advertise with us find a job post your topic join the community log in
Reality Unscripted
First Day on the Job

It's been 25 years and 1 week since my first day on my first job.

It was in a community hospital on an ortho unit that saw an equal amount of med/surg patients (cause let's face it, how many ortho patients can one small community hospital actually have). As I recall, we had 30 beds, each of which had traction bars and trapezes. The nurses had only stopped wearing caps a short while before I arrived, because they were forever being knocked off by the overhead bars.

I remember the fear as I walked through that front door all those years ago. In that moment I did not at all feel worthy of the title "nurse." The confidence and pride I had felt at graduation had all melted away. In its place was a nausea that made me think I might never eat again.

I took a deep breath, mumbled one of those "Dear God, please help!" prayers, and then repeated it over and over until I reached the nurses station. I smiled at all those new faces, that to me looked smart and confident. And that scared the crap out of me.

Can you relate to the terror? It's a palpable fear of the unknown. Not only that, it's a fear of being unqualified to face that unknown. And it really does make you want to throw up on something. Except that really lowers your chance of making a good first impression. So on you go, swallowing hard and saying hello.

To be perfectly honest, I don't remember most of the details of that first day, just the emotions.

As someone showed me around, I tried to remember how the numbers of the rooms went, where the med carts were, where the charts were kept (hard to believe, but there wasn't a computer in sight), and most importantly, where the break room and bathroom were located.

I'm sure I only remembered half of what they told me due to the cotton that seemed to fill my head that day.

The good news is, as the day progressed, I felt more and more like it might be a job I could do. Turns out I had actually learned a couple things in nursing school and the staff seemed very willing to teach me what I hadn't.

I fondly (and I totally mean that sarcastically) remember the week I was referred to as the "bowel nurse." I hadn't had any experience doing enemas, so I spent the week doing all that were needed on the floor. They also threw in a dis-impaction for good measure. Everyone seemed delighted to get me up to speed on all things G.I. related. It's a skill, I'm happy to report, I've long since lost.

It may be that my experience was better than some of you have had, but the rest of the staff was always helpful and kind. I was never afraid to ask a question of anyone--but I had my favorites. Some nurses are just better teachers than others.

There was one in particular that was just a couple years older than me and had a very fresh memory of being the new girl. She always made me feel accepted and appreciated. If you can figure out who that person can be for you, grab hold of them. It will make all the difference.

After a couple of months of orientation, I was up and running: a bona fide nurse, capable of good technique and judgment. When I moved to my final destination as a part-time night nurse, I even oriented a new hire to nights. I had become the one who knew the system. Who would have thought? Not me on the first day.

Though there is only one first day on the first job, you'll probably have several first days on some job. The bad news is you'll probably want to throw up each time. The good news is you never will. The fear of the unknown never leaves us, but as we age, so does our ability to work through it. So hang in there...And if you have a chance, share with the RealityRN community your first-day-on-the-job story! We'd love to hear it.

Read more Reality Unscripted articles

6 Responses to “First Day on the Job”

  1. Megan Says:

    I’m so relieved to hear that others felt the same way about their first day…. I’m still a full year away from finishing school and entering the field, but I’m already terrified! It’s good to know that this is normal – and that it will pass (even if it’s hard to believe). 🙂

  2. Angie Says:

    I bonded with another new grad from a different hospital program and we helped each other in the room where our patient assignments overlapped. She had a confused patient and she kept orienting him to the city in which she had trained. “You’re in Vancouver”. We still laugh at the poor man who was not in that city but our home town of Chilliwack. At least I didn’t try to convince him he was in Calgary where I had trained.

  3. Christina Says:

    Well I prayed, and prayed! I also just let go and had a sense of humor. I work at a nursing home and my first day as a new grad was 10 years ago! I stepped on to the floor with people falling, yelling, and drooling. I was in for the ride of my life. Hang in their, you worked to long and hard to give up now!

  4. Lindsey Says:

    My first day on the job was just 4 months ago. I am working in an ER in Washington DC. I was taking care of a stroke patient who decided he wanted to go smoke. He jumped up, unhooked himself from the monitor, pulled out his IV and took off out of the ambulance entrance. He was found trying to choke a paramedic who was trying to get him back into the hospital, and had to be taken down by security!!

    It was a crazy first day – I thought, my first day and I’m already writing an incident report!

  5. Jason R. Thrift, RN, BSN Says:

    Hey Jana,

    I started as an ortho nurse myself, way back win (9 years ago now, hard to believe). But I still remember minor details of my first days as a nurse. I think the more terrifying day for me was my first full day COMPLETELY ON MY OWN. By the end of that day another nurse approached me as I was doing shift totals and asked, “So are you doing all right on your first day.” I simply replied, “No.” I was about to burst into tears I was so overwhelmed, scared, sick, I actually thought for once in my life I might pass out, and not because of the work.

    Those first days during orientation, even with someone precepting, and when you’re on your own are absolutely the hardest you’ll ever experience in your career as a nurse. So many unknowns, so little time to understand them. But, what counts the most is now I can look back and laugh at myself and remember those times to help others that are in the same position as I once was.

    So to any new grads or up and coming graduates readying themselves for the NCLEX and the ride of a lifetime (aka nursing) hang in there, as Jana said, it will get better. Before I was a nurse I was terrified of roller coasters (and still get nervous before I ride them), but after I took the ride of nursing a roller coaster is a welcome adventure.:)

  6. Katie, RN Says:

    Just experienced my first day as a new grad nurse at my first nurse job…..Very intimidating for me. Hopefully it will get better. Some of the nurses are not real nice. I’m not used to people not liking me so that just made me feel even worse. Why do nurses have to prove themselves to each other? I feel like a kid again in Jr. High!

Leave a Reply

search realityrn

sign up for weekly cartoons, tips, and blog posts
first name
last name

Register to win a pair of RX Medical Silver Fox Crocs

Nursing Jobs