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Mistakes to Avoid As A New Nurse

After passing your NCLEX, receiving your nursing license, and accepting a nursing job offer, you are ready to jump into practicing as a nurse! Here are some common pitfalls that new nurses should avoid.

Taking on Too Much, Too Soon

As a new nurse, you are likely eager to get started and gain as much experience as you can. Be cautious, though. Stretching yourself too thin with a jam-packed schedule full of excessive overtime shifts can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Especially if you are working a new schedule or shift, such as working the night shift for the first time, it is essential that you take time to develop healthy habits and routines, like a sleep schedule, regular exercise, and self-care. Wellness apps like Keener, a self-care app just for nurses, can help build these helpful habits. Of course, using a scheduling app like NurseGrid Mobile can also help you take better control of your schedule.

Not Asking for Help

Working with seasoned nurses and esteemed physicians may seem intimidating, but instead, focus on being grateful you are surrounded by a wealth of experience. Everyone you work with can add to your learning experience. Everyone was new once. If you need help, ask! Patients deserve your best care, and if you are unsure, it is always best to get clarification or ask for help before completing a task.

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Not Trusting Your Gut

All nurses, even those who are brand new to the profession, have clinical judgment. You possess a specific skill set and body of knowledge that leads you to use critical thinking to make decisions. Just because you are new doesn’t mean you should ignore your gut. Ignoring signs that cause alarm can have a potentially fatal impact on your patients. Any experienced nurse will tell you, always trust your gut!

Worrying about Time

Nursing tasks may take you longer as you transition to practice, and that is okay! Even the most experienced nurses take time to go through appropriate safety measures. Carrying out nursing tasks safely and correctly should be your primary concern, rather than watching the clock and worrying about speed.

Not Speaking Up

Advocating for your patients is a skill best developed early. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with time it will become second nature. Whether they have been practicing for two days or twenty years, all nurses have the right and responsibility to speak up about safety concerns, order clarifications, workplace violence, and patient advocacy issues.

Not Reviewing Your State’s Nurse Practice Act

Reviewing your state’s Nurse Practice Act should be one of the first things you do upon being granted a nursing license. Unless you are familiar with your state’s Nurse Practice Act, you cannot be sure you practice per the law and rules. Each state may have variances in their Practice Acts, so if you practice in multiple states, be sure to review each one carefully.

Letting Insecurities Take Over

My first nursing job was in a physician’s office. I remember the physician pulling me aside and telling me that a patient I took care of that morning, a former nurse, had remarked that I didn’t seem confident in what I was doing. While I was sure I knew the proper procedure for administering vaccines, I admitted that I was intimidated because she was a former nurse, and I let my insecurities get the best of me. Even when you don’t feel confident, it’s crucial to develop trust with your patients and let them feel secure. Remember, they are trusting you with their care (or that of their loved ones). No nurse (or any healthcare professional) knows everything. But remember, you have earned your nursing license and are a competent nurse.

Taking Things Personally

All healthcare settings can be stressful at times. Whether you are working in a busy hospital or a small clinic, patients experience rapid deterioration, physicians have multiple time-sensitive orders, etc. Often when patients are receiving care, they are not at their best. They may even be experiencing the worst moments of their lives. It’s important to remember not to take things personally. Lateral violence or bullying is never acceptable, but sometimes in moments of frustration and stress, people may be short with you, through no fault of your own.

Mistakes are Valuable Lessons

Transitioning to nursing practice is a challenging but rewarding time. The lessons you learn and mistakes you make as a new nurse will stay with you throughout your entire career. Making mistakes is never easy to accept, but you can take comfort in knowing that those experiences can help you prevent them in the future. While these lessons might be difficult at the time, they are valuable moments that will ultimately make you a better nurse.


McCartney, Margaret. Margaret McCartney: Nurses must be allowed to exercise professional judgment BMJ 2017; 356 :j1548

National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Find your nurse practice act.

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