(By: Tammy McKinney)
Nursing is a highly rewarding career with such deep purpose, that we should feel fulfilled and thrilled with our career all the time, right? Wrong! Happiness and joy in your career happens when you take steps to set yourself up for success! With a little effort, you can make every day magical with these 10 tips!
- Start off with great workwear! Seriously. Nothing makes a day more strenuous than poorly fitting scrubs that sag when you bend or ride up when you move. Comfortable and stylish scrubs really do set the tone for your day! Start out by reading some reviews and gaining an understanding of which brands work best for your body type. Then, shop online for the best deals! Hint: I like to keep a few different brands of scrubs in my closet. I have my heavy duty scrubs for work days, and then I have my “fancy” scrubs for educational days and meetings. I also have my “comfy” scrubs for when I just need a relaxed feel to my day!
- Take a moment to consider your state of mind. Are you feeling confident? Are you happy? Are you stressed about things outside of work? Are you nervous about work itself? Patients and their families need someone who is confident in in their work, as well as able to provide them with emotional support. Take stock of your emotions and deal with them before your shift. Then, give your family the same luxury when returning home! Hint: If you commute to work, choose a landmark about halfway between work and home. Decide that on your way to work, once you pass the landmark, your thoughts will be on work. On your way home, the landmark is the moment when you leave work at work and think only of home. It may sound silly, but I truly does work!
- Don’t forget about lunch! Every nurse is America is probably scoffing at that last statement right now. We’ve got patients to care for, basically no time between med passes and treatments, and a barrage of phone calls and questions being thrown our way constantly. To say that lunch is the last thing on our minds is an understatement! But, not only is a lunch break mandated by law in many states/organizations, it’s also extremely important for your wellbeing as a time of de-stressing, reflection, and nourishment. It may seem like an impossible task, but ALWAYS stop for your lunch break! Tip: Leave your work phone with a trusted co-worker or supervisor during your lunch break. You cannot de-stress if you’re taking calls during your break time.
- Never, ever, ever stop learning! Medical studies are conducted on a daily basis and lead to an environment of ever-changing best practices, policies and procedures. For this reason, it’s absolutely imperative that all nurses continue a lifestyle of learning throughout their career. Mandatory CEU’s simply are not enough. Go above and beyond! Take additional classes. Sign up for conferences. Read journals. Whatever route you take, be sure to continue your education for the duration of your career. Not only will it make you a better nurse, but it may also be the catalyst for your upward mobility!
- Know when to ask for help. Inevitably, there will be days when you need help. Whether it’s your overwhelming task list, a challenging patient, or deciphering a poorly written order, it WILL happen. It can be easy to want to do it all on your own, but when you consider your patient, it’s always better to ask for help. Being overwhelmed or stressed can lead to errors in treatment and judgement and your patients don’t deserve that. When you realize that you’re “in the weeds,” take a moment to stop, prioritize, and then ask for help.
- Help others! Not only will you need help at times, but so will the rest of your team. Whether they directly ask you for it, or you just happen to notice their need, jump in and help where you can. This goes for the doctors and nursing aides as well. If they need you, be there for them! Someday, they’ll return the favor! Hint: Don’t wait for other’s to ask for your help! If they appear stressed or look like they need help in any way, jump in and offer. They’ll be thankful that you did!
- Be respectful of your aides. One of the greatest tragedies in the medical field, is the divide that occurs between nurses and aides. Two parts of a whole, we work together to provide all-around care to our patients. But, when a nurse treats her teammates as if they are ‘below’ her, the system breaks down. The nurse/aide relationship crumbles and the patient is the one who feels the effects. Be a team player and remember that while the letters behind their name may be different, their hearts are in the same place! Hint: Take time to teach your aides! Talk to them about which vital signs to report to you immediately, what different skin conditions present as, or signs and symptoms that are red flags! The more they know, the better they’ll be!
- Find a shift that works for your lifestyle. Fresh out of college, it can be extremely difficult to find your dream position with the exact schedule that you’re hoping for. That’s okay! Sometimes you have to start off somewhere to get experience before you can be more choosey. But, once you’ve gotten some time on the floor and are ready to make a move, take some time to really consider how your next position will fit with your lifestyle. Do you plan to have a family? Are you a night owl? Do you enjoy sleeping in? Do you want to devote your entire life to your career? Do you have other priorities? Nursing can and will take over your life if you let it, and overall the career lends itself to “giving your all.” But, it’s okay to set boundaries. It’s okay to wait for a certain shift to open up. It’s okay to work part-time, or full time, or overtime, or PRN. Choose a shift that fits best in your life, and you’ll prevent resentment and burnout in the coming years. Tip: Consider this. Most full-time nursing positions come with plenty of opportunities for overtime. So, always see each position as more than it’s advertised for. Full time=Overtime. Part-time=Full Time. PRN=Part-Time.
- Know how to say, “no”! Nurses are helpers at heart and we never like to think that a patient or team member needed us and we weren’t there. But, that very trait that makes us helpful, loving and kind also leads us to burnout and is the cause of the high turnover rates that plague our profession. For that and so many other reasons, it’s important to take care of yourself and know when to say, “No.” Inevitably, you’ll be asked many times throughout your career if you can pick up an extra shift, stay late, attend an extra training, volunteer to be a preceptor, help with a special project, etc. Some of these are amazing opportunities to learn and grow as a nurse and as a person overall. But, saying, “yes” to every request will only lead you to a life that revolves solely around work. It’s okay to decline an invitation. It’s okay if you can’t help sometimes. That’s why we work as a team. There are always other nurses who can help when you can’t, and while you should do your part, it’s okay to say, “Not this time.”
- Remember why you became a nurse. Every day in nursing is not all love and roses. Patients that we love die. We get overwhelmed. Sometimes our patients and families are downright mean and nasty. But, at the end of the day we need to remember what brought us to this point. Why are we here? What was our driving force to get us through nursing school? Hang on to that, use it to help you through the tough times, and remember that for all the bad days that we have, the work we do has a far-reaching, positive impact on everyone around us.
Regardless of where you work or how long you’ve been a nurse, following these tips can ensure that you have great days and a rewarding career!