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Seasoned with Sage
Make Your First Impression Positive

Building rapport with co-workers is challenging at any age and any stage of your career. For new nurse grads it can be overwhelming. The first day is always the hardest. Your own anticipatory anxiety can make things worse than they are in reality.

One of the most important things to remember is that there will be at least one person who you will annoy no matter how hard you try not to. Accept this fact and move forward.

Smile, extend a hand to greet your new co-workers, and be warm and friendly. Most of all, be yourself. Don’t try too hard or put on a fake smile, but be genuine. You will be nervous, so try to manage nervous habits, such as giggling until you snort. Relax. Relax. Relax.

You will never have another chance to make a good first impression, so do all you can to demonstrate professionalism.

Although the established nurses should be grateful for a new staff member to help assume some of the responsibilities, many are concerned the new nurse will mean even more work!

Stereotypically, the older staff members are usually tagged as the most difficult to build rapport with. Today, these are the Baby Boomers. Many are approaching retirement and have lived through many nursing shortages, but none as severe and challenging as the present one.

Older nurses typically will be more set in their routines and ways of doing things. The young new nurses come with their fresh energy and idealism, ready to change the world. The differences can be startling.

So how do you build rapport with other nurses—of all ages and backgrounds?

  • Be a professional from day one. Don’t be a burden and make more work for the staff to have you there.

  • Be punctual. That means be ready to work when the clock strikes the start of your shift. Work your assigned shifts; don’t call in sick unless you are sick!

  • Be well groomed. How you look is important. You must be neat, clean, and look like a professional.

  • Be prepared. Make sure you have a PDA or notebook, the appropriate colored pen that works, scissors, a clamp, and a penlight.

  • Pay attention. Learn quickly where the basic necessities are and how they work. These include the linen closet or cart, the crash cart, the medicine cart, the narcotics, the pharmacy, central supply, the kitchen, the nurses’ station, and the charts.

  • Ask for and offer help. When you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t forget to offer to assist the person who helps you. Remember, if someone has to stop and help you, they will get behind in their own work. Be prepared to proceed when the other person is ready to help or supervise you. Have your supplies ready. Know the steps and rationale. Have the patient mentally prepared.

  • Don’t leave your work undone. Get your own work done and don’t leave it for the next shift to have to do. If you’re overwhelmed, speak to your supervisor and get some help early on.

  • Absorb on-the-job training. Older nurses can be a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Don’t ever assume they know nothing because they went to school a hundred years ago! They usually know what you know--and how to do it better and more efficiently.

  • Don’t engage in gossip. Listen politely, but make it clear you are open-minded and will form your own opinions. Respect your co-workers and command your own respect in return.

A few more quick tips include: Don’t brown nose. Don’t point fingers. Take responsibility for your own actions. Be a good team player. Expect that you’ll get stuck with the worst shifts and work the most holidays until you have a little seniority.

And lose the line, “This is the way we did it in school (or at my other job)...”

Then smile--and always say, “Thank you!”

Kathy Quan, RN BSN, is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and The Everything Guide to Careers in Health Care. She is also is the owner/author of Her new books, 150 Tips and Tricks for New Nurses and The Everything Guide to Caring for Aging Parents will be available Feb. 2009. For more information see

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3 Responses to “Make Your First Impression Positive”

  1. Learned by Mistakes Says:

    I am taking these tips to my next job. My first position as a new grad in the internship/preceptor program did not go well because I failed to research the do’s and don’ts!

  2. brickwall Says:

    I agree this is good advice starting out as a new nurse, however don’t let anyone dump on you, some nurses are just stupid and mean. I have seen first hand older nurses treat newer nurses bad just cause they could. I would call them out on it, I would say oh come on, you just like to be ball buster, then I would just smile and laugh my *** off, then walk away. Some nurses like to boost their egos, I like to deflate them every chance I get, after all I was a new nurse once too, and I will never forget to look after the new ones.

  3. Jeff Says:

    Great advice, I think it is important for nurses to keep in mind any time they take a new job, not just their first one. Thanks.

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