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Case study

Transitioning from Being a Nursing Student to a Newly Registered Nurse

Transitioning from Being a Nursing Student to a Newly Registered Nurse

During the last few weeks of my final placement as a nursing student, I started to feel comfortable in my role, feeling like a valued team member with an unexpected feeling that I was ready to become a nurse. People often told me that this would happen but, as someone who has always struggled with self-doubt, I never thought it would happen to me.

Once my placement ended and I went through the process of ensuring all the paperwork was up to date with my academic advisor, it became more and more real. Then one day “ping” went my emails from the NMC asking for my registration fee. What a bittersweet moment. On the one hand I was delighted to finally get my PIN but on the other, the imposter syndrome started to kick in. Was I ready? What will my new team be like? What will the patients expect of me? These were all the thoughts racing through my mind and as the time to start my newly registered nurse post vanished, these thoughts intensified.

Day one happened without a hitch and luckily, I was supernumerary with an amazing nurse who was patient and supportive- although I did feel like I could vomit at any minute! One of the most striking things I found was that I could no longer say “I’ll get the nurse for you” as I was the nurse! Regardless of how far into your career, people only see the uniform and expect you to know the answers. This was something that has taken quite a while for me to come to terms with- I am very much a person who likes to know everything. However, I have found honesty is the easiest and safest way in dealing with this situation. If I am asked a question and I don’t know the answer, I will say “I’m not 100% sure on that and I don’t want to give you the wrong information so let me find out for you and I’ll get back to you”. Thankfully, the whole team I work with are vastly knowledgeable and nurturing so it’s never difficult to find the answer. Shifting the mindset from student to nurse isn’t easy. Whilst you may have been working fairly autonomously as a student, the weight of the responsibility hits you when you work as a registered nurse.  I try not to let this overwhelm me which is why self-care is important. After a shift, I like to take time to do something non work related to make sure my body and mind are getting a break.

Whilst the first day was good, not everyday has been the same. There have been days when I’ve made mistakes, or I’ve been frustrated by the system, but I’ve tried to use them as learning opportunities to develop my skills and improve my self-awareness. Most importantly, I’ve tried to avoid allowing these experiences to knock my confidence or allow my thoughts to be consumed by them. I have found talking to my peers has really helped, along with seeking feedback from more experienced staff on what I could improve on.

We all know being a nurse is challenging. But we chose to become nurses for a reason. Write down your reason for becoming a nurse and put it somewhere you can see it daily. This will allow you focus on the positive. Similarly, when you received positive feedback from either your colleagues or a patient, be sure to make a note of this too.

My top tips:

  • Take it one day at a time. There will be good days and there will be bad days, don’t let either define you.

  • Learn from your mistakes. We are human and work in a very busy environment, they can happen. Reach out to people you know will support you and reflect on what happened.

  • Don’t allow work to overwhelm you. Ensure you are taking care of yourself on your down time. Life is busy but if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others.

  • Remember your why. When times are tough, remember why you became a nurse and try to focus on this to get you through the tough times.

  • Be patient and manage your expectations. You have gone from being an expert nursing student to a novice nurse. You won’t know, nor will you be expected to know, everything. Even nurses that have worked for 20 years will be the first to admit they don’t know everything. So be kind to yourself.

Natalie Elliott, Newly Registered Nurse