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New Nurses Need to Learn How to Advocate for Themselves

Posted in Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Uncategorized

New Nurses Need to Learn How to Advocate for Themselves

As a new nurse, you need to learn to advocate for yourself. There is a critical nursing shortage and most new nurses are going to find themselves working on a unit that is very short staffed.

If you are lucky enough to have a preceptor assigned to you, you need to consider the fact that all too often that person isn’t going to be ecstatic about having an extra burden, regardless of whether or not they like being a preceptor.

A Few Tips
Here are a few tips to help you and your preceptor make this a positive experience. Remember that you are not expected to be perfect. You are however, expected to observe the primary rule of DO NO HARM and to ask for help if you don’t know how to do something. If you haven’t been checked off on doing something by yourself, you are expected to ask for supervision.

You are also expected to do your homework. Yes, you still need to do some research and studying on your own time. There will always be new drugs, treatments, procedures, diseases and conditions to learn about.

You should not waste your preceptor’s time. Be prepared. Gather the supplies you will need ahead of time and prepare the patient. Know how a procedure should be done in your facility. (Read your Policy and Procedure Manual, AKA the P&P.) Be prepared to answer questions from the patient and your preceptor. And be prepared to ask relevant questions. Observe and learn the tips and techniques being demonstrated.

Offer to help your preceptor with some of his/her patient load to ease her burden. Help with procedures and routine tasks or care so s/he has time to help you. Don’t do this at the expense of leaving your own tasks undone.

Smile and say Thank you!
Always say thank you, and ask how you can help your co-workers. Smile and use direct eye contact. Be sincere.

Not all preceptors are created equal and not everyone is cut out to teach. If you can’t find a way to work with your preceptor, ask for a change. But don’t place blame and make accusations. Learn to say something like, “Susan is a great preceptor, but I’m more of a visual learner, is there someone else I could work with?” Or, “John has been so patient with me, but I just always feel so intimidated by him because he’s such a good nurse, I think I would do better with someone a little more laid back.”

Speak to your supervisor privately about any issues you have. Give him/her the opportunity to offer suggestions to make this work out. Try them and if they don’t help, stand up for yourself and again say you need something different.

Give Yourself a Year
Be patient. Do the best job you know how to do, and it will all get easier. Don’t expect that to happen for about a year. Think about it, that’s why there are so many books about your first year as a nurse. You’ll get there!

If It’s Too Stressful
If you are way too stressed by your job, you won’t be happy and you won’t do your best. Remember that if the unit is too fast paced and short handed, you don’t have to stay there. Talk to your supervisor and ask for a transfer to another unit where you can have a better chance to learn and refine your skills at a slower pace. It will be better for all. Don’t take no for an answer. Advocate for yourself. If the facility can’t accommodate you, you may need to look elsewhere. This isn’t the only nursing job available!

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and author/owner of

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