*Original post released 11/25/19
Starting as a new grad registered nurse is quite possibly one of the most intimidating and exhausting experiences of my short life thus far. Maybe you’ve passed your NCLEX exam already, maybe you haven’t… Maybe you interned for the location you’ll be working at, maybe you haven’t… In my situation, I was to start working in a hospital I had only rotated through once in my entire program, and that wasn’t even but for a few short weeks as I completed my OB/Peds clinical. I was entering a critical care unit where I didn’t really know anyone. The one person I DID know was one of my previous professors, so the pressure was on and expectations were set high. In addition to this, I live in an area where the population largely speaks Spanish. I do not. This was going to be a humongous barrier, and I knew it. Amidst all of these things against me, I do wish there were a few things that I had known before starting to help make this transition easier and smoother.
When I began working as a new grad nurse during orientation, I was informed that I could not work more than 40 hours per week. This may be the case for you as well. Orientations can last anywhere from 1 to 3 months. Mine was around 3 months long with my day and night shift orientations combined. Keep this in mind when planning your expenses and budgeting. Don’t forget to account for fees like purchasing new scrubs and equipment for work if needed. Budget for these items, and see if your workplace coordinates with a local shop to allow the expense of equipment/uniforms to be docked from your paycheck in installments. I did this and found it to be extremely helpful.
Since I was not able to work more than 40 hours during my orientation phase, I was chomping at the bit to be able to earn that overtime pay as soon as I could. The income would be great (we’re a household solely supported by my income) and I figured this would be a great way to prove my worth to the unit. I had this mentality that working at least one shift of overtime each week would help me prove to my coworkers that I was a team player, willing to help out, willing to work when others wouldn’t, etc. I wanted to make a good impression and thought that this was the way to do it. While these things may have been true, I had no idea what the consequences would be.
My unit schedules their monthly shifts one month ahead of time. We self-schedule our 3 shifts each week with the only requirement that 4 of the shifts each month be on a weekend day/night. If you want to pick up a shift, you can either put yourself “on call:” on the schedule or pick up random shifts unscheduled. If you are “on call,” you have to show up for work unless they call you off. For the past three months, I had been scheduling 3 normal night shifts along with an additional on call shift. At this time, my body was still adjusiting to the night shift schedule and I was not being called off. The money was great for our little family, but my health was being affected. I was having trouble sleeping. I wasn’t eating much….and when I did it would be binge eating. I was neglecting my personal life and relationships were suffering. And I was getting burnt out. Yes, burn out can happen even if you are a new grad nurse. We push ourselves so hard to keep up and we are constantly learning new information/policies/etc., so I feel we are a high risk group for nurse burn out.
Continued in “Things I Wish I had Known as a New Grad RN: Part 2”