In my business, I spend a lot of time helping organizations successfully onboard new nurses. From their first interview, first day of work, and clinical orientation to independent, competent professional nurse, the question is always the same - "How do we help new nurses become competent and independently care for patients?"
As a new nurse, you may be asking yourself the same question.
What determines new nurse competence?
Many things determine new nurse competence – how well their school prepared them, how committed they are to their learning, the relationship they have with their preceptors, etc.
However, the single most important determinate of new nurse competence is new nurse CONFIDENCE.
Not arrogance – but confidence.
You gain confidence in your skills as a nurse by mastering the simple before moving onto the complex. Many new nurses get overwhelmed when they see the other experienced nurses zip through their day doing everything fast and with ease. They compare themselves and think, “I’ll never be able to be that fast or know how to “do all of that.” What they don’t realize is that these nurses started their nursing practice the same way – slower than molasses and not knowing what the heck they were doing either!
The key is to understand that becoming a competent nurse takes time. To maximize this time and give yourself a break, follow these tips.
ACTION STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR CONFIDENCE
1. Focus on learning simple skills first: how to put someone on a monitor; how to manage the IV pump; how to document your initial assessment, etc. Once you’ve mastered common simple skills, then move onto the more complex: setting up an arterial line; trouble shooting a central venous catheter; running a code.
2. Focus on safety first! When you’re learning, it’s difficult to appropriately prioritize – everything feels like a crisis! However, ground yourself by always thinking “patient safety first.” Two identifiers; checking labs before giving IV electrolytes; making sure patient’s are on appropriate monitored, etc.
3. Be okay with being slow! It took me 30 minutes to insert my first Foley catheter. Now, I could probably insert one in <5 minutes blindfolded!!! Well, maybe not blindfolded but you get my point. When you are learning a new skill, your brain uses energy until it becomes automatic. Once mastered, your technique and speed will improve because your brain doesn’t need to spend as much energy.
The bottom line is this – research tells us that the best way to become competent is to become confident. As a new nurse, you won’t feel confident until you’ve mastered certain skills. That’s okay. Successful nurses understand this and give themselves the time they need to become confident.
Thanks so much for reading and for becoming a nurse! I’m cheering for your success.
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