Surviving the first 6 months as a Registered Nurse!

My name is Chulani Kaluarachchi. I completed my Master of Nursing Practice at Monash University and am now working as a Registered Nurse at Monash Health Theatres.

There is no one watching over you anymore! (well…sort of…)

I had to make the mental switch between being a nursing student to becoming a registered nurse very quickly once I began my graduate year. Having been at home doing nothing for the entire Christmas holiday, I went into the supernumerary days in my ward, feeling very much like the nursing student I was used to being for years. And then BOOM… I was on my own. It was such a petrifying yet surreal moment when you finally have a bay full of patients, who you are in charge of. You can’t say “Let me get your nurse” because YOU are the nurse now. Even though you are sailing the ship on your own, remember that your colleagues and the graduate support team are always there to help you. But there won’t be another nurse standing over your shoulder to check every step you take. You will be expected to know what needs a priority.

First time administering medications by yourself can be terrifying.

I would always double, triple, quadruple check before giving any medications to my patients. Making a medication error can have dire consequences for your patient’s safety. Therefore, always remember to go through your medication rights before administering them. Don’t use short cuts. Don’t become complacent and do not take risks. During nursing school, there was always someone standing next to you, watching your every action, ready to catch you if you are about to make an error. But now, since you are trusted to administer medications on your own, you need to be the one who catches your errors.

You can’t learn time management in a day.

When I first started, it took me ages to get anything done. The fact that I hardly knew where anything was around the ward was also a reason for that. But soon you will figure out where everything is from something tiny like a needle to the forever-missing-bladder scanner. You will get used to the routine of the ward and remember what happens at what time. Time management takes a long time to master. Watch the other nurses and learn how to cluster tasks. Try and understand how other allied staff members can help assist your work as well. It’s acceptable to not be able to do everything in your shift. Nursing is a 24-hour job, so tasks can be handed over to the next shift. Don’t feel bad about it!

Take your time – Be careful – Check everything – If unsure, check again.

The first few months of being a nurse can be really scary. So always remember to take your time when doing anything. There is no need to rush and make errors. If you don’t know how a patient ambulates, then ask, never assume. If you don’t know how to give a medication, then find out how never assume! If you are even the slightest bit unsure, check again! It is easy to make errors when you first start working because you can get flustered with all the work that needs to be done. Remember it’s always better to do the task safely and correctly (even if you are late), then rushing into it and making errors.

Keep fighting!

Finish university in December started working as a brand-new nurse in February and BAM!! global pandemic in March! This is certainly not how I wanted my career to start but I am so happy and honoured to be a healthcare worker helping the society in these uncertain times. I feel like I can do my part to give back to the people in need. I know it can be frightening for a new nurse to handle the current situation, but always remember to ask for help if you are overwhelmed. Know your rights as an employee. Make sure to keep yourself safe and healthy so you can keep your patients safe and healthy. Every time you force yourself to get out of bed and step out into the street, when everyone else is safe at home, remind yourself why you chose to be a nurse and be proud of being one!