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How To Succeed as a Nurse

I’ll never forget my very first clinical day as a student nurse. I went home and cried. I was pretty sure I didn’t have what it takes to be a nurse and had made a terrible mistake by going to nursing school.

Fortunately, I can look back on that day and laugh. I’m happy to say that becoming a nurse was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. Keep reading and I’ll share FOUR things you need to do to succeed as a nurse — your first year and beyond.

1. Remember Your LATTE

With so many things to distract us these days—texts, tweets, retweets, emails, beeps, rings and pings—it can sometimes be hard to stop and really listen to what people are saying.

There’s a lot of buzz going around about active, or effective, listening. Active listening means you make a conscious effort to really understand what others are saying and respond appropriately.

Lots of acronyms are available that outline the technique of effective listening. Given my love (and visceral need) for coffee, it makes sense that my favorite one—LATTE– was invented by Starbucks. Its actual purpose is to address unhappy customers, but I’ve found that it works in almost any situation where you need interact with people. Here’s my version of LATTE:

  • Listen. I mean really listen. Turn off your cell phones, make eye contact, and absorb what’s being said.
  • Acknowledge what the other person is saying to you. Repeat back what you’ve heard. Make sure you truly understand the message.
  • Take action. If you gather that something needs to be done, do it!
  • Thank the person you’re talking to for bringing an issue to your attention or just taking the time to speak with you.
  • Explain what you’re going to do next—especially if a problem needs to be addressed and fixed.

If you learn how to be an active listener, I assure you you’ll be more successful in your nursing career and, likely, in your personal life too.

2. To Succeed as a Nurse, Find Your Flow

My favorite store of all time is the Container Store. If you’re not familiar, it’s exactly what it sounds like—a megastore with thousands of containers (and other gadgets) to put all your stuff in so you can be uber organized.

It’s fortunate that I love order so much because, to succeed as a nurse, you have to be really organized to make the best use of your time. Everyone is different when it comes to managing time but it’s important to find a workflow that suits you.

For me, it was really helpful to start each shift a little early so that I wasn’t scrambling to get settled when I got to work. I also kept a list of each of my patients, their diagnoses, essential treatment plans, medications, etc. This rundown made it much easier to prioritize my day. And I could refer to it quickly when I needed to know something vital or check something off of my ‘to-do’ list.

3. Be a Student for Life

To succeed as a nurse, you have to commit to being a lifelong learner.

Aside from proactively seeking to learn and grow in your profession, you also have to keep up with formal continuing education units (CEUs). Many states require nurses to obtain a specific amount of continuing education hours in order to maintain their license. There are lots of resources to obtain CEUs including online courses, journals, conferences, and seminars.

Whatever way you obtain them, be sure to keep a record so you can show them to your state board (if required) and your employer.

4. Try New Things

If you find yourself in a specialty that you don’t particular enjoy, or another area of nursing seems more inciting, move on!

One of the wonderful things about being a nurse is that you have so many options when it comes to jobs. I’ve worked in critical care, neurosurgery, cardiology, corporate health, operations, management, patient advocacy, and even a healthcare start-up company. Some of them I loved, some were just not for me. But I wouldn’t be the nurse I am today without each and every one of those jobs. Whatever path you choose, I wish you much success in your career. The possibilities really are endless!

What has helped you succeed in your career? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

About Crystal

Crystal is happy to write about all things nursing and the NCLEX exam for Magoosh. She is a Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner with experience in many areas of nursing including clinical practice, administration, advocacy and teaching. She has worked with students for over 13 years and loves to help nurses succeed. In her free time, Crystal can be found building “bouncy couch castles” with her 2 toddler sons, camping (errr, glamping), reading and attempting to do DIY projects she finds on Pinterest.

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