By Michele Fusco Serino, MSN, RN, RDH, CNOR
One of my first assignments in the OR as a new nurse was to take care of a patient with a gunshot wound. Many thoughts raced through my mind. “I don’t know anything about them,” I said to myself. “What am I going to do?”
After the initial panic subsided, I took a deep breath and started to realize I must be ready or they would not have assigned me to this patient. I know how to care for patients undergoing surgery, I told myself. Why would this case be different?
I inventoried the steps I would take to handle the situation, starting with assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation. I thought back to experiences I had with Nancy, my preceptor. “What would Nancy do in this situation?” I wondered.
All the foundational knowledge I acquired during my nursing education and orientation came rushing back. “I can do this!” I thought. Now was the time to start building my credibility as a nurse. Now was the time to spread my wings.
My education and training did not let me down. The case went surprisingly well, or perhaps not so surprisingly. The lesson I learned was to trust your knowledge. Use what you have learned and apply it to the situation at hand whether you are familiar with the type of situation or not.
Nurses also should take the time to learn about and know their environments. Remember your tour of the hospital on the first day? It’s probably a dim memory. Or maybe you received too much information all at once. Revisit that tour. Acquaint yourself with the location of as many departments as you can. Identify departments with which you will interact — that you need to interact with to do your job. Stop by and say hello. Don’t be shy.
Another lesson is to know yourself. Be truthful when you ask yourself, “Why am I here?” The answer will be the catalyst to motivate you as you navigate through your new career. The efforts you put forth must satisfy not only the needs of your patients but you as well. Satisfaction with a job well done validates your efforts to yourself and others.
Balance your work and life. Your career is only a part of your life picture. Prioritize creating a balance between work and lifestyle; pleasure, leisure, spirituality, health and family.
Become self-directed and motivated and draw on your experiences. Identify your learning needs, and seek out knowledge to fill the gaps. Find yourself a nurse mentor, an experienced nurse who learns the same way you learn, and develop a relationship. Share. Share. Share.
Err on the side of caution. If it doesn’t sound right or feel right, go with your gut. Ask yourself, “Would this be a safe intervention for my mother, father, brother, sister, spouse or partner?” If not investigate, research, seek out the information you need to provide the appropriate care.
Do not rush your clinical decisions. The knowledge you acquired during your nursing education should provide you with the foundation you need to make educated decisions. You also can solicit answers from experienced RNs whose practice you respect. Mentors are a resource you must tap into. Experiences seasoned nurses can share with you are invaluable.
Nursing is a journey. Healthcare is a dynamic entity. School is never out of session. Knowledge is your power. You worked hard to get here. You belong here. Now is your time to soar.
Michele Fusco Serino, MSN, RN, RDH, CNOR, is interim director of surgical services at Leaders for Today, Wellesley, Mass.
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