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Working as a nurse (CMSRN ) both before and during the pandemic, I’ve seen our profession change drastically in just a few years. The skills we need—and even what it means to be a nurse—are evolving as the new generation seeks different opportunities such as travel or part-time work.

Over the last few years, I’ve had to constantly adjust to new information, even as I watched colleagues leave the profession due to COVID-19 fears and burnout. To deal with these challenges, I’ve changed my mindset, learned new skills, and altered my approach.

Here is my advice for future nurses to help them not only succeed at work but find joy and fulfillment in our profession.

1. Inspire Trust

Nurses rely on our colleagues. When we’re in a tense situation, we need to know that the people around us have our back.

Though we aren’t in complete control of our environment or our team, I think that trusting others starts with being trustworthy yourself. Be the person who other nurses and technicians can turn to when they need help. Having other people trust you is your first step toward trusting them.

2. Elevate Your Patient’s Voice

Though we may feel annoyed when a patient calls over and over, remember that the call light is more than a light. It’s your patient’s voice, their way of letting you know they need comfort, help, or someone to listen to their concerns.

No matter who the patient is, what treatment they’re requesting, or why they want a second opinion, their voice counts. Nurses empower patients simply by listening to them. Even if you disagree with what a patient asks for, bringing the request to the physician’s attention shows your patient that their voice has been heard.

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3. Get into the habit of evaluating research

The pandemic has highlighted the fact that being a nurse involves a constant flow of updated information and contradictory articles. To determine what’s true, you have to learn to remove your bias from your practice. You also need to be open to accepting new information once you evaluate it. Best practices are always evolving, so you have to commit to regularly seeking out peer-reviewed research that expands your knowledge.

This means learning more about nursing research journals and understanding why a peer-reviewed article must include evidence-based data—and why peer-reviewed articles are more reliable than something from a journal that accepts submissions from anyone. You should also be adept at evaluating sources, making sense of raw data, and identifying bias.

4. Adapt actively and embrace change

“Adaptability” is a buzzword in many industries and job listings, but healthcare is all about change. Without change and adaptation, we wouldn’t have advanced life support, gene therapy, or mRNA vaccinations. In healthcare, change is inevitable and necessary. As a nurse, your job is to absorb and adapt to the new policies, information, schedule, and more that come at you every day.

Rather than just accepting change, I encourage you to become an active part of it. If you want higher wages for nurses, or if you see an area where you can contribute to better patient outcomes, advocate for it. You can inspire change by seeking new research, voicing your concerns, and finding better ways to adapt to the evolving world.

5. Take care of yourself, too

Like many nurses, you may feel the need to take on extra shifts, have everything in order before your shift ends, or never say no. I can relate, but this is not the path I recommend. If you don’t take proper care of yourself outside of work, you won’t be there for your patients the way you want to be.

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No matter how much energy you have, you must replenish it. Things like sleep, time with your loved ones, and choosing the appropriate number of work hours for you are necessary parts of the nursing job, not just optional luxuries.

6. Find a supportive environment

To succeed both in your career and personal life, don’t hesitate to seek mentorship, a supportive environment, or more learning opportunities. Remember that after you graduate from nursing school, the first place you work might not be as supportive or conducive to your professional development as you need—but there are people out there who want to teach you and see you grow. Once you find this exemplary leadership and resources, you’ll thrive as a nurse.

Andrew Gilman, BSN, RN, CMSRN
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