My first month as a grad and advice for students and ‘to-be grads!’

About me

My name is Joe, I love travelling, cycling when I can, and my cat Max – also Netflix is great too! I completed my Bachelor of Nursing in December 2019 at Monash University and commenced my graduate year in January this year.

What made you choose nursing as a career?

I started volunteering with St. John Ambulance as a cadet when I was 14 in high school. A family member had an accident and I remember feeling so helpless at the time which is what prompted me to join. Whilst volunteering with this fantastic organisation I got to meet and work with many healthcare professionals from really clinically diverse backgrounds and I was inspired by the work they did which lead me to pursue a career in nursing. I have to credit my St. John division manager at the time too who helped guide me into a career in nursing.

What was it like starting as a new grad?

A little scary but very exciting! I think no matter how much reassurance you are provided with before commencing your grad year you feel as though you have to know everything and will be expected to jump in on day one. Rest assured – this is not the case! You will most likely first have some sort of an orientation session or sessions to familiarise yourself with the organisation and their procedures etc.

You’ll also have a certain amount of supernumerary (Cool fact to make you sound smart on day one! – supernumerary is Latin for ‘above numbers’) days where you’ll be partnered up with another nurse and shadow them pretty much the same as like when you were on placement only now you can jump in! My advice here is to try and jump in as much as you can because those supernumerary days’ fly by and before you know it those patients are yours!

What did you find was challenging starting as a grad?

I think the most overwhelming things that I found was more things specific to the ward I was allocated to. I’d never had any exposure to orthopaedic nursing throughout my degree and got allocated an orthopaedic surgical ward for my first rotation, so it was a challenge initially getting used to orthopaedic nursing but in saying this everyone knows you are a grad and no one expects you to be an expert. Your graduate year is a transition to practice and a time for you to build on your nursing skills.

What are some things that you’ve seen & learnt in your first month as a grad?

Where do I start! I think the first few weeks of my grad year were intense. I found myself trying to fine-tune basic nursing skills such as time management, medication knowledge and procedures as well as provide care for orthopaedic patients. As mentioned – an area I’d had no exposure to throughout all my pre-registration training. But around the four-week mark, I think I found my feet, I started to enjoy otho and learn about different fractures and the pre & post-op management for them as well as starting to build a rapport with the ward staff.

I get awesome Stan & Netflix recommendations off one of the CNS’s and share a love of coffee with the ward clerk who gave me the low down on when the best time to grab your morning fix from Zouki’s is. I had a baptism of fire with a MET call on my first day working non-supernumerary! I came into my room and found one of my patients sitting in her chair, non-responsive.

She’d luckily only just had a vasovagal and thankfully I have an amazing NUM who happened to be coming to see how I was travelling with it all on my first day and was able to assist. But all in all, a month in I think I’m finally at the point where I feel confident coming on to a shift and I’m looking forward to the months ahead on this rotation and the learning opportunities it will bring.

What are some hot tips for new grads?

These are I think the most important things to remember throughout your grad year. Firstly, one of the biggest tips for grads – and you’ll hear this said a million times, but if you don’t know or you aren’t sure with anything – Just ask! Don’t ever feel like you are being a pain or asking too many questions because when you are a grad there is no such thing! Everyone knows you are fresh out of uni and completely understands. You’ve also got ward educators who will guide you along the way – if you are feeling overwhelmed – go to them. If you need help with anything – go to them. They are one of your best resources as a grad.

Secondly, on a non-clinical note. It is so important to have a good work-life balance especially in the first 2 months of your grad year. The first few weeks can be a little daunting getting used to everything and it’s good to have some time to relax and do something non work-related whether that be catching up with friends, exercising, whatever you like to do – but have some for yourself to rest & recharge

Lastly, your grad year is an exciting time. All that hard work at uni has finally paid off and you are now a registered healthcare professional. Throughout your grad year, you will have good days and unfortunately, there will be not so good days. This is a reality of the nursing profession and it’s really important to put some plans in place for when you do have the not so good days.

When you finish a shift and it’s not gone great, remember three things that went well that shift. It could be that you made someone smile. It could be that you got to tea break on time. Or it even just could be that you finished your shift and all your patients were still alive! One grad I spoke to said that she writes down moments throughout her grad year that made her feel good and when she has bad days she looks back at them – also a fantastic idea to remind yourself that, yes you are in fact a great nurse.

What was the process of applying for grad years? (Relevant to Victoria as of 2020)

Don’t be daunted! You will get there! First of all, you’ll need to do some research into each health service to decide which ones you’d like to apply for. I’d strongly suggest attending two events; firstly, the ACN expo which is usually in April. Secondly, the ANMF undergraduate study day which is usually in May. You do have to pay to attend this study day but it’s worth it and it’s cheaper if you are a member.

Both of these events provide you with lots of valuable info the give you your best foot forward with those grad applications. Each health service also runs their own information sessions usually around May/June so keep an eye out on their website or Facebook page for these. Some health services even have a Facebook page just for graduate nursing information – follow these! You’ll get a heap of info from them.

I’ve been to my info sessions & decided on my four preferences, what’s next?

Now it’s time to make an account with the Postgraduate Medical Council of Victoria (PMCV) and then do your separate applications for each health service. Keep in mind this is the process for graduate applications for public hospitals only. If you are choosing a private hospital, find out more about the application process for these at their information session.

How does computer match work?

You make an account with Postgraduate Medical Council of Victoria (PMCV) – also known as computer match – and once set up computer match lets you choose up to four so you’ll have to choose your top four and rank them from numbers 1-4, 1 being your topmost preference and four being the last. After this, you’ll then need to apply to each health service separately

How did you choose which hospital you preferred first?

When I made my decision for my first preference for computer match I reflected on health services I had completed clinical placements with. I think this a good way to help formulate your decision as to where you’d like to complete your grad year. Because whilst completing clinical placements at different facilities you have the opportunity to get a good feel for both the hospital and the health service it is run by.

Each health service generally has a decent overview of their grad program and what they have to offer their grads on their websites so this is also a great resource for helping you make your decision. The health service I chose stood out for me because I found they have a significant focus on clinical education and they offer really good clinical support to their grads as well as staff in general.

What are some hot tips for applying for grad years?

Start planning early! Each health service differs, but generally, you’ll need at least 2 clinical referees when applying for grad years so start getting preceptors/buddy nurses to be your references in preparation.

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