7 Ways to Stand Out in Your First Year as a Registered Nurse

registered nurse

You’ve graduated from nursing school, passed the NCLEX and have an offer for your first job as a registered nurse. Congratulations!

Earning the highest marks in the workplace comes with a different set of criteria, so we went straight to the source for some advice on how to excel in your first year on the job.

We asked seasoned nurses on our Facebook page to share their best advice for the newbie nurse. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Listen & Learn from All Staff

“Always listen to and learn from your CNAs. They have amazing tricks, tips and life lessons to share.” – Erin B.

“Find a tenured nurse you can look up to and go to while feeling safe. It gets better, and before you know it, YOU will be the RN a new nurse looks up to. Be grateful and appreciative of your help, they will go out of their way to help you over another nurse if you show them respect and appreciation.” – Amber C.

“Make friends with your CNA and don’t think you’re above getting your hands dirty! LPNs can teach you so much. Don’t be too proud to ask for help!” - Jeanie H.

“Ask questions, listen to your CNAS, and don’t look down on a lesser title. Research and study what isn't familiar when it pops up.” – Angela M.

2. Master the Art of Bedside Nursing

“Remember your patients are not just room numbers or diagnoses but complex people who need your care!” – Sue D.

“Take the time to truly learn bedside nursing. Find a facility that supports its nurses, I promise, they are out there! Enjoy your bedside time with patients and their families. It truly can be rewarding!” Jennifer B.

“Always treat your patients and their families with dignity and respect period! Remember you are seeing people at their worst. I am a retired RN and would not trade the 38+ years I practiced for anything!” – Debbie H.

“Stay alert. If you know an order is wrong question it. Always remember that each patient deserves to be cared for as you would want your family members to be cared for.” – Terry B.

3. Trust Your Gut

“Don't expect to know everything. You will feel like you know absolutely nothing sometimes, and that's ok. Common sense, combined with the basics you learned in nursing school, should be your barometer for making decisions. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it, and ask for help.” – Jonathan B.

“Listen to all the advice, sort it out, and go with the option that means you are following policy and providing safe care for your patients. Ask questions. Research stuff. Check meds and fluids. Check them again. If you need help, ask. Though you're new, delegate. But don't condescend. Buy good shoes. Be good to yourself. And don't gossip. It'll hurt you.” – Andrea F.

“Question what you do not understand, trust your gut, treat your patients like your family, treat your coworkers with respect.” -- Dawn S.

4. Stay Humble

“Be humble. Listen to your peers. Do not be afraid to admit you do not know something.” – Sarah G.

“Always stay humble. Watch & take everything in around you. Never become overconfident.” – Annette D.

“Ask questions. The only dumb question is the one you’re too afraid to ask. Nursing is a skill built with time. Be confident, not cocky. Most of all, remember nursing is an art, a skill built with time.” – Sara M.

5. Keep Learning!

“Learn from seasoned nurses and ask questions when in doubt. You learned the basics of nursing in school. The real education comes with experience.” – Donna W.

“Keep a journal to reflect on the good and bad experiences, you really learn from them and enhance your critical thinking skills. One more thing....continue with school and get your MSN and DNP, the more education, the better you take care of patients.” - Paola R.

“Keep a notebook. Everyday on my report sheet, I would write down skills I needed to review, meds, things that happened in codes, diagnosis, etc. I would look these up and review them at my leisure later. If something intrigued me it might be something to find more continuing ed on (hematology, bedbugs, woundcare). We never know everything and identifying what we don't know and what's constantly new can be the hardest part. I still write these notes but now it's in my phone!” – Ila K.

“Join your specialty's professional organization and participate. Read about your practice and ask questions. Use critical thinking to help you be the detective you'll need to be. Hone your communication skills. Be respectful of what others can teach you. Promise yourself you will learn something new each day---and teach someone else something as well. Be proud of what you've accomplished and will continue to accomplish. Make a commitment to life-long learning and sharing.” – Dodi G.

“NEVER EVER STOP LEARNING. Because you got a piece of paper doesn't mean your education is complete.” – Jenna M.

“If the place you choose to work at has a nurse educator, be sure to keep in touch regarding things you think you need to learn. They are a great resource!” - Kristin A.

6. Take Care of Yourself

“Be kind to yourself! Trust your veteran nurses and give yourself a break.” - Lisa W.

“Give yourself a full year! You will develop a routine to get you feeling confident! You can do it!” – Karen S.

“2 pairs of great shoes…” – Julia S.

7. Pay it Forward

“Remember this time in your career because one day you may be the seasoned nurse faced with a newbie in need of support. Don't forget what it is like.” – Jill C.

Did we leave something out? Leave your tips for first-year nurses in the comments below! 

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