Is it Normal to be Scared as a New Nurse?

Congratulations you completed nursing school, passed your NCLEX-RN exam, obtained your license and secured your first nursing position. While you are excited and eager to start this next chapter of your life, you may also experience some degree of fear and ambivalence. Planning ahead and taking care or yourself will help you succeed.

Remember You Are Not Alone

First of all, remember that you are not alone. Every new nurse goes through a period where he or she questions whether they are capable of being a successful nurse. Most medical professionals enter the field with fears, for you are being given a lot of responsibility, patients’ lives depend on your care.

Practice as much as possible. If you are afraid of a particular skill, try and master it so that this fear will slowly decrease. I’ll give you a personal experience, during my first week of orientation, I was assigned to a young patient who was developmentally delayed, had a tracheotomy tube. At the beginning of my shift, I checked all the emergency equipment and made sure I had the extra trachs at the bedside. Well, half way through my shift, my patient coughed out her trach and turned blue. I immediately called for help and tons came, but during the chaos someone dropped the extra trachs off the wall and panic set in. Luckily, a seasoned physician slid in an endotracheal tube and bagged the patient while someone finally realized the extra trach was on the floor. We switched out the endrotracheal tube for the correct tracheostomy tube and reconnected the patient to her home vent. The patient was fine, but I was petrified. To help deal with my fear, I volunteered to change every trach for the next few months, and to this day I am always called on by my colleagues to assist. Now, I stand at their side and help them gain the confidence they need to succeed. I learned very quickly that there is always a team ready to help as we are all there for every patient in his or her time of need.

Prepare in Advance

Once you have been hired to a particular unit, ask for materials to help you prepare. There are also so many resources available online which you can explore. Try and read about the common diagnoses, treatments, complications, medications and recovery time for the conditions you will likely see. After each shift, take a few minutes to write down your questions and look them up prior to your next shift. Many new nurses find it helpful to keep a small notebook with important information, phone numbers and contacts with them. Now a days, you also have the convenience of being able to quickly look up information on the internet. It is better to take a minute and check then to make a mistake.

Ask for Help

You are never completely alone, so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Asking for help is not a weakness. Overconfidence will get you in much more trouble. Know who your best resources are, for example which nurses are the most receptive and patient. Sometimes, you may need to call a nurse on another unit about a situation that you are not familiar with or perhaps even a physician. If you work in home care, you may need to call a supervisor or the covering physician. Just know that there is always someone who can answer your questions or guide you through a procedure. And please remember they are there to help you regardless of the day or time.

A Little Fear Is Always Good

Overtime, you should gain more confidence in your skills and abilities and the fear should decrease. I always say that a little fear is good, as for it will keep you on your toes. If you become too relaxed, you will be at a greater risk of making a mistake. There are still times when I ask another colleague for guidance and I always appreciate having them at my side. Teamwork is essential in healthcare.