I was walking down the hall this morning with a new nurse, and she asked, “so, were you an IV nurse before this?”
She said it with genuine respect as I followed her down the hall to the room of her “hard stick.”
“Nah,” I replied. “I’ve just been putting em in for twenty years.”
“That’ll do it,” she replied in awe.
I wasn’t even working on that floor. It was one I sometimes floated to, and I had run quickly there from my Intensive Care Unit to grab a stowed jacket. When this new nurse had seen me her eyes lit up, and she eagerly let me know she needed me. It seems I had quickly garnered the reputation on that floor of being very skilled at inserting IV’s. As I walked with her to her room (confident that whatever veins awaited me I’d nail it first try) I realized just how odd this was.
I had become the nurse you asked to help you get an IV started in a patient with “bad veins.”
It was crazy, but I was the one you came to when you had a question, needed a second opinion, or encountered something you had never seen before.
Even more crazy, it had occurred to me over the past year that I had become that older nurse with decades of experience that I used to look up to. Now I was the more seasoned RN on the floor.
I bet you’re wondering when the advice is going to come in. Well, here’s the thing. Most of the time it seems like only yesterday that I was the one with shaking hands when I started my first IV (or two, or three), or that I was the one going insane questioning every single move I made. I was the anxious young woman with a nervous stomach. I was the one afraid to call and wake up the doctor. I was the nurse scared to death of making a mistake, running my butt off to try and get things done on time, but leaving an hour late regardless. That was me. But now, it’s not.
Time passes quick at the bedside. It may not feel like it when you’re trying to make it through a crazy, twelve hour shift, but trust me. One day you will look up and realize a year has gone by, then two, five, and beyond if you decide to stay. On a side note, the patients hope you will. There are far too few of us seasoned (but not salty) bedside RN’s left.
So, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to enjoy yourself. I know that’s not always easy when you’re trying not to bang your head against the wall in frustration, but bear with me. You see, right now is a wonderful opportunity for you. You have the chance to be a sponge, to ask a thousand
dumb inquisitive questions, and to take every instance you can to learn.
I remember as a young nurse feeling like I should know more, and often times I neglected to ask for confirmation on a situation because I didn’t want to appear like an idiot. Don’t get me wrong. I never did anything to put my patient at risk, but I did lose many opportunities to increase my knowledge in favor of saving face.
I can also recall not taking chances, not grabbing at situations where I could grow my knowledge base and skill level. Rather than missing an IV that looked hard, I might just ask someone else to do it for me. When faced with the chance to take care of a really critical patient, I would be more than willing to pass it along. This only hurt me. My fear of messing up held me back. Don’t do that.
Being a new nurse is hard. Even though you went to school there’s still so much to learn! I get it. But don’t let this keep you from grabbing those extra certifications and educational opportunities. These things will only add to your knowledge, making you a better nurse in the long run.
So, if you’re just barely keeping your head above water as a new grad, hang in there. Know you’re not the first to feel that way. But just make sure you don’t end up floating along content on still waters. Stir it up. Realize that while being a new nurse is hard, what can be really difficult is being an older nurse who everyone comes to. Because one day you will look up to ask a question, and you’ll realize you’re the most experienced person there. You will be the one people come to. You’ll be the one teaching others, mentoring new nurses, and offering your venipuncture skills to the masses. It happens before you know it. So enjoy your season to learn and grow. Your future patients will thank you.