Thursday, October 31, 2013


student nurse, learning, new graduate nurse, renee thompson, rtconnections, critical thinking

When new nurses start their first jobs, they quickly realize that they only learned a fraction of what they really need to know to effectively care for patients. You see…nursing school teaches you the basics of patient care. The NCLEX is designed to make sure nurses are “safe” to practice – that’s it. Just because you graduated from nursing school and passed NCLEX doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about taking care of patients.

When new nurses place high expectations on themselves and compare their knowledge and ability to care for patients to experienced nurses, they set themselves up for failure! There is no way….I mean no way you can compare yourself to a nurse who has been practicing for 25 years. So stop beating yourself up just because you aren’t as competent….yet.
Your primary goal when you are a new nurse is to make sure you are safe.
Your secondary goal is to continue to learn and grow….learn and grow.
The way you do this is by layering your learning.
Layer your learning
Realize that you can’t learn everything in the first few months.  Layering gives you a strategy for ongoing continuous learning and fine-tuning your skills. Focus on the most important…the top 3 things you need to know about…fill in the blank. Once you’ve mastered those 3 things, then you add a layer (you add knowledge). Hint: think safety first.

For example: When learning how to interpret cardiac rhythm strips, first start with the basics – the death rhythms. Focus on learning how to recognize asystole, ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation (and what to do about them). Once you’ve mastered these, then focus on the next layer – say, recognizing atrial rhythms. Repeat. Then focus on blocks, etc. until you’ve mastered most cardiac rhythms.

Give yourself time to learn by always starting with the most important layer and build your knowledge from there.

Thanks so much for reading and for choosing to become a nurse! I’m cheering for your success!


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  1. Thanks, Renee!

    I read before that the best way to learn is by 'scaffolding:' building off of what you know. You learn more every day on the job, and experienced nurses definitely have had so many learning experiences over the years.

    That's why I always advise people who are getting ready for NCLEX: don't procrastinate! Pace it out, because that's the only way you can layer your learning. Expecting to do it all at once is never a good idea.

    1. Thanks Kevin! Yes. Scaffolding is an excellent strategy - similar to layering. You are so right!! Expecting to learn everything at once is just setting yourself up for failure.

      Thanks so much for commenting!