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Nursing Reality Shock: The New Nurse Survival Guide

Nursing Reality Shock: The New Nurse Survival Guide

Heather Stringer | Monster Contributing Writer

Accept That You’ll Have to Start Over

Another source of angst for second-career nurses is realizing they’re now low in the employee hierarchy.

“It’s like starting at the bottom all over again,” Nugent says. “Before, I could take my summer vacation anytime. In nursing, it’s seniority-based. You have to give up that idea of control.”

But forgoing that seniority is easy when it’s in exchange for the chance to directly help people and learn new things every day, she says.

Encountering some of the same frustrations they experienced in their first career can also be disappointing to second-career nurses. For Maritza Salazar-Abshire, RN, MEd, it was nursing’s high volume of paperwork — an also-annoying aspect of her former job as a teacher.

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“You just have to get into a routine of doing it,” says Salazar-Abshire, a nurse in the pediatric adolescent clinic at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “I drew from my experience as a teacher and decided I needed to have a routine and be organized.”

Adjust Your Attitude

High expectations can also exacerbate transition pains.

“Many people would ask me why I was leaving Microsoft to do nursing, and this made me feel concerned,” says Huster, whose career change meant a 50 percent pay cut. “What really worried me was whether I would be satisfied with nursing for a long time.”

Huster’s attitude has helped allay these fears. Rather than just taking vital signs, she uses her extra minutes to read her patients’ charts, learn about their psychiatric issues and ask doctors about diseases with which she is unfamiliar. “You can learn a lot about why [patients] are here and their history,” she says. “Then it’s much more interesting when I give care to the patient.”

As a nurse with a long-term dream of volunteering overseas, Huster knows that what she learns now could someday help people around the world. And for her, that’s worth giving up an office with a window.

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