Tips to Survive Nursing Orientation

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurse and preceptor during nursing orientation.

Way to go — you landed that new nursing job. Are you ready for a fresh start? Orientation can be intimidating as you approach a new unit, specialty, coworkers, and job. Preparation is key.

Whether you’re a brand new or experienced nurse, nursing orientation is a new beginning and can come with feelings of nervousness and anticipation. These tips to survive orientation will help you navigate the unknown and maximize your time.

What Is New Nurse Orientation?

Orientation is the process of introducing newly hired nurses to the unit and providing job-specific training. It ensures that all nurses receive the same training and information about policies and procedures, and become familiar with documentation requirements.

It generally consists of a few days to a week of classroom orientation, including lectures and practical skill competency tests. Orientation on the unit comes next, including patient assignments and learning the typical routines of the unit, such as when rounding occurs.

What Is Nursing Orientation Like?

When you start your new nursing job, you’ll have an orientation period before you take your own patient assignments. You’ll be paired with an experienced nurse, called a preceptor, who will teach you the standards and expectations of the unit.

You’ll learn:

  • Where equipment is stored
  • How to access medications
  • Whom to call for what
  • Unit-specific procedures (such as zeroing an arterial line)
  • Facility policies and procedures
  • Shift documentation requirements

Depending on your experience, the facility, and your specialty, your orientation time may vary. For example, a new nurse may have a three-month orientation and an experienced nurse may only need two to four weeks.

Orientations Tips

Now that you’ve learned what nursing orientation is, let’s get into the tips.

1. Ask Questions

You are new — either a new nurse or new to the unit. It is okay, and expected, not to know everything.

Take advantage of this time to learn all that you can. Ask questions. Why did the nurse call the internist instead of the surgeon? Why did the nurse see the patient in room 8 before the patient in room 10?

2. Expect to Feel Overwhelmed

Starting something new comes with a learning curve. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, so expect it. At times you may feel like you are sinking, but remember that this does not mean you are failing.

You are learning many new things, from where the blankets are located to how to draw labs from a central line. If you are a new nurse, orientation may feel even more overwhelming. You’re not just learning the facility specific expectations, but also how to be a nurse.

3. Prepare for Your Shifts

Much can be done to set yourself up for success before your shift even starts. Be sure to prioritize rest, prepare nourishing meals, and get to work early.

Make time to review your patients’ charts before you get report. This valuable time can do wonders to start your day on the right foot. Receiving report can often be a chaotic and busy time — make it easier by reviewing your patients first and knowing what tasks and medications are due soon.

4. Challenge Yourself

Take every opportunity you can to observe and learn. Is there a code in the medical intensive care unit (MICU)? Go and watch. Is a patient being admitted with a wound vac? Go see how to set it up.

Stretch your limits. Nursing orientation is for you, so take advantage of it. Since you’ll be paired with another nurse, you’ll have time to observe other patients’ procedures.

Try to find as many different patient scenarios as possible. Encountering them as an observer will help you navigate them as the primary nurse. You’ll have a better understanding of what to do because you’ve seen it before.

5. Find Support

Most likely, you’ll need a few trusted people you can talk and vent to. Especially as a new nurse, orientation can be particularly daunting.

Consider also finding a nurse mentor who can guide and support you, even after your orientation ends. Everyone started out as a beginner. Sometimes, you need an experienced nurse to remind you of that, reassure you that you will be okay, and show you the path forward.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

The best person to help you through your orientation will likely be your preceptor. But what if you and your preceptor don’t get along? Sometimes that happens.

Bring up your concerns with your manager and let them know you need a different person to guide you. Stay objective, stick to the facts, and relay the type of instruction you respond well to. Your manager wants to see you succeed and will be motivated to help you resolve this coworker conflict.

Put These Tips Into Action

Nursing orientation may be on your mind because you’re starting a new nursing job or simply looking for a position. Want help with the job search? Take a look at the nursing jobs available with IntelyCare and apply today.