Career advice

Coping with stress and learning resilience as a newly qualified nurse

Leaving behind your student days and starting your nursing career is a challenging time. Newly qualified staff nurse Kayleigh Peel discusses how she is coping with the stress of her new role, and her realisation that building resilience is an essential part of being a nurse

Leaving behind your student days and starting your nursing career is a challenging time. Newly qualified staff nurse Kayleigh Peel discusses how she is coping with the stress of her new role, and her realisation that building resilience is an essential part of being a nurse


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I started my career as a registered nurse three months ago on the cardiothoracic surgical ward where I had completed my final placement as a student.

Although I already had some knowledge of the specialty and had built up relationships with other staff members prior to starting my post, the transition from nursing student to staff nurse was daunting.

The responsibility of my new role seemed overwhelming and made me feel as if I was being submerged. Other members of the multidisciplinary team would approach me with queries, patients’ family members would come to me with concerns, and I was now responsible for ensuring the safety of all the patients in my care.

Teamwork crucial

The pressures currently faced by the NHS and the nursing profession, including lack of resources and staff shortages, meant I also had to hit the ground running and become efficient in my role very quickly.

Working on a busy surgical ward with a high turnover of patients, it would be hard not to have stressful moments. But recognising when work is beginning to consume you is fundamental in ensuring this does not get the better of you.

Teamwork is crucial to the safe running of a ward and learning to look out for one another is essential in building resilience. Everyone has bad days, and it is important that we recognise if colleagues aren’t coping so we can support them.

Outside activities

Maintaining a good work-life balance has been important in building my resilience. On days off I try to experience new things and visit new places, and I have made a conscious effort to engage in activities outside of work that focus my attention on something different.

I have recently joined a gym to help maintain my mental and physical well-being, am a member of my local netball club and do regular Pilates classes, which is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety.

Employers also have a responsibility to look after their staff, and I am fortunate that my trust has a supportive clinical education team who regularly visit staff members to see how we are getting on.

Reward and challenge

As a newly qualified nurse, I am on the trust’s structured preceptorship development programme, and have been assigned to a preceptor who I can share any concerns with.

We are also allocated break slots when on shift to ensure breaks are taken, regular study days are in place to aid us in our learning so we feel more confident in our roles, and the trust has introduced mindfulness sessions which staff members can drop into.

Nursing is a tremendous profession and a hugely rewarding career, but it can be challenging at times and nurses need to be resilient to cope with the pressures of the role. In our desire to always put our patients first, we must not forget to look after ourselves and each other, and to ask for help and support if we need it.


Kayleigh Peel is a staff nurse in cardiothoracic surgery at University Hospitals Birmingham, and an RCN student information officer for the University of Birmingham

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