The New Kid on the Block


Posted to Nursing, Travel Nursing

Are you the new kid on the block?

Whether you’re a travel nurse starting your first or a new assignment, a new nurse grad, a float nurse, or you’re starting a new job, being the newest nurse on a unit can be intimidating.

A smile and a positive attitude go a long way in breaking the ice and starting off with a good impression. Take the lead and introduce yourself. Shake hands if appropriate. Remember this is not always acceptable for cultural reasons, for the germaphobe and for those who don’t like having their space invaded. But offering a hand even when not taken can be seen as a warm gesture.

There will almost always be at least one nurse who is cold and indifferent. The one who resents you being there for whatever the reason. Typically this is because the travel nurse makes more money, a new grad knows nothing, a float nurse will take no responsibility, or a new nurse threatens her territory. Sometimes you can melt the ice and other times you just have to let this person be and stay out of her way.

Your presence on this unit represents a double-edged sword. They obviously need your warm body, but they fear being burdened by a newbie who needs extra help. You can help to ease this situation by first recognizing this dilemma and then dispelling their fears by showing that you are here to help and not to be a burden.

Arrive early and be prepared. Bring your lunch, snack foods and a water bottle. Don’t bring all of your valuables and expect to have a safe place to put them. Lock them in the trunk of your car or leave them at home. Your essential licenses, ID and a few dollars can fit easily in a small pouch or wallet that fits in your pocket.

Make sure you have pens and your own stethoscope. A small notebook or PDA will show that you’re organized and ready to take a few notes. Ask for a quick tour of the unit and make note of where things are such as the linens, the kitchen, the med carts, the crash cart, the charts, and general layout of the unit. Then as you have time, explore these areas and familiarize yourself with the unit.

Hospitals sometimes divide floors into units with no clear delineation. Patients and visitors are often confused and go to the wrong nurse’s station. If you have a list of room numbers that belong to your unit, you’ll be able to sort it out more easily.

Observe the staff and learn about the “culture” of this group. Do they work together as a team? Do they all get along? Or do they all just do their job and not interact unless absolutely necessary? Who are the natural leaders? Who are the trouble makers?

Get your own work done and if you have time, offer to help others. If you have to ask for help with something, come prepared to return the favor. Remember that when a nurse has to stop and help you, his own assignment will be impacted.

Finally, don’t engage in gossip. You will hear plenty. Listen politely and go about your business. If co-workers pressure you to comment or take sides, just say you understand their positions, but you’re too new to have an opinion and get back to work.

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

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