7 Tips for New Nurses and Direct Care Providers

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Written by Ann Real, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Jeanne Kal Senior Manager, B2C Content, IntelyCare
Young female and young male nurse in scrubs wearing backpacks and smiling.

Welcome to the world of nursing — a profession that’s both challenging and immensely rewarding. And growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for registered nurses (RNs) is projected to grow by 6% over the next decade — an additional 177,400 jobs — faster than the average for all other occupations. As for certified nursing assistants (CNAs), the projected employment growth is a steady 4%, which translates to nearly 56,500 new jobs.

As you take your first steps into this exciting profession, you might be wondering: What are the most important tips for new nurses that I need to know?

We asked healthcare professionals to share the advice they received when they were starting out. From building confidence to handling stressful situations, these suggestions can help set you on the path to success.

7 New Nurse Tips

  1. Prioritize safety
  2. Practice self-care
  3. Keep learning
  4. Listen and be respectful
  5. Gain experience by floating
  6. Prioritize your education
  7. Invest in the right supplies

1. Prioritize Safety

Of all the tips for new nurses, be sure to prioritize your safety first — physical, emotional, and legal. For example, it’s important to know your rights when considering a patient assignment. It’s better to decline an unsafe assignment to protect both your safety and that of your patients than take a risk. Remember, you can find another job, but you can’t find another license.

Another piece of advice for new nurses: Don’t be afraid to take your time. If you rush, you’re at greater risk of making mistakes. Don’t rush through things just because someone puts pressure on you. In nursing, you need to be thorough and accurate. Take deep breaths and focus on the task in front of you before moving on to the next.

“Just slow down and try not to stress about everything,” says Crystal Miranda, CNA. If that doesn’t work, Miranda recommends using meditation apps to help yourself de-stress.

2. Practice Self-Care

As a nursing professional, you’re exposed to patient suffering while working long shifts. Burnout and compassion fatigue are all part of the realities nurses face in today’s healthcare landscape.

It’s critical to prioritize self-care and embrace healthy stress-relief practices. Try out activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular workouts — these practices can make a big difference in your stress levels.

Another way to care for yourself is to use assertive communication. “Always speak up for yourself,” Alisha Brown, RN shares. As a new nurse, you’ll need a lot of support and guidance. However, things can get busy on nursing floors, and you might not get the attention you need. In this case, the best new nurse advice is to speak up. Don’t hesitate to ask your coworkers for tips for new nurses so you can gain the skills you need.

3. Keep Learning

Continuous learning is definitely one of the most important tips for new nurses. “Nursing and the medical field are ever-changing,” says Shakira Hodge, LPN. As a nurse, you have to evolve along with the medical field. You can do it by attending conferences, joining professional organizations, and taking continuing education courses. IntelyEdu offers ANCC-accredited online courses, so make sure you check them out if you’re looking for options.

4. Listen and Be Respectful

In her IntelyCare spotlight interview, Jackey Williams, CNA, said that if she were to go back in time to give herself a piece of advice, she’d say, “Jackey, you should always respect people, know how to talk to people, and understand their problems because everybody has different ways of dealing with them.” Make sure you put some effort into mastering the art of effective communication. While this bit of wisdom is good advice for nurses and care professionals, it’s also applicable to life outside the facility.

It’s especially important to listen carefully to your nursing preceptor. This experienced nurse assists in your transition to the role and shows you how to apply your knowledge effectively in your job. If you’re not comfortable with your assigned preceptor, consider requesting a change. A supportive preceptor is crucial for a smooth transition into nursing.

5. Gain Experience by Floating

Beth Fournier, RN, lives for nursing. Top among her tips for new nurses? Take advantage of floating. “I know people usually don’t like floating. But for me, floating was a major part of my learning experience early on that allowed me to grow in my career and expertise,” says Fournier. If you’re working at a facility with multiple units, try to take the opportunity to see how providing care differs in each environment. This will not only broaden your perspective on how to provide the best care possible, but will also help you to pick a field you’ll want to settle in.

Here are some great units to explore while floating that give you very unique experience:

6. Prioritize Your Education

“Finish school early, not when you’re in your 30s because it’s a lot harder,” says Shannon Williams, LPN. Choosing between earning an income and continuing your education can be hard. But Williams advises new nurses to finish school early because the longer you wait, the less able you are to prioritize schooling.

In the long run, it hurts your earning potential to forgo schooling. Luckily, there are plenty of flexible nursing bridge programs and other educational opportunities that you can take at your own pace while you work, such as:

7. Invest in the Right Supplies

The last of our tips for new nurses and nursing assistants — invest in the right nursing supplies. First, they help to keep patients safe. You can’t rely on a bad sphygmomanometer to give you an accurate measurement of a patient’s blood pressure, can you?

The right tools can also make your life much easier. For example, a good clipboard and the right watch can optimize workflow efficiency. Other nursing supplies can help you feel better on the job — good nursing shoes will keep your feet comfortable, and compression socks can help you prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Things I Wish I Knew as a New Nurse: Best Resources

Besides tips for new nurses, you might also need reliable resources to guide you in the beginning stages of your role. These can include textbooks, online platforms, and support networks. Here are a few examples:

  • Brain sheets are handy forms used by nurses to keep track of patient info and tasks during shifts. They usually cover vital signs, meds, care plans, and reminders. This tool helps manage time, communicate with the team, and improve care quality.
  • The ANA profession kit provides essential digital resources made by experienced health professionals with years of experience. It covers best practices, workplace safety, and tips for a balanced life.
  • Clinical guideline summaries are short clinical guidelines designed by experts to help nurses stay up to date on current recommendations backed up by the latest research.
  • Nursing pocket cards are printable and portable cards can help you when you forget important information like arterial blood gasses (ABGs) and electrocardiogram (ECG) rhythms. They serve as quick references for nurses to consult while providing care.
  • Nursing journals offer new nurses access to evidence-based information, opportunities for continuing education, exposure to clinical scenarios, peer perspectives, and networking opportunities.
  • Nurses Supporting Nurses is a community of nurses, nursing students, advanced practice nurses, and CNAs from diverse specialties, offering support, self-care resources, and free courses.
  • NurseGroups offers weekly groups for nurses where they can share their struggles and receive support. Group activities usually include mindfulness practices and emotional skill building.

Career Help Is a Click Away

Congratulations! Now that you’ve learned some of the best tips for new nurses, you’re ready to hit the ground running. Looking for more pointers? IntelyCare’s nursing newsletter is full of professional insights and advice to support you throughout your career. Sign up today!