Newly qualified nurses

Top tips for newly qualified nurses

Make sure you are prepared to make the leap from student to newly qualified nurse

Make sure you are prepared to make the leap from student to newly qualified nurse.

Starting your first newly qualified post can be daunting. Overnight, you go from being a student whose work is closely supervised to being a nurse with a wealth of responsibility. Follow these tips to help you make a smooth transition.

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  • During your first week, make an effort to introduce yourself to all staff members, including domestic staff and housekeepers. If you make a good impression from the start, people will be much more willing to assist you with something or help you search for that elusive dressing you’ve not used since you were a first-year student. 
  • Have confidence in yourself. You’ve made it through three gruelling years of university, passed your exams and written essays on a multitude of nursing models. You may feel nervous in your first few days but this is perfectly natural. 
  • Continuous professional development is integral to the nursing profession and there is no shame in admitting you don’t know something or haven’t been trained to do something yet. Honesty is paramount, and if there is something you don’t know, say so. If there is a skill you haven’t been trained to do – cannulating a patient, for example – find someone who can do this for you and offer to do a task for them in return. Remember, there is no such thing as a silly question. 
  • Reflection is also an integral part of nursing, and while we all like to strive for perfection and can beat ourselves up if something doesn’t go as planned, mistakes are part of the learning process. 
  • Make sure you admit to mistakes – acknowledging that you have made an error will help you learn from the experience so you can try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. 
  • The first few months of being a newly qualified nurse is a steep learning curve. But don’t get disheartened if you feel overwhelmed – every nurse had to start somewhere, and many other nurses felt the same when starting their first qualified role. 
  • Maintaining a good work-life balance is vital for your welfare and the safety of your patients. Ensure you leave work on time, but if you are leaving late, ask yourself why. Don’t be afraid to hand tasks over to the next shift – no one will think any less of you as long as you can explain why you haven’t been able to complete them. If you think time management is the issue, ask a colleague how they manage their time and if they can give you some tips to help you prioritise more effectively. 
  • Do some research on your specialty area before starting your new role, and ensure you brush up on the medications you will be required to administer as this will be essential when carrying out drug rounds. If a patient asks you why they’ve been started on a new drug, for example, it doesn’t inspire much confidence – or do your self-confidence any good – if you don’t know. If you are unsure, or have any questions about a patient’s medication, consult the prescriber. 
  • Finally, if you haven’t got a hobby, embark on a new one or find an activity that can help distract you from work. When I started my first role, there were times when it felt like nursing was consuming me. Participating in an activity outside work was a great way of meeting new people, and allowed me to have conversations that weren't about the hospital. 


Kayleigh Peel is a staff nurse in cardiothoracic surgery at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust


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