2020 was one for the history books! COVID-19 completely altered everything we once considered normal daily life. Graduating from nursing school during this time has certainly created stress for our new nurses as they enter the profession. Clinical activities and classes went online, graduations were canceled, and mentorship programs and new graduate residencies were revamped.
If you're one of our newest members of the great profession of nursing, we welcome you with open arms! Healthcare has been under assault from all directions this past year, and not all of it was due to the pandemic. Changes in staffing and profit margins, ever-evolving regulations, and equipment supply shortages have added more stress to our already high-octane environment. Your new perspectives and fresh views are a welcome addition in whatever field of practice you've chosen.
As an experienced nurse and nursing leader, I've found that making connections with other professionals is invaluable. Engage with others from different backgrounds, experience levels, age groups, and interests. A well-supported peer network will serve you well on your professional journey. Join and participate in a professional organization for networking, workshops, and collaboration, and subscribe to a professional publication for continuing education, information, and updates.
Make the most of your orientation period, especially now that the pandemic has altered many of your pregraduation clinical experiences and perhaps your classroom time. It's normal to have a level of fear and trepidation mixed with excitement as you begin your career, but no one expects you to know everything. Engage with your preceptor and make sure that he or she understands your level of comfort and amount of exposure to certain skills. Ask a lot of questions and be prepared to do home study and refreshers as you move through this process.
Speak with your supervisor for advice if you and your preceptor aren't a good blend or if you feel that you aren't paired appropriately. For many new employees, this is a pivotal point of success or failure as you enter any organization. It really is okay to speak up respectfully and professionally.
Keep in mind that there will be good days and bad days. There will be moments when you wonder, “Why did I become a nurse?” There are times when we all feel that way. Always remember your “why.” Why did you choose this profession? Why did you choose this area to work in? What makes you feel valued and contributory in your field? It's important to recenter, refocus, and reflect on why you are where you are.
See page 11 in this issue for advice as you launch into your career. I encourage you to listen and learn as you take pieces from those you encounter professionally and create your own path. Be patient with yourself and those around you as you begin your career. This is a lifelong journey and you'll be constantly learning, growing, and developing. That, my dear colleague, is one of the many wonderful aspects of nursing. You have so many paths and options before you. Welcome aboard!
Editor's note: We welcome our new Clinical Editor Lisa Lockhart who previously authored our regular Ask an Expert column.