I watch you, you’re unconsciously chewing on your lip as you study the intake and output of your patient, and you slowly backspace the paragraph you just documented. I watch you, wide-eyed and nervous, and I remember.
I remember what it was like to be the new guy, to feel like all that excitement over finishing the grueling task of nursing school was suddenly not that big of an achievement after all. In the face of so much unknown you feel like the air is slowly being let out of your balloon, and I remember that too. You feel lost in a world of so much left to learn, and I don’t envy that part of it at all.
My first year out of nursing school was a scary, overwhelming test of my commitment to the field, and there wasn’t a day that I didn’t question had I made a mistake. And as I watched you fretting over every tiny minute detail I saw myself twelve years prior. The frightening fear of screwing up royally was that fresh in my mind.
But aside from watching you with a nostalgic remembrance of the towering task that is being the new nurse, I also smiled at your fresh commitment and steel determination. I watched you checking, and then double-checking, and I wanted to scream, “don’t stop!”
Don’t stop being so worried about messing up that you cease to pay the utmost attention to every detail. Keep doing that! It will get easier, you’ll develop a fluid rhythm, and a confidence in your performance, but never, ever, ever allow that self-confidence to become a comfortable complacency that makes you miss something important.
Don’t stop asking questions. I know you feel stupid right now, and you feel like all you do is ask questions, but consider it a learning experience. Your entire career will be a learning experience. Your knowledge base is going to increase dramatically over the next couple of years, but never assume you know all the answers. Keep asking your peers.
Don’t stop being so kind to your patients. You’re so fresh and untainted by the frustrating difficulties that can accompany interpersonal relationships with people who are in the pit of a serious illness. Hold tight to your kind heart, and hold even tighter to your calling to care for people. Some days that calling will be what carries you, and you must never become hardened and bitter to those who need you. This is hard.
Don’t stop doing the right thing. As time goes by you’ll see how real world nursing compares to theory nursing. You’ll learn short-cuts, and you’ll develop your own way of doing things based on a mixture of all the nurses who are currently showing you their skill. You’ll see some you wish to emulate, and some you definitely don’t want to be like. Whatever tips and advice you decide to adapt to your practice you must never compromise your ethics. Never forget that your actions affect a living person. Keep your integrity, and never stop doing the right thing.
Don’t stop seeking areas where you may grow as a nurse. I know right now you feel as if all you have is room to get better, and that’s fine. That’s all of us! Every time I step on the unit I learn something new, and I build upon the base I started years ago just like yourself. Don’t become satisfied with where you are in your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Keep stretching, keep growing.
I see you new nurse, and honestly, I’m kind of jealous. You are a blank slate, more or less, with a promising career before you. You can do anything you put your mind to, and your commitment to further yourself as a professional is written all over your anxious face. While I don’t envy your feelings of being overwhelmed and your desire to stay afloat in a sea of so much information, I am envious of the strength, integrity, and crisp outlook you have for the road ahead.
You’re determined, you’re eager, and you are steadfast. Don’t stop. Whatever you do, no matter how much you evolve into the profession, don’t stop being exactly how you are right now.