What Nurses Won’t Learn in School
Nursing is a lifelong learning process, and one of the things new nurses learn quickly is how much they did NOT learn in school. Graduating from an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX is just the beginning.
In clinicals, nursing students get only a small taste of what nursing is all about. They usually have one or two patients to care for and only for a part of a shift. They are frequently very sheltered so as to not get into trouble and cause an issue for their instructor who has many students to oversee.
Student nurses have little, if any, experience in the day to day activities and functions on the unit. Admitting and discharging patients is rare and therefore the associated paperwork with just these two activities can be overwhelming to a new nurse!
Ordering supplies and meds may be touched upon as needed for your patient, but the overall process has probably been shortcut by someone; either a staff member or your instructor. Signing for the narcotics may not be allowed by students even if the instructor co-signs and so nursing students may not even be aware of the process with controlled substances.
With only one or two patients to care for in a short duration, time management skills will never be effectively taught in nursing school. Prioritizing and learning how to schedule your day is something all new nurses struggle with. This then becomes one of the most intense points of contention with regular staff; how to learn to be good nurses without becoming a burden to the already over-stressed regular staff.
Student nurses would be well-served to spend some time just sitting and observing the flurry of activities on a unit, and if possible, shadowing a nurse for at least one whole day each rotation instead of being assigned to a patient. This would help to provide students with insight into how to plan out their day, make adjustments as events unfold and to regroup as necessary to stay on schedule.
Spending some time with other team members on the unit such as the unit secretary or clerk would be beneficial. Learning how supplies and medications get ordered and charged or how an order for a CAT scan get processed and scheduled can be very important. When you have some idea of the process, how long it can take, the number of people involved, etc, you will have a better appreciation for doing your part in a timely manner and being as accurate and complete as you can.
Learning about the day to day function of a unit will give you a broader understanding of the need to be organized, to know how to strategize, how to delegate effectively, and how to flex when the unexpected happens. Understanding how the unexpected can make a major impact on how your day goes will also help you to formulate the need to learn to be organized and use time management skills effectively.
You will have learned the basics of nursing in school; the anatomy and physiology, the microbiology of germs, the chemistry of medications and bodily functions, and many of the skills such as IVs, injections, catheters, tubes, wounds, etc.
As a new nurse, you will learn how to put all of this knowledge to work while learning how to function as a nurse. This part will take some time. You won’t master it all in a day or even a week. Give yourself a year! But keep plugging away at it and making progress. You too will become a good nurse.
By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the owner/author of TheNursingSite.com.
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