“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston Churchill

New nurses must achieve myriad milestones. Most new nurses breathe a collective sigh of relief upon passing their licensure exam. However, this period of jubilation leads to the next milestone, which includes securing one’s first position and then embarking on the transition from newly licensed nurse through the transition. This transition—which is somewhat akin to a rite of passage—may be smooth sailing for some, something akin to mountain climbing for others, and somewhere in between these two extremes for the majority. No matter where you fall, there are many strategies that you can undertake to facilitate your transition from novice to experienced nurse.

Securing a position in a supportive workplace will certainly serve you well; however, even if conditions are not optimal, there are certain things you can do to make things better. Follow these strategies to ease your transition into the workplace.

Engage in Self-Care

Nursing is a rewarding profession, yet it can also be quite stressful. Consequently, self-care is extremely beneficial. It’s important to get adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. Other self-care strategies might include deep breathing and relaxation, yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, or journaling.

Utilize Crucial Conversations

As nurses we have no problem advocating for our patients, but it’s much harder advocating for one’s self. According to a 2009 study published in Critical Care Nursing Quarterly, 77% of nurses experienced disrespectful conversations but only 7% confronted the individual. Following the eight steps of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High can be quite helpful when dealing with challenging situations such as bullying or confronting a preceptor who is not being very helpful. These include:

  1. Get unstuck (assess the problem).
  2. Start with heart (identify what is holding you back).
  3. Learn to look (observe behaviors; identify stressors).
  4. Make it safe (respect personal space, use effective communication).
  5. Master my stories (stick to the facts; see both sides of issue).
  6. State my path (tell your story; be persuasive not abrasive).
  7. Explore others’ paths (compromise if possible).
  8. Move to action (develop a positive action plan).

Following these steps may not solve all problems, but they do offer a systematic, practical way to address difficult situations.

Use Effective Written and Verbal Communication Skills

You learned about therapeutic communication in your nursing programs, so be sure to utilize effective and professional verbal, non-verbal, and written communications. Oftentimes, misunderstandings occur because of miscommunication. Social media policies should also be followed. Other communication strategies include:

  • Be a good listener;
  • Avoid jargon;
  • Speak clearly;
  • Be aware of tone, rate, and cadence;
  • Clarify and restate;
  • Always reread your messages before sending;
  • Pay attention to grammar and spelling.

Seek Out a Mentor

Mentors play a vital role in an individual’s professional and personal life. According to Fast Facts for Career Success in Nursing: Making the Most of Mentoring in a Nutshell, a mentor is someone who connects with and develops a reciprocal relationship with a protege and offers support and guidance. Finding a mentor can be challenging and requires one to be proactive and consider what one hopes to find in a mentor. You should approach the particular person with a formal request and a clear set of expectations.

Be an Advocate for Yourself and Your Patients

Patient advocacy comes natural to most of us; however, self-advocacy can be difficult. As a new nurse you will face some challenges and will need to learn self-efficacy, self-advocacy, empowerment, and resiliency. You can complete a resiliency quiz at www.resiliencyquiz.com. Learning the eight steps of “crucial conversations” can also be helpful to utilize when advocating for yourself and addressing issues such as bullying, workload, preceptors, and work environment. Your mentor can also offer guidance.

Improve Your Time Management and Organizational Skills

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges new nurses face is learning how to improve time management and organizational skills. As a new nurse it can be very easy to become overwhelmed as you leave the safety net of your instructors and are expected to manage more patients. Being punctual and setting the tone for the day will help keep you on track. Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP, recommends the following strategies to help you improve your time management skills:

  • Create a “to do” list;
  • Establish deadlines;
  • Avoid multitasking;
  • Delegate;
  • Reward yourself.

Develop Goals and Objectives

Developing daily, weekly, and even monthly goals is a great way to help you transition into your professional practice role. These goals can include a variety of topics. For example, you may include goals for improving time management, self-care, self-advocacy or clinical skills, critical thinking, and problem solving. A template for developing weekly transition goals can be found in my book, The Nurse Professional: Leveraging Your Education for Transition into Practice. When developing goals, you should also develop a five-year plan to help guide you through your transition and beyond.

In summary, the transition into professional practice can be challenging; however, there are strategies you can employ to help ease your transition.

Deborah Dolan Hunt, PhD, RN
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