Becoming a new nurse should be one of the most exciting times in your nursing career. You’ve overcome some hurdles, tackled some obstacles, and still passed the NCLEX!
This is by far the “Year of the Nurse” right? However many new grads may be anxious and overwhelmed about their new roles and inevitably feel challenged by their lack of experience within the profession which may cause some anxiety.
Don’t be alarmed you’re not alone; in fact these feelings are actually pretty normal.
Most nurses’ report experiencing anxiety within the first few months of orientation or within their first year in the profession. Once you have completed orientation it can be pretty intimidating to be “on your own” this is typically the time many novice nurses can start to experience anxiety. If this sounds like you, just know that you’re not alone.
Nursing is indeed a stressful profession that requires you to help in coordinating, planning and evaluating the care of your patient’s medical condition during critical moments in which their health is failing them. For a novice nurse and even a well experienced nurse, feelings of anxiety may arise due to the uncertainty of being able to obtain the best outcome for your patient.
Why You’re Not Alone
My first year out of nursing school was by far the most intimidating stressful time for me even working with a preceptor. I became anxious when I knew I needed to perform a task such as (starting my first IV) or procedure (performing a PICC line dressing change), pass medications (I would reread over and over again the 5 rights of medication med pass) and lastly when it was time to communicate with a physician about a level of status change in a patient. I never knew how much information I needed to provide and I couldn’t anticipate what orders would come next to take care of my patient.
Although while in nursing school during clinical rotations, I always projected a more confident student nurse than I actually was but performing the task independently felt totally different. I was often time unsure of the task at hand and felt unnerved at the thought of patients, their families and my instructor watching.
What worked for me early on?
I had to learn different techniques to control my anxiety, trust in my clinical judgement and also self-reflecting on my level of confidence. I needed to learn to be okay with asking questions and allowing myself to grow in my role as a nurse.
Reassurance and validation felt normal for me until my preceptor reminded me that I was “ready to fly the coop and be on my own”. Finally on my own to set out a path that I was divinely favored to begin my nursing journey.
How to deal with Stress and Anxiety as a Nurse
Anxiety defined is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations.
It also evokes physical symptoms such as feeling uneasy, nervous, dry mouth, knots in your stomach, and feelings of being overwhelmed before a significant event.
According to American Psychiatric Association “People with anxiety usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns (APA, 2020)”.
What are some causes of new nurse anxiety?
- New environment (new job)
- Learning how to adapt to the systematic approach on the unit
- Time management/staying on task/prioritization
- Feeling needy or not competent in your new role
- Lack of confidence; fear of making mistakes
- Communicating with patients or families
- Delegation of task to other staff or colleagues
- Communicating with physicians about patients
Here’s the good news…..ALL of these feelings are NORMAL.
Your orientation time and your preceptor are there to help guide you through these areas and become more confident and feeling safe in your new role.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Lastly, don’t be hard on yourself, time and experience is simply the best way to become more comfortable, things will take time…..
Here a few tips to help decrease anxiety as a novice nurse:
- Get rest at least 6-8 hours rest at night: this will allow your mind and body to reset each day.
- Planning your day in advance: this will decrease your level of anxiety by having a prepared and organized day, thus giving you some control in what is to come.
- Breathe: stay calm, relax and take a deep breath in/out. Learning how to regulate your breathing will decrease your heart rate and in avertedly help you to remain calm.
- Talk it out: talk through the situation before it becomes overwhelming, with a trusted colleague, mentor, or your preceptor.
- Repetition: Perhaps asking to keep the same assignment whenever possible to increase your familiarity of expectations, care and improving upon your relationship with the patient and their interdisciplinary care team.
- Take care of you: Always remember; in order to take of your patients it’s important to take care of you…..Enjoy a spa day, stretch, do yoga, meditation, and eat healthy.
Here are a few techniques to control anxiety
- Understanding your triggers: What were your feelings at that moment? You may have a hard time pinpointing an exact cause and that’s perfectly fine.
- Journaling, writing down “what happened” and what you were feeling in that particular moment; focus on the BEST case scenario of the situation instead of the WORST case.
- Example: What if this does happen, what’s a logical way to deal with the situation (it’s not the end of the world) Be optimistic is key!
- Tailor your situation to you: Do what works for you. Understand that all coping techniques will work for everyone; therefore use your methods and ways of dealing with the anxiety that help you. What you are experiencing is real and this may not work for everyone else.
- Debrief with a trusted support group: During difficult moments which bring the most anxiety try debriefing with a colleague, charge nurse, supervisor/manager. Define what happened, what went wrong/right, the outcome, extenuating factors and what could you have done better. Be open to receiving constructive feedback to help strengthen your craft.
The Good News
These are temporary feelings in a permanent situation. As you grow in your role and begin to feel more comfortable and confident; you will trust yourself more and these feelings will gradually fade away. We all have been there and today we can help one another get through this.
Ali’ce J. Haskins, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC
Motivational Speaker/Nurse Empowerment Coach
With over 20 years of nursing experience and instruction, Nurse Haskins began following her passion to mentor, empower, and teach nursing students strategies of how to bridge the gap between “failure and success” and how this is viewed by students and nurses through inspiration and motivational speaking on her social media platform; being “Nurse_Haskins”.
She firmly believes that “The beauty of life begins with purpose”. If you follow your passion, you will find your purpose! You can follow her: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter
***Originally posted at nurse.org