Graduation is upon us and there will be many new grad nurses among hospital units very soon if they have not started already. Starting a job in nursing can be very overwhelming. I would argue that learning the ropes of the healthcare culture is quite possibly one of the most difficult jobs. In addition, the new grad nurse must learn how to manage a sick human being, physiologically and emotionally. Therefore, learning to be part of the crew from the beginning can certainly help with the transition. The following are ways to be everyone’s favorite new grad nurse on the unit.
Help with admissions
Admissions can really put a hiccup in anyone’s day. However, they go so much faster with teamwork. Working on a cardiac surgery ICU, my unit had admissions down to a science. One person would chart, one person would connect the patient to the monitor, one person would write down time of arrival, vitals, intake and output on the white board, and the primary nurse would do a quick assessment of the patient, check the IV pumps and lines, then we would do a group report. Having a team of nurses help you admit your patient, even if for only 5-10 minutes, changes everything.
Also, for the benefit of the new grad, helping with admissions is a great learning opportunity. There is less pressure when you are not the primary nurse of the incoming patient. Also, helping with admits can help you learn to prioritize tasks and time management.
Keep your rooms cleaned and stocked
There is nothing more aggravating than starting your day having to clean and restock your patient’s rooms. I have worked on units where nurses had to do this and units where techs did it. Whoever is responsible, make sure it is done and help each other out. Although it seems like a small task, it can be the last thing you feel like doing at the end of the shift, but can make an exponential difference in the day of the oncoming nurse. It’s all about the little things.
Check the dates on dressings and IV tubing
Another task that should always be completed before leaving, is changing expired dressings or IV tubing. As a neurotic ICU nurse, I have difficulty focusing on other things when they are not done. Never, leave this task for another shift unless you absolutely are so busy you could not complete it. Also, not to mention, changing dressings and tubing are done to prevent infection, therefore, it’s more about the patient than anything.
Realize there is never down time
Recognize there is rarely down time. If you are caught up on all of your work and having a chill day, walk around the unit and see if anyone else needs help. Inevitably, there will be a nurse who needs help. Instead of just asking, “Do you need help,” offer specific help. Specific help would include: turning, bathing, cleaning up poop, drawing labs, emptying catheter bags, dressing changes, taking out the trash, or trach care. Sometimes nurses do not know what they need, they just know they are drowning. Realizing what needs to be done and just doing it, can change a shift from terrible to tolerable.
Bring coffee or coffee creamer
Coffee is liquid gold in the healthcare community. As a new grad, maybe you’ve never been a coffee drinker, but soon you will likely start to drink it. Nurses love coffee. It’s not necessarily about the taste, or even the caffeine buzz, it’s about the culture. Coffee brings us together. There is just something about someone saying, “I made a fresh pot of coffee if anyone wants some,” or offering to bring some to a nurse who is too busy to make some.
My cousin started a job in an ICU a couple years ago. She was not a new nurse, but was new to the ICU. She instantly recognized the “coffee culture” and started making homemade coffee creamer. The nurses on her unit went crazy over it because creamer is something we’re always wanting. Most of the time, we just take milk out of the patient refrigerator and use it. Of note, she took a large glass jar, mixed half almond milk with half almond cream, and added whatever flavors she wanted like cocoa powder, vanilla, almond, or caramel. This could be done with regular dairy milk as well, but it was the thought that counted.
Any nurse recognizes how difficult it is to start from the beginning, but despite these other suggestions, your teammates will recognize hard work the most. Work hard to understand why you are doing what you are doing. For instance, why is norepinephrine the first line vasopressor in sepsis? Why are you giving mannitol for brain swelling? Why are you starting a statin on every cardiac patient? If you care enough to work hard, you can’t go wrong, the rest of these things are just a bonus.
Welcome to your new career!
About the Author:
Danielle LeVeck is a critical care nurse, doctoral student, nurse advocate, blogger, and social media influencer. Danielle institutes a comical, but straightforward approach in her writing to discuss issues in nursing. She strives to achieve her overarching goal of empowering and inspiring nurses from different backgrounds and encouraging all healthcare providers to work together. Find her blog at Nurse Abnormalities or follow her on Instagram.
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