Want a Successful Orientation? 10 Tips for New Graduate NursesFirst off, let me tell you, CONGRATULATIONS!!! You have done it! You've joined the ranks of new graduate nurses. Yes, nursing school is not easy to complete and can be very stressful. This is something that only the few dedicated to the profession are able to complete and you have done it.

Personally, I have had the honor to be a preceptor of multiple graduate nurses. Even though this has led to some of the most stressful times in my career and multiple early gray hairs, I would not trade this time or those experiences in for anything. Being able to have an impact on the future of nursing and lead fellow nurses down a path to a successful career is priceless.

Through those experiences I have been able to create this list to help you succeed during your orientation process. Now let's discuss some ways that will help you start your nursing career off on the right foot.

  1. Be updated on the literature.

    You might have the perception that because you have graduated nursing school that your days of studying, reading, and taking tests are over. Well, I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but you must take an active role in being up-to-date with the literature. Education is a process that never ends. Now as a professional, it is your responsibility to be continuously pursuing your education.

  2. Prove your knowledge through action.

    Being new, you are going to want to feel like you have to prove how smart you are by telling everyone about it. But please do not tell your colleagues, show them instead. After all, anyone can talk; yet not everyone can prove it.

    This can be shown through your own preparation. Also, be aware that you might be too overzealous that you jump ahead too fast in the process and miss the basic steps. At times, your enthusiasm and excitement can get the best of you.

    On the other hand, never let your ego get in the way either. This will potentially jeopardize patient safety, which is something that can NEVER be compromised. After all, you are responsible for the life of another human being.

  3. If someone is disrespecting you for being new or talking down to you as if you are not intelligent, let those comments roll off your back!

    Do not take this personally and do not let this place doubts in your head! Unfortunately, you are not able to control the actions of others and how your colleagues will treat you. But what you can control is how you react.

    When the day that you need to help a new nurse comes, you will have the grace and patience to remember how you were treated. In turn, you will break the cycle and treat your new colleague with respect. That is something that you can control and that will have a huge impact on your colleagues, the work environment and the profession of nursing as a whole.

    Remember that when you are being treated poorly, it has more to do with the other person and their problems than anything you have done.

  4. Always ask questions. The more the better.

    If you have a question, ask it. I cannot express how critical it is for you to always be asking questions. This is vital because you need to understand the why of what you are doing. It's not just, "Well the doctor ordered it, so I must do this." Or you are doing something only because you have just seen others do it. If you cannot answer the question "Why am I doing this?", then you should ask.

    You have a tremendous about of responsibility now. During your time on orientation is your phase to learn, ask, grow and develop all the skills necessary for when you are one day on your own. On a side note: you will never really be on your own/alone. There will always be someone that you will be able to go to for help. That being said, take ownership for your orientation and use your time wisely.

  5. Relax, take a deep breath. Everything will be ok.

    At some point during, or even before you start your new graduate nurse orientation, you will realize the severity, impact on humanity, and responsibility of being a nurse. This can and will be a frightening time for any nurse to realize, but understand that this will pass. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Have faith that you were called to the profession of nursing for a reason. Take comfort in the fact that you have obtained a quality education and passed a strictly regulated licensing exam. And through all of your hard work, you have impressed an employer enough to offer you a job at their facility.  

  6. Accept already that you are not going to be good at your job right from the start.

    This will come in time and with experience. Your preceptor cannot give you both of these and you cannot control all circumstances. So do not be worried about what you can't control and know that this anxiety will go away over time.

    One of my favorite parts of being a preceptor is watching my students have their "I get it now!" moment. It will happen to you, you will just have to wait and give it time for everything to fall into place.

  7. Come to work, prepared to work.

    Your preceptor can show you what it looks like to be a hard worker. But, let's be honest, you have already seen this before and know what it looks like. This is something that you must bring to the table and is going to be expected of you. 

  8. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

    Communicate with your preceptor, your colleagues, with a mentor (if you don't have one, find someone), your patients, communicate with everyone! When caring for the life of another individual, communication is the difference between life and death. Any break in communication between any members of the healthcare team can be detrimental to their health. Everyone must be on the same page. For this to be accomplished successfully, thorough, quality and accurate communication is imperative. 

  9. Yes, I understand you might have worked in a hospital before, but you have never been a nurse before.

    Please, do not come into the field of nursing acting like you know what it is like to be a nurse. It is great that you worked in the hospital before and that will help you. But this is where the saying "You think you know, but you have no idea!"comes in.

    This is a lesson I learned first-hand. I was shocked by how much I thought I knew about the job and the reality was very different. It is one thing to help with the care of a patient, but to be the one person directly responsible for and in charge of their care is completely different.

    If something is not done right or an adverse event happens, you now are the one that has to give answers to the questions "What happened?" and "Why did this happen?" The take away from this one is that you should learn from my misconceptions in the past and come in with a different and clear perspective.    

  10. Find your "happy place" to de-stress in your hospital.

    You must have a place within or around your hospital that you can go to that allows you to fully remove yourself from work. You need this time to clear your head and decompress from the stresses during your shift. Making this a habit will allow you to be a better nurse when you return to your shift.

    At my job, one of my favorite places to go is one of the highest floors in a tower that has a lot of windows. Here I am able take in the view, connect with nature, take a deep breath and rejuvenate my mind to prepare it to complete my shift.

With all of that being said, welcome to the profession and congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that will have a direct impact on the rest of your life and the lives of the patients you will take care of. I am happy and excited for each and every one of you and I wish you all the best!

Do you have other tips for new graduate nurses? Inspire them by sharing those in the comments.