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6 Tips to Survive Your First Year as a Hospital RN

6 Tips to Survive Your First Year as a Hospital RN

Lisette Hilton | Monster Contributing Writer

The first year on the job is often the toughest for new nursing graduates, especially those who work in hospitals. In fact, new nurse graduates account for more than half of the turnover rate in some hospitals, according to a study published in 2007 by Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing researchers.

“There really are multiple reasons for [the first-year exodus],” says Patricia Benner, RN, PhD, professor at the University of California, San Francisco and a senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “One is that nursing practice is incredibly complex. Over the past 60 years, the transfer of responsibility to nursing from medicine has been incredible. I think society doesn’t typically recognize that.”

Because the sickest patients are in the hospital, hospital RNs need good clinical judgment and the ability to recognize when a patient needs immediate intervention — challenges that are especially pronounced in a nurse’s first year of employment.

Would You Survive Your 1st Year as a Nurse?

1. What is most important to you?

Making money
Saving lives
Getting great benefits
Being happy
Making a difference

So what can you do to make your transition from nursing student to working nurse easier and your first years on the job more satisfying? Here are some issues to ask about and consider before and after taking the job.

Ask About First-Year Nurse Turnover Rates

High turnovers indicate how the employer treats first-year nurses, Benner says. Turnovers higher than 20 percent are generally considered high in the industry.

Find Out About Orientation and Preceptor Programs

A preceptor is a teacher and coach who helps nurses become oriented and familiar with a facility’s routines, procedures and people, says Patricia Hooper Kyriakidis, RN, MSN, PhD, a nurse consultant and researcher and president of Practice Solutions, a Hendersonville, Tennessee-based health care consultancy. New nurses are more likely to stay if they have an experienced and helpful preceptor. That’s why you should ask, “Will a preceptor be available on my shift after the orientation to answer questions and help with clinical decision making?”

Inquire About Support

Query the nurse manager about the level of clinical, social and emotional support available for new nurses. This support includes having experienced nurses on hand to help debrief a new nurse once he experiences a tragedy at work, such as a death. That debriefing must happen the day the event occurs, not a week later, Kyriakidis says.

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