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First Nursing Job: It’s Normal to be Nervous

Whenever you start a new job, there is a learning curve. This is especially true for your first nursing job! It is going to take you time to learn your new role and responsibilities. Take a minute to breathe and remember that you are not alone and this is normal. Those anxious feelings of butterflies in your stomach will gradually go away.

butterflies - First Nursing Job

Nursing School

In nursing school, you learn the basics to be able to safely practice as a resister nurse. You learn a great deal of information, which encompasses caring for an infant on day one of life through an elderly man with dementia and end stage renal disease. You are prepared to provide the basic care, but will need to be prepared to further master your skills once you find your specialty.

Real Patients versus Simulation

simulation-exercises    NG_initiating_tape - First Nursing Job

Competing a procedure on a real person is very different than doing it in the simulation lab. Placing the first foley catheter, intravenous line, or nasogastric tube can be very scary, especially when family members are watching you. Try and have another nurse with you as back up if possible. As an educator, I would always talk with the nurse first and we would have a sign if he or she was uncomfortable and I would step in. We had to access port-a-caths on young children all the time with anxious parents watching over our shoulders, so my goal was to help the new nurse succeed and make the patient and family comfortable. If she needed help, I was there and would talk her through the process and overtime she would no longer need me at the bedside. Everyone wins this way, so find out out who you can count on and ask them for help while you are mastering new skills.

When you are in your clinical rotations or as a new nurse on the floor, seek out opportunities to complete tasks with assistance. The more times you complete a skill the more comfortable you will be. Even as an experienced nurse, when a new challenge is presented, volunteer to learn and help teach your colleagues, this will help you master the new equipment or procedure.


You are now working independently, and that can be frightening. It is normal to be scared as a new nurse and it will take time for you to gain your confidence. You no longer have someone double checking your every move. Overtime, your confidence will increase and you will feel more comfortable. In the meantime, take your time, look things up, ask your fellow nurses, and never do anything if you are unsure. Healthcare workers need to work as tight teams to provide the best care possible, so rely on them. For example, when we have an immobile patient that needs to be moved, we often consult the physical therapist to help us. They often have numerous recommendations that make the process safer for both the patient and the nurses. You are not expected to know everything, although at times you might feel that way. Stop and think about who me can help me solve this issue.


When applying for and accepting your first job, be sure to ask questions about the orientation process. Some examples include: how long is the process, who will be training me, will I be assigned a mentor once orientation is completed, and do you often hire new graduates? These questions will open the dialogue and allow you to better understand how much training the institution is willing to provide. Most institutions have set time frames, but may be more flexible with new graduates. Remember, they want you to succeed because it is very costly for them to train a new nurse. Throughout your orientation, there should be feedback provided either in a formal meeting or between you and your preceptor. Use this information to focus on learning or adapting to be more successful.

Mastering Your Specialty

As a nurse, you can work in many different areas with numerous populations, Be patient with yourself and realize that there will be a learning curve. You can prepare by reading ahead of time and each time you are exposed to a new diagnosis or situation. Also, ask your colleagues for their advice, remember teamwork is essential. Even experienced nurses experience feelings of doubt when they switch specialties or institutions, as for they know the basics, but they need to learn new policies and procedures. Accept these challenges as growing opportunities and know that you will gradually feel more confident.

About Michelle

Michelle Besmer is dedicated to preparing the next generation of nurses for successful careers. She completed her Bachelors of Nursing and her Masters as a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Rutgers University. She has practiced and trained nurses in pediatrics for over 15 years. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking and playing trumpet.

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