Nurses: You Don't Know What You Don't Know

That Scary Moment

As a new nurse entrepreneur, (before I even knew what that term was, actually) I attended a workshop with a business coach. At the time, I had no idea of even what I might learn at this workshop or who I might meet. (Yes, I like to do things adventurously.)

Well, the very first session the woman at the front of the room started talking about “the list”. She kept saying it over and over. Finally, I turned to the girl sitting in the seat next to me and whispered, “What list is she talking about?”

I did not even know what I did not know!!! A scary place to be in!

And this is true for many new graduate nurses.

We learn all that we can during nursing school. We do our best in clinical rotations and try to experience it all. And even during orientation and nurse residency, we have preceptors, charge nurses, and others to ask questions of and fall back upon.

Then it happens- we are unleashed out into our nursing unit… To work on our own!!! AHHHHH!!!!!

Nurses, You Are Not Alone

First of all, newer nurses, you are never alone. Even though you are now out practicing as a full-blown employed nurse… You are not alone. You can STILL ask questions and seek help!

Secondly, nursing happens in teams. Sure, you have your specific assignment for the day. But that does not mean that you cannot seek out a more experienced nurse to bounce something off of them or check in with from time-to-time.

And finally, it does not matter if you are a nursing student, in nursing orientation, a new graduate nurse, or an experienced nurse… Asking questions is always welcomed! There is no way that a nurse can know every single detail. The evidence is always shifting. There are new policies and procedures that we have to learn. And a good nurse always will seek help when necessary. So no matter what, you are not alone!

Nursing Advice… On the Job!

A few months ago, I asked my nursing tribe the following question:

What’s a nursing don’t that new graduate nurses need to know when starting their first job?”

Nurses happily responded from across the country. Here is a list of nursing advice for new graduate (and experienced) nurses to think about during their nursing careers:

  • Don’t be late for work. Your team needs you!
  • Don’t ever think you learned it all in school. Nursing is a lifelong learning experience.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Don’t lose contact with your classmates, you may all be going through similar issues as new grads.
  • Don’t ever stop learning.
  • Don’t second guess yourself. Know that you’re qualified or you wouldn’t be there and every nurse has walked in your shoes. Keep going. It gets easier. The things that used to make you nervous- you’ll eventually do with your eyes closed.
  • Don’t take shortcuts. Even if everyone else does it that way. If you know that way is wrong, don’t do it. Your license is too valuable. You can always get another job but not another license. Be safe.
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself – you don’t have to do it all and know everything.
  • Don’t see patients as numbers. Treat your patients the way you would want any member of your family treated.
  • Don’t rush. Never be afraid to tell people to hush so you can think something through.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, you don’t know. Find out and keep learning.
  • Don’t sacrifice your own health to provide healthcare to others.
  • Don’t work extra shifts for at least a year!
  • Don’t undervalue yourself. You are a licensed health professional. Be who you are.
  • Don’t skip your break if it is offered! And ask- if you haven’t received one!
  • Don’t disrespect the experienced nurses. Some new grads think they know more because they are fresh out of school, but they soon will learn the nursing book doesn’t prepare you for every scenario.
  • Don’t get a doctor in your hospital to endorse you for a certain job. You will get the job, but there will be resentment.
  • Don’t leave work unhappy. At the end of your shift each day, list 5 positive things that happened during the day. Make this a daily habit and you will be less stressed and more empowering of your patients as time goes on!

Let’s hear from you! What did we miss? Share a comment below or pass this post along!


p1050390About the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurse’s Week program, The Art of Nursing, Elizabeth supports nursing organizations in celebrating and recognizing their staff in a meaningful way. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.



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Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”


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