What You Didn’t Learn in Nursing School

By Grace Secrest, BSN, Nursing Manager, Oncology, Methodist Dallas Medical Center

What You Didn’t Learn in Nursing SchoolCongratulations! You’ve graduated with your RN degree and found a job at a hospital. Now what? Welcome to the real world of nursing.

Here’s your chance to link book-learning with real-life nursing. It may be what you’ve been preparing for, but most every nurse will admit the first job can be a little nerve-wracking.

For most of us, the biggest change from nursing school to nursing care is responsibility. I remember thinking, “It’s all on me.” The good news is that many hospitals have experienced nurses who mentor new nurses, helping them transition from school to working with patients every day.

If I knew five years ago what I know now, here’s what I’d tell students about the real world of nursing:

  1. Listen to the patient. You can usually identify patients’ needs by what they verbalize rather than just vital signs and disease processes. While nursing school focuses on teaching the basics, true listening often takes a backseat. Make communication a priority.

  2. Don’t lose sight of why you became a nurse. When you’re in school, it’s easy to lose touch with the essence of what attracted you to nursing. You may have the best IV skills, but without compassion for the patient or the desire to help others, those skills are for naught.

  3. Don’t be afraid to try. You aren’t going to improve if you don’t continue to put yourself out there and keep trying.

For new graduates, remember these five tips:

  1. Listen to your heart as far as what direction in nursing you want to go. If you have a passion for cancer patients, or if something is telling you intensive care, listen to your inner voice.

  2. Assess where you want to take your career, then identify hospitals or practices that can meet those needs. Does the system support those areas?

  3. Be aware of your surroundings when you’re interviewing. If you’re walking down the hall with the HR person and no one says “hello” or is friendly, what does that mean?

  4. Look for cohesiveness within departments. Ask questions regarding teamwork and length of employment for team members. At Methodist, we have many longtime nurses who have built their entire careers here. That speaks volumes.

  5. Ask to talk with frontline staff so you can ask questions you may not want to ask the manager. Is the frontline staff stressed? Does she or he seem happy in the role? How long has he or she worked there? Do you want to be part of that team?

Remember, nursing isn’t an independent function. You will work with others as part of a team. But as an individual, you will make a difference in a patient’s journey, even if it’s just for one day. And that is the real blessing of being a nurse.

At Methodist Health System, our nurses are the bright lights in this big city. For more information, visit Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.


© Methodist Health System


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