From Student to Nurse: What You Need to Know


You have finished nursing school, prepared for and passed the NCLEX, gotten your license, and landed that first nursing job! I hope you are ready for some of the most exciting days of your life.  It is always fun (and a little bit scary) to start something new. With all this happiness and excitement, you might not have had time to consider what you need to know about the transition from being a student to being a nurse. Like all big changes in life, the road might be a little bumpy.  Here are some things you need to know to make the transition a little easier.

Give it Time

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Ever heard the expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? The best nurses aren’t built in a day either. Transforming from a student to a nurse is going to take some time and experience.  You are filling a whole new role in life, after all.  Give yourself some time to grow into it.  Don’t expect to know everything right away.  You are going to bring a fresh set of eyes to all the situations you encounter. It might take some practice to decide how to best manage your time, how to talk with your colleagues, or what to do when things don’t go quite the way you planned. It might even take some time to learn your way around your new workplace.  This is all ok!  Embrace your time as a beginner and remember that this too shall pass.  It takes a bit of time to get comfortable in your new job.  Some nurses even say it takes a year or two to really feel comfortable so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Get Support

It always helps to have someone in your corner who understands what it’s like to be a new nurse. Now is the time to seek out a mentor or find support from others who are or have been in your shoes.  Talk to your preceptor or other experienced nurses on your unit about how things are done. Ask a lot of questions. You will often be surprised by what you don’t know. Find other new nurses to share your thoughts and feelings with.  Chances are they are struggling with the same things you are and celebrating the same victories too! Read books that lift your spirit and build your confidence…anything that supports you as you find yourself challenged by your new responsibilities.

Don’t Forget About Self-Care

Is this the first time you’ve worked the night shift? Is it the first time you’ve worked 12 hours a day? Maybe this is even your first full-time job! With all the changes and all the stress of your first several months of being a nurse, it can be all too easy to forget that you need to take care of yourself.  Many of the same self-care strategies that helped you through nursing school will be beneficial now too.  Take time to eat right, exercise, socialize, and find some work/ life balance.  Nursing is demanding but you can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself.

Being a nurse is rewarding and challenging.  I can remember those first few days, weeks, and months where I worried every day about doing it all right and being the best nurse I could be.  It’s ok not to have all the answers right away.  In fact, thinking you have all the answers might even be dangerous.  Try to remember that the transition from being a student to being a nurse takes time.  Give yourself permission to find and use support and make self-care a priority.  All too soon, you will look back on these early days and wonder why you were so nervous.  For now, embrace your role as beginner and take the time to build yourself into the nurse you want to be.