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6 Tips for New Nurses

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Apr 17, 2024
Nurse standing in a medical facility with a folder about to meet with patients.

Tips for New Nurses                                                   

Nurses are the glue that binds personalized health care together. Their work with patients, health management, illness prevention, and care coordination allows a facility’s care systems to function in a consistently efficient and safe manner. Nurses also adapt their work approach based on patients’ particular needs, and this flexibility can make optimized care delivery even more consistent and efficient. Without nurses, it would be virtually impossible for a facility to reach its goal of providing care that may improve patient outcomes.

For those seeking to use their nursing degree to pursue a career in nursing, the role can be equal parts awe-inspiring and intimidating. The excitement and satisfaction that comes with helping patients with their health care journey is a particularly unique and rewarding feeling for new nurses. At the same time, there are stresses and challenges to the role. Fortunately, there are a few tips for new nurses that can be used to mitigate the impact of these stresses and challenges.

What Does a Nurse Do? 

Before considering the various tips for new nurses, it’s important to understand the foundational elements of the nursing role. While the precise duties can vary based on the specific type of nurse, common tasks are associated with the nursing profession as a whole. 

Nurse Duties

Some of these duties stem from direct interactions with a patient. These include recording patient medical histories and symptoms, conducting physical examinations, performing diagnostic tests, operating medical equipment, and administering medications. In some cases, nurses can also provide fundamental bedside patient care.

Other duties relate to activities built around care coordination. For instance, nurses commonly collaborate with other health care professionals — such as primary care physicians — to develop and maintain treatment strategies. Nurses may also serve as trainers, educating staff on the best ways to administer patient care. Additionally, nurses can serve as agents for patient advocacy, listening to patient concerns and needs, and passing on the information to other health care professionals.

Some of a nurse’s duties can have an impact on patients after they leave the health care facility. This can include providing patients with coping strategies on how to ease back into daily life after a procedure. It can also include playing the role of health adviser, educating patients on strategic ways to maintain optimal health, and reducing visits to the doctor’s office.

While advanced nurses may have greater responsibilities or may focus on a specific area of patient care, new nurses can expect to encounter these types of tasks within the context of their role. As their careers advance, these duties will serve as a foundation that can support more advanced tasks and career growth over time.

New Nurse Duties

New nurses may have many similar duties to those who have been working in the field for a long time. However, they may also be tasked with responsibilities to help them become acclimated to their new work environment. These duties will likely focus on monitoring patients to ensure they remain healthy. Some responsibilities for new nurses can include: 

  • Conducting physical exams and checking vital signs
  • Evaluating patient symptoms
  • Administering medications and performing procedures  as needed 
  • Documenting findings and communicating with other nurses and health care professionals 
  • Providing bedside care and support 
  • Helping patients with day-to-day activities and mobility, if needed

The Challenges New Nurses May Face 

Becoming a nurse is a rewarding profession. After all, the basic duties they perform can help patients improve their day-to-day lives. At the same time, nurses new to the role can experience several challenges that can possibly overwhelm them. The factors driving these challenges can be divided into two main categories: work environments and patient care challenges.

Work Environment Challenges               

One of the challenges new nurses may face involves adjusting to a new work environment. While nurses working toward their degrees typically experience a blend of classroom instruction and hands-on experience in a controlled setting, a real-world professional environment goes at full speed. Nurses may feel pressure when acclimating to these new situations, particularly since they may have to quickly become familiar with elements such as health facility protocols as they deliver patient care.

New nurses may feel stressed over not fully knowing about a facility’s policies and procedures. This anxiety can stem from worries about not taking the right actions and whether these actions can negatively impact care delivery. This issue can be especially challenging since policies and procedures may be subject to changing federal or state regulations.

The work schedule itself can also be challenging. Nurses can be prone to working long hours. The ongoing nursing shortage has made these types of extended day or night shifts more necessary. These longer shifts can place both physical and emotional demands on a nurse. 

New nurses may also encounter unfamiliar medical devices or equipment. Because a nurse’s actions can directly impact patient health, not being comfortable in using certain devices can potentially cause stress. They might also need to become familiar with new electronic systems that may be used for data storage. 

Unfamiliarity with processes and technology can spur self-doubt. While new nurses can call on supervisors or a nurse mentor for help in tough situations, persistent self-doubt may fill the new nurse with questions about their own knowledge and skill set. This could open the door to barriers like imposter syndrome to develop, which could hinder personal growth.

Patient Care Challenges               

New nurses will need to adjust to treating new patients. This may mean embracing unfamiliar situations — something that was particularly prescient during the COVID-19 pandemic in the early 2020s. They may also need to learn how to best react to unanticipated patient behaviors, such as a patient who may become angry or impatient.

Another challenge is constantly being surrounded by sickness and even death. While this is an obvious part of the nursing profession, it can take a toll on a nurse’s mental health, especially concerning the death of a patient with whom they’ve bonded. This is true whether the nurse is new or if they’ve been in the field for a long time.

If not properly addressed, these patient care challenges may lead nurses to experience burnout or compassion fatigue. However, there are ways nurses can prepare for and productively work through these issues. 

Overcoming Challenges: Tips for New Nurses 

While the challenges facing new nurses may be broad, they can be managed. To overcome these hurdles, new nurses can apply various techniques and tactics that can help mitigate the impact of the challenges. 

Practicing these techniques can yield both short- and long-term positive effects. In the short term, it can help a new nurse keep their feelings of stress and anxiety in check. In the long term, it may allow them to grow their confidence, which can ultimately help with career development and advancement. This can be particularly important for new nurses who aim to pursue an advanced career in the field.

Tip 1: Ask for Help               

New nurses should never be afraid to ask for assistance, even if they find themselves needing help for the same procedure or using the same piece of equipment. Asking for help is a fundamental part of teamwork in nursing. A supervisor or a veteran colleague will be happy to assist because it is in their best interest to do so. After all, optimized patient care can come from correctly completing tasks.  

Tip 2: Seek Out a Nurse Mentor               

A mentor can help a new nurse not only obtain answers to any specific questions but also provide a new nurse with ongoing, consistent advice and support on how to handle the profession’s challenges. Mentors are prepared to share their experiences with new nurses. This can include insights on handling basic tasks, refining skills, preparing for unexpected situations, and dealing with the job’s rigors. The rapport that can develop between a new nurse and a nurse mentor can also turn the mentor into a trusted ally as the new nurse’s career continues to grow.

Tip 3: Invest in Nurse Self-Care               

When new nurses concentrate on helping patients, they may not prioritize taking care of themselves. However, taking the time to engage in self-care can be crucial to preventing the stresses of day-to-day work and impacts on mental and physical well-being. 

Administering proper nurse self-care can be accomplished by following the guidelines of T.U.L.S.A. Created by Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing Tedi Cole, MSN, RN, CEN, at The University of Tulsa, this five-step, acronym-based guide can help nurses strategically implement self-care strategies within their daily routines. 

The components of T.U.L.S.A include the following.

  • Take Breaks: Taking short breaks throughout the shift can recharge a new nurse’s batteries. It can also allow nurses to gather themselves to recalibrate their focus, which can potentially enhance their ability to administer patient care.
  • Unwind: Finding methods to relax outside of work can help new nurses let go of the anxieties that may otherwise build up and cause issues over time. These relaxation techniques could involve reading a book, taking a bath, or meditating.
  • Lean on Support: Building a support system of family, friends, and colleagues can give new nurses outlets to share their successes, vent their frustrations, and voice their concerns rather than keep emotions bottled up. This system can also provide new nurses outlets to disengage from work talk, which may help enhance work-life balance.
  • Stay Active: Engaging in physical activity on a routine basis can help new nurses maintain good physical health. This can be important, since stamina can play a key role in the nursing profession. Keeping active can also help new nurses “clear their head” and retain a solid level of mental fitness.
  • Appreciate Moments: New nurses need to take the time to appreciate the smaller, positive moments in their lives. These moments can relate to their nursing career, but they should also extend to expressing gratitude toward more personal positive moments.

Tip 4: Engage in Continual Learning               

The health care field is one of constant change. This means there is always something new to learn. New nurses can be proactive by taking note of any new procedures, equipment, innovations, or policies they may hear about during their workday. They can then explore these topics by consulting various research materials or medical journals. This tactic can help improve their knowledge, and it can also help them develop interests that may influence their career path in the future.

Tip 5: Utilize Work Benefits               

Health care facilities may offer several programs and policies meant to help new and veteran nurses maintain a healthier work-life balance. This can range from essential benefits like paid time off, to access to health and wellness programs specifically designed to help nurses mitigate work stress. New nurses should talk to their HR manager to learn the full breadth of their eligible benefits.

Tip 6: Develop Time Management Skills               

New nurses have busy schedules driven by patient care needs, but figuring out how to prioritize care delivery within their caseload can make the schedule feel less haggard. Prioritization may also free up time for new nurses to handle emergencies or take on new learning opportunities. Additionally, planning ahead, like always carrying routine supplies with them, can help nurses streamline their time and improve their efficiency.

Why Become a Nurse? 

Nursing is one of the most noble professions. Even though the job has its challenges, the reasons to enter the field are compelling enough to inspire people to meet these obstacles head-on. When a nurse deploys the aforementioned tips for new nurses, they can overcome these hurdles.

There are several concrete and important reasons to become a nurse.

Reason 1: Nurses Make a Difference in Patient Lives               

Nurses are often at the forefront of patient care through direct patient interaction and care coordination. This allows them to take an active role in a patient’s health. It also allows them to see a patient’s health improve due to their work. This can make the career immensely satisfying.

Reason 2: Nurses Are in Demand               

The ongoing nursing shortage has led to an increased demand for new nurses in various stages of the profession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth for registered nurses (RNs) is predicted to be 6% between 2022 and 2032 — double the rate the BLS lists for the average profession. The BLS also projects the field of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) will grow by 38% during that same time frame. Prospective and current nurses will likely experience strong job security and opportunities for growth.

Reason 3: Nurses Can Be Well Compensated               

New nurses can embark on a career path traditionally marked by highly competitive annual salaries. As of May 2022, the BLS listed the median annual salary for RNs at $81,220. The BLS also listed the median annual salary for APRNs during that same time as $125,900.

Reason 4: Nurses Can Specialize               

As a nurse’s career grows, they can concentrate their work on a specific population or aspect of patient care. This can relate to a particular patient demographic such as pediatrics or women’s health, or it can pertain to a specific type of care such as oncology. This focus on specialization can help nurses obtain a high level of targeted expertise, which can transform them into trusted leaders in the field. This can yield both increased job satisfaction and higher salaries. 

Reason 5: Nurses Can Shape the Future of Health Care               

Nurses can also use their influence as their career grows to address pressing issues within the health care system, such as health inequity and uneven access to care. Nurses can support underserved communities and act as advocates, driving improvements to care delivery that can have a positive, broad, and long-lasting impact.

Make a Difference Today and Tomorrow 

Every new nurse has the potential to have a positive influence on patient outcomes. They also have many opportunities to adapt to new challenges and advance their careers, focusing their practice and improving their care delivery.

The University of Tulsa’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program can help prepare you to make an impact in care delivery. Our program teaches the historical, social, political, and professional factors that affect nursing practice, as well as how to address complex health care problems. It is designed to give you the knowledge, skills, and tools to confidently handle whatever challenges may arise as you navigate your nursing journey. 

Learn how we can help equip you for a successful career in an important field.

Recommended Readings

ABSN vs. BSN: Which One Should You Choose?

How to Prepare for the NCLEX

The Importance of Developing Soft Skills in Nursing


American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, “Imposter Syndrome in Nursing: A Barrier to Personal Growth”

American Nurses Association, “What Is Nurse Burnout? How to Prevent It”

The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity, “The Role of Nursing in Improving Health Equity”

Healthcare, “The Experiences of Newly Graduated Nurses during Their First Year of Practice”

HealtheCareers, “5 Challenges Facing New Nurses and How to Overcome Them”

Indeed, “13 Important Nursing Responsibilities”

Indeed, “15 Advantages of a Nursing Career”

Indeed, “18 Tips for Succeeding as a New Nurse in Your First Year”

Journal of Nursing Regulation, “Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Burnout and Stress Among U.S. Nurses”

Sage Journals, “What Are Nurses’ Roles in Modern Healthcare? A Qualitative Interview Study Using Interpretive Description”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

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