Making the transition from student to staff nurse

Two days after my last day in university, it still hadn't hit me – I start my job and my career as a nurse in a week. The arm bands of student-hood are coming off, and I will be thrown into the pool of the qualified.

It was tempting to forget about the job for a while and do some last minute cramming before induction – I am newly qualified after all, surely I can plead this for a week or two?! But if it was a case of sink or swim, I needed to be prepared, so forced myself to follow this five point strategy:

Be organised
University finished with books to return, forms to fill in, and goodbyes to be said. Starting a career meant getting a PIN and joining a union. I also have a broken car to deal with and am getting married in six months. Much to the amusement of everyone, we managed to get 90 per cent of the wedding organised in just two weeks! Everyone will have their own pile of life issues I’m sure, so it is important to get organised. Don't become a master procrastinator.

Find balance
With such a full diary, it would be easy to burn out before even starting! I am trying to get my car fixed, do a bit of research for my new job, and ring the venue for our wedding. Don’t forget to book in slots for fun as well though, and be flexible about swapping plans. But remember to keep yourself on track.

Be realistic
Too little time to do everything? You are only human. Select key things to achieve in a certain timeframe, this will help stop you becoming paralysed by fear or feeling overwhelmed. Remember, people will not expect you to know the same as someone who has been doing the job for years. Just be willing to learn. Attitude and willingness go a long way.

Be prepared
I need time to focus on the transition from student to staff nurse. As a result, I am clearing time and warning family, clubs and friends not to expect to see much of me for the time being. Before I started my job, I visited my ward to find out what they expect of me, and what support I can expect from them. This meant I could sort out holidays, working over Christmas, get my uniform ordered, and meet the nurse in charge – my new boss!

Don't worry
Initially, I put it off, but visiting my ward a couple of times really helped me feel more confident about joining the team. It is important to remember that your first ward is unlikely to be the one you retire from. Most hospitals have a transfer list that you can go on after six to 12 months if you do want to move. Finally, remember that everyone has been new, and all new starters are feeling the same way. I don't know quite what to expect yet, but I am nervous and excited to finally become a qualified nurse.

About the author

Stephanie Wagg recently qualified from the University of Sheffield. She is now a staff nurse on a respiratory ward at a nearby hospital. Her coping mechanisms include sharing her failures and learning with others, writing and chocolate!