How to survive your first 6 months as a NQN

Being a Newly Qualified Nurse (NQN) can sometimes feel overwhelming. Whether you’re starting work where you completed your management placement or if you’re moving to a new department or trust, there are always challenges to be faced. Thankfully there is a lot of support out there for NQNs, not just from your employer but also from the wider nursing community via social media.

As someone who has been qualified for a little over a year, my NQN experiences are still fresh in my mind but I’ve also had the opportunity to step back and reflect on things now I am a *little* more experienced. I work in a specialised oncology ward and am still not regularly left in charge, however many of my friends from university found themselves in charge of their 36 bedded ward as the only regular staff nurse working within a few months. Those who have gone into the community have faced different challenges with regards to lone working and managing their time/workload.

I hope that these six tips for surviving your first six months as a NQN can be applied to a variety of working environments, nursing is such a diverse profession and embarking on your qualified career in any area will be full of its unique trials & complications.

  • Find out who your support networks are: as a NQN on a preceptorship programme you should have access to a whole gambit of clinical educators, team managers, a named preceptor in your working area and lots of new colleagues. You are going to find some of these people more approachable than others and not everyone is going to want to talk to the same person, but find someone (or a couple of them) who you feel can be your go to person to ask the “stupid” questions of, there is going to be lots you don’t understand and knowing who you can go to for help and advice will ease that sense of the unknown.
  • There’s no such thing as a “stupid” question: I deliberately used “stupid” as there’s a lot of times you may feel you’re asking an obvious question or even asking the same thing over and over, PLEASE do not worry about this! Everyone asks questions, it is the best way to learn. And it is so much better to ask the same thing again than to assume you know, for your professional development, your sanity and also for your patients.
  • Remember to learn and reflect: there are going to be days where things won’t quite go to plan, you’ll make a mistake or won’t be able to manage a situation due to it being outside of your experience. Yes this is frustrating but use it as a learning opportunity, process it in a way that suits your learning style and use it to grow and develop as a professional.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no: if you don’t feel safe doing something because you haven’t had chance to acquire those skills yet then say so. It might be awkward for a short while but it is better in the long run. Not only does this help you & your preceptor or clinical educator identify areas of practice you want to develop, it also keeps your patients safe.
  • Take time for yourself: read, exercise, meet up with friends/family, go for a fun day out or even take a little trip away… you need to remember you have a life outside of being a NQN. It can feel overwhelming and you often take things home with you that you worry about or try to learn more, this can be good and helpful in small doses but you also need to know when to step away to look after yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup and self-care is key!
  • Enjoy it!!: you’ve worked so hard throughout your nursing degree to get where you are and sometimes that can be forgotten as you try to settle into your new role. Don’t forget how much you’ve learnt and all that you have achieved! You’re not going to know everything straight away and you’re not going to be SuperNurse immediately completing every task on your own, so don’t beat yourself up for it. Instead celebrate what you know, show off the skills you do have and focus on the positives!!

(Debs Cooper – Newly Qualified Nurse) 

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