How to Survive Your First Year as a Professional Nurse

Congratulations! You’ve finished your schooling and landed your first nursing job.

At first, you’re excited to work with so many diverse people and improve patients’ health. But then you realize how difficult a full-time nursing job is. You’re on your feet all day, which can be exhausting and painful, and you’re dealing with demanding patients and a complex work schedule.

Don’t worry; it gets better. Follow these tips for a better first year on the job.

Make a Plan

You never know how your day is going to go exactly, but you can get more done (and feel less stressed) if you make a plan at the beginning of the day of what you’re going to do when. In your plan, make sure you give yourself time to chart. If you leave your charting for the end of the day, you might forget what care you gave a particular patient. This could lead to problems for you, the patient, and the other medical personnel.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

If there’s a time to throw on your old tennis shoes from five years ago, working as a nurse is not that time. Comfortable shoes are crucial not only to help you avoid foot pain, but to help you avoid chronic pain throughout the body. Good shoes support good posture, which prevents pain in your legs, back, and neck.

Here are a few guidelines on what to look for in a shoe:

  • Quality materials: Comfortable shoes are made of high-quality materials that don’t trap moisture. For example, leather insoles help your feet stay cool better than man-made materials do.
  • Durability: Good shoes make standing and walking easier with a strong overall structure. Make sure that only the top third of the shoe bends; the rest of the shoe shouldn’t move when bent or twisted.
  • Support: The best shoes have a footbed that conforms to the shape of your foot. This should reduce foot pain when you’re on your feet all day.

You may also want to consider orthotics, custom foot supports that fit your foot’s natural arch and help you avoid foot, leg, and knee pain. Make sure you choose shoes that will fit custom orthotics inside.

Take Regular Breaks

Depending on your state’s law, your employer may require breaks. While your schedule can get busy, you should not ignore break time. Breaks will help you work more effectively throughout the day.

On your breaks (and at other moments if you can), you should eat and drink. Long periods without eating can lower your blood sugar and, in turn, make you sick. It can even make your thinking confused and muddled, which is bad news when you’re on the job. Similarly, not drinking enough water can leave you dehydrated, causing dizziness, exhaustion, and headache.

Reduce Stress

Your first year as a nurse can be incredibly stressful. You’re learning how to do your job and working around the clock meeting the varied needs of your patients and the other staff members.

When you let all this stress build up, you can’t be as effective at your job. You could even lower your immune system’s effectiveness and cause yourself to get sick. Try these stress-coping techniques:

  • Participate in relaxing hobbies like yoga, crafting, or writing.
  • Stay positive. Just because you had one bad day doesn’t mean the rest will be.
  • Don’t take criticism personally. Patients and medical personnel may criticize you because they are tired and stressed and looking for someone to blame. Take the advice that will help you improve at your job, but ignore the rest and move on.
  • Get enough sleep. Long, inconsistent shift times can affect your sleep schedule, but make sure you get seven to eight hours a night.
  • Exercise. When you get home from a long day on your feet, exercise might be the last thing you want to do. But exercise boosts energy, relaxes your mind, and improves your mood-all of which can make you a better nurse.
  • Eat well. You should not only eat regularly, but you should eat foods that will give you the energy and nutrition to thrive during a tough day on the job. Eating candy, soda, and other junk food will increase your stress and slow you down. Good food choices include:
    • Fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and celery. Pair them with peanut butter to make a protein-powered snack.
    • Trail mix. Nuts are a filling snack that contain heart-healthy fats.
    • Salad that’s full of vegetables and includes a lean protein, like chicken.

Remember the Good You Do

Remember why you became a nurse in the first place. While tedious day-to-day routines don’t always reflect the impact you’re making, you are still making a difference. Write down the little wonders you see each day, such as a patient recovering or another nurse demonstrating true compassion. When you remember that your work matters, it will make the trying times easier to bear.

Your first year as a nurse is probably the hardest, since you’re not yet used to the routine. Follow these tips and your first year will be both challenging and rewarding.

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