Tips and Advice for Newly Qualified Nurses

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By Helen Kehoe & Jennifer Springham
Joint Appointment Lecturers in Mental Health and Practice Development leads,
My Care Academy.

Recently it was ‘Graduation Week’ at Middlesex University, a proud moment for our graduate nurses and social workers beginning their journeys as healthcare professionals. This got us thinking about our nursing journeys and some of the challenges we faced when starting out in our careers. We wanted to share our tips on how to manage some of these challenges.


Be
organised

Being organised is essential. In some trusts you can sync your rota to your Google calendar and mobile phone, which makes it easier to keep track of your shifts and training dates.  If you are working on a ward you will be very busy and need to delegate effectively. Remember that this is a 24hr service, do not be afraid to hand over non-essential jobs.

Taking a break is important for your wellbeing so plan your annual leave days and book these off as early as possible.  At times it can be challenging managing the multiple roles in your life alongside your nursing role. This is why effective time management is crucial and will help you maintain a good work-life balance.


Look after yourself

In a profession where your priorities are looking after others, at times we neglect to look after our own physical and mental wellbeing.  Ensure you take your breaks and also encourage your colleagues to do the same. Care begins with yourself and is especially important when you are going to be caring for others.  Keep yourself well hydrated, eat healthily and allow yourself enough time to sleep before early starts.  Although shift patterns can be varied, try and get yourself into a routine.


Be active

Resting on your days off is really important, you should listen to what your body needs and respond to this. However, it is also important to maintain your social life and make time for the activities you enjoy, as well as making time for the people in your life who matter to you.  It is important to maintain your sense of identity and not forget who you are. Maintaining your close relationships and planning social time with friends and family boosts your wellbeing.


Make time for supervision

Starting off in the new role is an exciting and challenging experience, but can feel overwhelming at times.  As you would have learned during your training, reflective practice is key and can be particularly beneficial when faced with difficult situations. Seek support when you need to, as you would advise others to do. Never be afraid to let others know if you need help or guidance, do not suffer in silence.  You are not expected to know everything at this stage so try not to put yourself under pressure. Ensure that you are getting regular clinical supervision, make a plan to meet with your supervisor at least once a month. Setting this time aside might be challenging, particularly owing to staff shortages or sickness. However, ensuring that you receive that support is a priority.


Focus on your professional development

Due to time constraints and a decreasing budget for staff training, continuing professional development and knowledge building can be a challenge to maintain. However, as per the NMC code, nurses are required to continually update their knowledge, and every three years are required to demonstrate evidence of CPD for revalidation.

 

Keep your knowledge and skills up to date, taking part in appropriate and regular learning and professional development activities that aim to maintain and develop your competence and improve your performance.

The Code: Promote professionalism and trust (22.3)

 

A practical way to manage this is to engage in ‘bitesize’ learning opportunities, which you can read more about here.  Another way to aid learning and continuing professional development is by using social media in a professional capacity. Twitter is very useful in building your professional networks, as well as finding out the latest developments in health and social care. You could try engaging in a Twitter chat, as this counts as participatory learning for NMC revalidation. There are many chats hosted by organisations such as WeNurses, The Student Nurse Project and Mental Health Chat, where healthcare professionals have volunteered their time to host important discussions relating to patient care and staff wellbeing. Check out the WeCommunities chat calendar, which is regularly updated with new topics. If you are new to Twitter, read Jennifer’s previous blog which has some handy tips on getting started.


In summary, here are our top ten tips:

  1. Being organised is key
  2. Plan those annual leave days, it’s important to take a break
  3. Never back down when advocating for your patient – the NMC teaches us that our patients are our first priority
  4. Look after yourself. Rest between shifts, keep hydrated and always take your lunch break!
  5. Maintain your sense of identity and try to achieve a good work-life balance
  6. Be reflective and honest when you make mistakes – this contributes to your learning and development
  7. Seek support when you need to – you are not expected to know everything
  8. Make sure you have regular supervision, this should be a priority
  9. Build your professional network. Consider creating a Twitter account, it’s easy and there are so many resources available out there!
  10. Surround yourself with people who love nursing. Enjoy your job, it’s what you’ve been working towards for years

 

Are you a newly qualified nurse having recently completed preceptorship? If you would you like to share some of your tips and advice for those about to embark on their nursing careers get in touch!

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