Post Nursing School: The Biggest Obstacle of a New Job

Post Nursing School: The Biggest Obstacle of a New Job

After all that’s said and done, the most exciting part of finishing nursing school is getting hired as a ‘real nurse,’ am I right? Trading in your tuition statements for a paycheck, your non-uniform scrubs in for some Grey’s Anatomy scrubs and Danskos, and actually getting to care for your own patients each day, developing trusting relationships with families and coworkers.

But, what’s the catch? For some it may be the hours. Precepting on nights in nursing school might have been all fun and games, but after the third major holiday you’re stuck working (especially at night), the real world hits.

A substantial amount of new nurses report being dissatisfied with the hours and holiday schedules. Some state that the paycheck was simply not as high as they were expecting, and others are consumed with the stress of being responsible for such significant aspects of care under high stress.

However, a significant amount of new nurses have stated that the hardest part of adjusting to a new job is being so excited, happy, and fresh in the field that our more aged coworkers are quick to ‘take us down’ with their negativity and own ill will towards the profession. Statistically speaking, it is more likely for nurses to be dissatisfied with their job if they are in an inpatient setting providing direct patient care, which is typically the type of job that most new grads are seeking, making us more vulnerable to a stressful environment.

It is not unfamiliar to hear the words “just wait until you’ve been here 20 years,” or “you’re just happy because you’re young, you’ll find out.” These statements are enough to scare anyone into wondering whether they chose the right career path. And for what? Why are these nurses so dissatisfied?

While it is understandable why much of the nursing workforce experiences burnout from many years on their feet, long hours, odd shifts, and missing plenty of family milestones, it is also our right as new nurses to enter a job and feel welcomed in that position. New nurses experience stress in many other aspects, and being surrounded by negativity should not be a normal part of a new career.

The important thing to do when confronted with these statements is to take a deep breath and smile. While it’s easy to feed into the negativity, it’s better to slide past it, acknowledging it and expressing your concern, but staying above it and staying away from it. A key aspect in staying in love with your job that you just recently worked so hard to get is to find out where the negativity is at. Is it specifically in the break rooms? Ask if you are allowed to go downstairs for lunch. Is it before morning huddle? Maybe there’s a free computer where you can begin looking up info about your patients. Be sure to still socialize with your coworkers, but find the best times to do so. Holiday parties, positive action committee meetings, etc. Surround yourself with the nurses that are a positive influence on you and consider asking a fellow nurse to be your mentor to guide you through the tough times and encourage you to stay positive as well.

Most importantly, know when you can help your coworkers. If there is a particular coworker in distress, know who you can speak to if you feel they are unsafe in the work environment. If you are doing well and you feel confident, maybe try using your “young” and “fresh” attitude to bring some joy to your coworkers. Gently remind them how honored you feel to work in your position or tell them why you specifically chose this job over another job. Talk about why you enjoy your job. Kindly redirect negative conversations to more positive subject matter.

Lastly, know when it is OK to be negative and with whom you can share those feelings. Finding a buddy or a mentor that you trust and can vent to behind closed doors is something that every nurse should certainly have access to, but do respect your colleagues’ right to a positive, healthy work environment of their own. Ultimately, balancing stress involves staying in touch with your own feelings and your own needs. Journaling, blogging, or just talking with a close friend are good ways to recognize when you are stressed and perhaps feeling negative. As nurses, we cannot provide the best care to others unless we care for ourselves first.

Landing the Perfect Preceptorship

Landing the Perfect Preceptorship

As summer rolls around, August-graduating nursing classes are coming up on preceptor season. The wonderfully unknown and unpredictable season when sleep is lacking and your calendar is changing quicker than you can update it. So how does one land in a specialty area like the ED, NICU, or CVICU as a nursing student who just started an IV for the first time less than a year ago?

First things first. Figure out how your school determines placement—and figure it out soon. You can never be too early. Find out your first semester how your HESI scores, grades, and clinical comments can play a role in your last semester so you can set reasonable, achievable goals for your nursing school career. 

Second, ask yourself, “what is the perfect preceptorship?” This is your opportunity to get a feel for what is a good fit for you. Maybe you want to try night shifts for the first time. Maybe you think OB is your calling, but you only had one clinical day in postpartum. Don’t shy away from specialties. Your preceptorship is a valuable time when you can observe, get one-on-one training, and make an impression on nurse managers.  Be brave. Be open to trying anything you think you might be interested in doing. Do consider the hospital location, shift hours, and nursing staff. If it is a clinical site you’ve been to, were the nurses busy and stressed? Were they helpful and understanding?

Once you figure out what your school requires and where you want to go, the focus shifts to clinical impression and school requirements. Most schools use the HESI exams to determine qualification. At the University of North Florida, the minimum “exit” or comprehensive HESI score is 850. If your school uses HESI, consider purchasing the book titled Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination, which includes an access code with over 700 questions. The NCLEX RN Mastery App (which frequently goes on sale for $14.99) is also an excellent tool for on-the-go. Consider a study goal of one chapter per week and 20 questions on the app per day. The app can be utilized in between sets at the gym, while in line at the grocery store, and even while you brush your teeth. Get creative and spread out your study time. Before you know it, you’ll reach your daily study goal (which the app conveniently records for you).

While you’re at clinical, keep in mind that those around you will remember you if you set the right impression. Introduce yourself to the nurse managers. Don’t be afraid to tell them you enjoyed your experience and your graduation date. Ask for advice on what their unit looks for in a student. While introducing yourself to the nurse manager is an excellent way to plant a seed in the right soil, don’t forget to always be respectful to all of the staff. One of the best conversations I had with a group of nurses was about nursing students who just nod their head yes when the nurse explains something and how the nurses really weren’t sure if they were just nodding or if they were retaining and understanding. Go a step further by asking a follow-up question or repeating the information back to the nurse. Some of the best teachers I found in the clinical setting were the paramedics!

Finally, it would be unrealistic to expect every student to land a specialty position. Know that even if there aren’t adequate spots or you don’t qualify, you still have the ability to utilize your preceptorship to its full potential. This may be the time to try a night or weekend shift. Find out if you can rank the nearby facilities and have a preference of which medical-surgical unit you’re placed on.

Remember, your preceptorship has the potential to result in a job offer that could ultimately become your career. Plan ahead, set goals, be aware, and have a voice. This is your last chance as a student to get experience, ask questions, and get comfortable in the hospital setting.