What a New Nurse Can Expect in the First Month on the Job

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

The challenges of nursing school have ended, graduation is in the rear-view mirror, and a new job beckons. New graduate nurses find this to be one of the most exciting times of their careers, and their more seasoned counterparts have fond memories of those early days on the job as well. They also have some memories that aren’t so rosy, so it’s wise to know what to expect when first stepping out as a new nurse.

Let’s look at a new nurse’s journey for the first month, and see where the opportunities and potential missteps might be:

Week 1: Onboarding

In almost every case, however, the first week will be one of paperwork and policies. A new nurse is eager to get to that bedside but will be wise to listen carefully and read what they’re signing. Company policies are important, and so is understanding what they mean, and how they can support every employees’ growth.

Week 2: Diving into the Details

Most healthcare providers now have some kind of onboarding program for new nurses. That may be a full-blown residency program, or something smaller that still provides good orientation and allows the new nurse to get acclimated. Many new nurses know this coming in — it may have been the deciding factor in their decision to join this provider — and this is what they’ve been waiting for. Just as in the first week, it’s essential to slow down and read the fine print. Paying attention up front means retaining information that will be essential down the road. Here’s a previous blog post about nurse orientation.

Week 3: Working Alongside a Mentor

By this point, most new nurses will have met their fellow hires, as well as begun to have interaction with their mentors, or preceptors. Those individuals are highly skilled at training and development and are eager to see new nurses get off to a great start. That means pushing and nudging to overcome doubts, as well as pulling on the reins to discourage moving too fast. It’s a new relationship, and the transition can involve necessary mistakes and changes in direction. This effort and process requires time and attention from both parties, just like any other.

Week 4: Setting Goals, Giving Feedback

As the new nurse closes in on 30 days, their individual path will begin to take shape. Some may have discovered they wish to move in a different direction of care than they originally thought. Others may already be eyeing continuing education opportunities, as well as a management track. It’s never too early to set goals and then map out a plan to be in service to them. Establishing benchmarks and the strategies to achieve and surpass them will be one of the most satisfying interactions a new nurse and their mentors will have over the coming months and years.

The important thing to remember, for new nurses and their colleagues alike, is that these are people who are only weeks removed from being full-time students. They are still in learning mode, and properly channeled that can be a huge help in a smooth onboarding experience. Providing a growing number of opportunities for questions and professional exploration early on will benefit the new nurse in terms of confidence and skills growth. In the case of Millennials, these are tech-savvy people who are adept at multitasking and are attuned to immediate and frequent recognition of work well done. They also want a transparent workplace, and value an open give-and-take environment.

For the employer, adapting to those needs, especially those around recognition and collaboration expected by very junior staffers, has challenges. Doing so, however, and laying out a visible career path for these very motivated new nurses will result in job satisfaction, better patient care and, very importantly, lower turnover.

At HealthStream we spend a lot of time focused on developing and retaining the nursing workforce. HealthStream’s jane™ is The World’s First Digital Mentor for Nurses. Jane harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create a system that personalizes competency development at scale, quickly identifies risk and opportunity, and improves quality outcomes by focusing on critical thinking. Leveraging decades of research and with over 4 million assessments completed, Jane was designed to power lifelong, professional growth of clinical professionals. JaneTM is an important component of HealthStream’s suite of clinical development solutions.