If you’re a nurse or are thinking about becoming one, there are several steps you can take to ensure a solid start in this field. The following five tips will help you enjoy a successful nursing career.
Investigate Your Options
The nursing universe constantly expands, filling with new specialties and advanced credentials. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 60% of nursing positions are in hospitals. The remaining 40% were in a wide range of settings, including ambulatory clinics, nursing homes, and educational settings.
While burnout continues to be a significant issue, finding a nursing niche that matches your abilities and temperament will help you stay in the field. Not a fan of rotating shifts in a fast-paced setting? Consider a daylight-only position at a group home. Love adventure? Travel nursing may be for you. Taking the time to talk to other nurses will help you explore your options and find a career that suits you.
Hone Your Skills
Although nursing is about being a compassionate advocate for your patients, it’s also about starting IVs, dressing wounds, and titrating oxygen to patient needs. Since you’re caring for so many patients with so many medical conditions, you need to be able to perform clinical skills quickly and reliably. If your bedside nursing skills are at all questionable, many hospitals and nursing agencies have a nurse educator or other medical educator on staff to assist you with skills development.
Even though you must be competent in all skills, there is one that stands above all others in its importance: assessment. Since doctors and other medical staff can’t be present to see their patients throughout the day, you need to be able to get blood pressure, breath sounds, and other assessment data reliably. Your assessments drive clinicians’ care decisions and directly impact patient outcomes. Therefore, you must ensure your assessment skills are finely tuned.
Know Your Meds
On a related note, knowing your medications is crucial. At a minimum, for each medication, you should understand why the patient takes it, how you can assess its effectiveness, common side effects, and any red flag signs that require an immediate call to a patient’s healthcare provider.
If you’re employed in a hospital system, your medication administration system will often flash a reminder to check lab values, blood pressure, or other necessary assessment information. Such systems typically also allow you to look up basics about medications. Like skills, however, you need to know all about medications. An online CME Nurse Practitioner pharmacology program will help you develop the knowledge needed to administer medications safely.
Documentation is often seen as an afterthought. The truth, however, stands: If you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it. Documentation provides proof of your professional competency and diligent care of your patients. It can also be brought to court as evidence.
To ensure your documentation supports your professional nursing practice, you need to be able to produce it quickly and accurately. While work provides many opportunities to document patient care, it is not always the best practice setting. Instead, consider writing timed practice notes. Focus on increasing your speed with accuracy. If it helps, you can develop a standard template for your nurse’s notes to structure and streamline your process.
Get a Mentor
Although you’re surrounded by nurses all day, finding time to talk can be nearly impossible outside of report. Patient hand-off reports are for communicating the information needed for continuity of care. They are not a good time to ask questions about your charting or care.
A mentor you can speak with outside of working hours will give you a sounding board for your inspiration and frustration. If your workplace doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, look for an experienced mentor. Then, meet with him or her to discuss your practice and strategies for improving any areas of concern.
While this advice doesn’t address every issue you might face as a nurse, following these five tips will give you a solid foundation. It will also give you the resources to support your practice and yourself as you work in this grueling and gratifying field.