare environment, you have to think on your feet and make quick decisions. Learn to assess what is critical and what can be delegated to someone else. Engage with senior nurses and the management about fresh strategies to manage situations. Sometimes new employees can look at things with a clearer vision. You may be able to tactfully suggest a better way of doing things.

8.  Befriend Everyone in the Workplace

You will work with many people in your new job, from management to maintenance staff. Be friendly with everyone. Don't be condescending to anyone. Remember, you could pay a big price in the future for being rude to a low-level staffer you thought wasn't important.

9.  Recharge and Rejuvenate 

You work in a high-stress environment and it's important to recharge and rejuvenate from time to time. Rest and relaxation, socializing with friends and family, and having hobbies and interests other than work will all make you a better healthcare provider. 

10.  Don't Be Discouraged 

Change can be frightening, and it's never easy to blend in to a new work environment. But don't be discouraged. Give your new job a fair chance before you start questioning your career choice. Experts say it can take up to one year before you feel like you belong.

Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.