The First Job Checklist for New-Grad Nurses

Your first job as a new grad nurse can be many things… eye-opening, exciting, humbling, or just terrifying! We all come from different backgrounds and with different experiences that contribute to how our first nursing job will go. One thing I learned through my nurse residency is that whether you start out on a med-surg unit, in the ED, or an ICU, we all have the same feelings as we navigate through our first year as new nurses So here are five tips that I put together from my experience as a new grad nurse to help make your transition as smooth as possible!

Talk with your preceptor

Your preceptor should take it upon themselves to reach out to you, but not all will do this. If you haven’t talked with your preceptor yet, get their contact info from your unit’s nurse manager or educator. Send them an e-mail or text letting them know who you are and that you’re looking forward to working with them. Make sure you have each other’s phone numbers in case you need to communicate more quickly than what e-mail allows. This is a great way to start off your professional relationship and shows initiative. They’re going to be the one leading you through the madness as you learn the ropes, so the earlier you get to know each other the better!

Hit the books

Hopefully, you didn’t sell all your textbooks because it might be time to break them out again! Before I began my first job as a cardiac surgery nurse, I spent some time each day on anatomy and physiology and meds. Your work should eventually provide you with educational materials for whatever specialty area you choose, but getting a head start is smart. Just remember, you will not know everything before you start your first job nor are you expected to! You might want to search for any textbooks specific to your area so you can keep it as a resource even after you start. For any other cardiac nurses out there, I recommend the Manual for Perioperative Care in Adult Cardiac Surgery by Robert M. Bojar (this is my bible).

Don’t get lost

If you work in a big hospital, it can get confusing at times. After one year at my job, I still wasn’t sure how to get everywhere in the building. To be fair, the EP lab is about half a mile away… You’ll visit your unit before starting, but just make sure you remember the route, so you aren’t lost on your first day of work. This is also where contacting your preceptor ahead of time can come in handy! Meet up with them before starting your first shift or just send them a quick message if you get lost.

Plan your routine 

You’ll need to have your routine down in the morning (evening, for you night-shifters) so you can get in on time. Think about how long it takes you to get up and out the door, the route you’ll take, the traffic you’ll hit, where you’ll park, and the walk from your car to the unit. Having your uniform, supplies, and lunch ready to go the night before can help save a lot of time in the morning. Also, be aware of any busy events near your work. I hit traffic coming into Baltimore when the Orioles or Ravens have home games, so I always keep an eye on their schedule. If you’re in a similar situation, print out the schedule so you’ll remember to leave early.

Prepare to be wrong

I’m sure you’ve heard this plenty, but guess what… no one’s perfect! You’re going to mess up, maybe look plain stupid, but don’t get down on yourself because it’s all a part of becoming a good nurse. Don’t let fear or anxiety of making a mistake hold you back or shake your confidence! Reading up on what not to do can’t hurt either… 9 Mistakes To Avoid as a New Nurse

If you’re starting soon as a new nurse, good luck and know that it will continue to get easier. You are a badass nurse in the making and don’t ever forget it!

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About Ryan Barnes, BSN, RN, PCCN

Cardiac Surgery RN from Baltimore, DNP student, and Army nurse.

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