Tips for Surviving Your First Year of Nursing

Tips for Surviving Your First Year of Nursing

By Sarah Stasik, contributor

Do you know how to survive the first year of nursing? Getting through school and passing the license exam are epic achievements, but they only bring you to the foot of the mountain.

To scale the cliffs to a successful nursing career, RNs often have to learn and adapt quickly, make some major choices and become more familiar with their own needs — all within the first 12 months on the job.

According to the American Association of College Nursing, 89 percent of nurses graduating from a four-year degree program have a job by six months post graduation.


5 Tips For Your First Year of Nursing 

From footwear to fitness, these tips are about taking care of yourself and your career so you’re around to take care of your patients for more than a single year.

1. Don’t try to do everything your first year. Jumping into the deep end is tempting in any career, especially if you’ve been preparing for it for years. And while RNs are actually thrown into busy practices and hospitals — often with more autonomy than they expected — don’t try to climb the entire career mountain in a single year.

Taking time to develop specific skills, learn from current situations and even enjoy the journey lays a stronger foundation than aggressively climbing the ladder or trying to get in every experience during your first year of nursing.

2. Do find a nursing mentor or coach. Even nurses that aced exams and clinicals may struggle with the challenges involved in day-to-day nursing. From violence in the workplace to the stress of working in a high-pressure team environment, the first year of nursing is full of surprises and obstacles. Nicole Frost, a nurse writing for American Nurse Today, says mentorship is critical for the first year of nursing.

Frost says mentorship programs can lead to “increased nursing job satisfaction, decreased nurse turnover and positive organizational loyalty.” Ask about mentor programs, or talk to experienced RNs about how to survive your first year of nursing.

3. Do look for ways to balance life and work. Amanda Latiolais, a nurse working in Texas, says her biggest first-year nursing challenge was finding a life-work balance. “I think it really took me a couple years to get it, and it isn’t perfect now either,” she says. “It’s my career … I wanted to be a nurse for a long time. It’s hard for me to turn that off sometimes.”

She said nurses may have to make a conscious effort to concentrate on themselves, their friends and their families. If you have PTO or vacation time, use it appropriately, and schedule time regularly with people you care about.

It’s also a good idea to invest in yourself with a healthy lifestyle, including good food and exercise.

4. Don’t internalize bad shifts. Bad shifts happen to all nurses, and that includes unfortunate situations, tragedies and even mistakes.

“You can’t let yourself relive things over and over,” says Latiolais. “At some point you have to move on.” She also says this is something first-year nurses might need to work on and advises talking things out with a trusted friend or mentor when needed.

5. Do invest in the right equipment. Finally, in research and interviews on this topic, all nurses agree that the right clothing — particularly shoes — are must-haves for the first year of nursing and beyond. Do some research, ask for recommendations and try different products to find shoes that support you through long shifts.


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