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Guide to Your First Nursing Job

The first year on the job can be difficult for new nurses, with obstacles you never considered and big changes from nursing school. Especially for those who work in hospitals, the first year can be grueling.

Hospitals are a high-stakes nursing environment because the sickest patients are there, meaning that new nurses need the ability to recognize when patients need immediate care, as well as good clinical reasoning skills. With the right tools and approaches, you can make sure your first nursing job is a success. The following information and tips will help you get your career off to a strong start.

What to Expect from Your First Nursing Job

Here are a few things you can expect to encounter in your first nursing position and how to respond:

Team dynamics

You will likely be working on a team with nurses of varying experience levels. It’s important to respect the nurses who have been in the field longer than you have. This will help you avoid personality conflicts. Be open to learning new or different ways of doing certain tasks as well.

Technical knowledge vs. application

Nursing school is very different from nursing practice, which is something you’ll soon find out. As Minority Nurse puts it, “The ultimate goal of nursing school is to teach one how to pass NCLEX. A nurse’s first year on the job teaches the individual how to be a nurse.” You have the technical knowledge you need, but during your first year, you’ll gain the knowledge that comes with execution and experience.


As a new nurse, be prepared to work longer shifts and get last priority for time off. You may not get the shifts you most want to work just starting out, and your 12-hour shifts may end up being longer “when you factor in commute times, codes at shift change, or a lengthy report,” Minority Nurse explains.

Tips for Succeeding as a New Nurse

The following are some valuable tips for first-time nurses.

Continue your education

In the nursing field, lifelong learning is key. Your first year of nursing is a critical time to build your knowledge base by learning new processes, medications, terms, and diagnoses, Minority Nurse says. You should also learn more about the roles of other health care professionals. Modern care delivery is extremely collaborative, so knowing how others contribute can help improve patient outcomes. Because earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing is an emerging standard for many roles, it’s also a good idea to start thinking about continuing your formal education by completing an RN to BSN program.

Secure a mentor or join a preceptor program

New nurses have greater success when they can work closely with a preceptor or mentor on the job. A preceptor provides guidance to new nurses to help them learn safe patient care through evidence-based practice. It’s also a good idea to find out about support programs that may be available to you. This might mean working closely with a more experienced nurse. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it because it’s better to get assistance than to make a mistake that could impact a patient’s health.

Build relationships

As a new nurse, having friends and coworkers you can rely on at work is important. You can build relationships with other nurses by offering to assist with a procedure, transporting a patient, getting supplies, and more. Creating friendly working relationships can go a long way toward making your life easier.

Stay motivated

A great way to avoid feeling overwhelmed during your first nursing job is by focusing on the positive aspects of what you do. You became a nurse to help others, and you get to do that each day. Minority Nurse states that you should set goals so that you can “bring your future into clear focus.” By setting goals, you can discover where you want to take your career path in nursing and determine ways to make improvements in your work.

Continue Your Education in Nursing

Concordia University, St. Paul offers an RN to BSN online program designed for registered nurses who are interested in deepening their knowledge of nursing practice and advancing their careers. It combines theoretical inquiry and practical application to give students insight into ethics, evidence-based practice, collaboration, care coordination, community health, and more. In addition, the program is offered fully online and features a convenient format that allows you to fit your coursework into your busy schedule.