Newly qualified nurses

Acute care is a great place to learn your craft

Starting your career on the front line of nursing involves challenges – but also chances to make a difference at a critical time

Starting your career on the front line of nursing involves challenges – but also chances to make a difference at a critical time

Picture: John Houlihan

Nursing is one of the most rewarding career paths anyone could take. The opportunities for career development are seemingly endless.

As you start out, select your first job carefully. Take time to research the organisation, the service, the team and what they represent. Choose a workplace where you will be supported to consolidate your years of learning and become a confident, competent and compassionate nurse.

There are many preceptorship programmes available, and these will offer the support and guidance you need to develop and grow. Don’t be in a rush; take time to learn your craft in a supportive environment.

Why choose acute nursing?

Working in hospitals and caring for patients at critical and potentially life-threatening moments for them can be the most challenging and rewarding experience for a nurse. It is a privilege to be able to show compassion in the form of a smile, a kind word and gentle reassurance that we care and are there to help our patients.

Of all the practitioners in the acute healthcare sector, it is the nurse who spends the most time with patients and hears their concerns, fears and hopes. It is no surprise that nurses are the biggest patient advocates and speak up when others may not be listening. The quality of patient care and the experience of care depends on the entire healthcare team, but nurses are at the core.

‘This job is not for everyone but for those who are up for the challenge, we can work together to make the NHS the best healthcare service in the world’

The chief nursing officer for England’s 2016 strategy, Leading Change, Adding Value, has challenged healthcare staff to be guided by the principles of patient-centred and compassionate care that responds to the needs of patients. A key question for nurses is: ‘Am I leading change and how does this add value to the quality of patient care?’

This focus has, in effect, put the onus back on front-line – often junior and newly registered nurses – to speak up for patients and become leaders and agents of change. This is about creating future leaders who have the courage to speak up.

The past year has seen unprecedented challenges across the NHS. To work in the acute sector requires compassion, dedication and resilience.

Resilience is crucial in light of staffing shortages, long working hours and relentless reports of how much we are struggling to meet demand. This job is not for everyone, but for those who are up for the challenge, we can work together to make the NHS the best healthcare service in the world.

The best start

As you start your first shift, remember that you are the image of nursing that your patients, their relatives and other staff will see. Be professional, kind and compassionate and treat others as you would like to be treated. The future of nursing is in your hands.

A few things to remember:

  • Be self-aware and think about how others see you.
  • Have an enquiring mind; lifelong learning is key.
  • Approach challenges as opportunities for growth and overcome them with courage and tenacity.
  • Challenge how things are. Ask how we can do things better, more efficiently and more effectively.
  • Recognise your limitations; it is better to ask than to assume and get it wrong.
  • Work as a team with colleagues of all disciplines for the patients’ best interests.
  • Be passionate, compassionate, articulate. Your patients and profession will thank you for it.
  • Enjoy your work; remember that happy staff = happy patients.

Nichole McIntosh is assistant director of nursing at North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust and a member of the editorial advisory board for Nursing Management



Further information

NHS England: Leading Change, Adding Value


This article is for subscribers only