By Lucy Osborn MACN (ENL)
This column, The Scrubs that Fit, is all about the highs and lows of being an early-career nurse, from the perspective of an ACN Emerging Nurse Leader. The aim of these blog posts is to help ease the transition from university to grad years and beyond. Find Lucy on ACN’s neo and on Instagram @aussie_nurses.
This article is advice for those who are starting to plan their graduate (grad) years, or in the few years beyond. As an early career nurse, it can be hard to say no. You want to impress, build a good reputation and to provide for your community. But sometimes, this is not sustainable. Sometimes you need to say no, re-evaluate and have a break. Here are five tips for surviving your grad years that I have learnt through my own experiences.
- Take annual leave in the middle of the year
It is vital that you take a break mid-year, especially in your grad year. You will not completely comprehend how exhausted you are going to be at that stage until you stop. You will have just spent around 6 months learning at speed, let alone getting your nursing fitness up.
Another reason to take a mid-year break is that most of the grad years midline will align with peak winter. This is when hospital admissions are at their highest (2020 excluded) and your exposure to colds and viruses will be higher. My personal advice is to go somewhere warm with a beach!
- Do overtime if you want to, but don’t feel obliged
Your health and sanity are more important than filling an understaffed shift.
Learning this was a positive learning experience that showed me that I am replaceable as a bedside nurse. Saying you’re replaceable doesn’t sound like a good thing, but trust me, it is… for now. The health care system has ways of filling those gaps, so it’s not your responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, taking on overtime shift is great sometimes with pers like earning some extra cash, helping out the department. However, make sure you’re doing it on YOUR TERMS, not theirs. Also don’t forget to know what you are entitled to in terms of meal breaks, meal allowances and penalties. You can find all of this information from your local union!
- Don’t take on something your uncomfortable with
I was very fortunate to never be put in a position I was uncomfortable with when I was a graduate nurse. I was also supported when extending my scope of practice But a lot of my network have explained that they were often left with extremely difficult patient loads or even doing in charge shifts (Super keen new nurse Lucy would have loved that challenge but knowing what I know now I can see how dangerous that really is). If you are not ready or feel uncomfortable with a situation it is your responsibility to speak up before something happens.
- Don’t bottle up your emotions
Make sure you seek support when you are overwhelmed. Don’t just hope it will go away. If you aren’t comfortable getting support from your workplace you can seek support from your union or better yet the ACN Buddy Hub!!!
- Make friends
One of the first things I realised about being a nurse is that age doesn’t matter when it comes to making friendships. When I started my grad year, it was acutely obvious that there were few people my age on my ward but it didn’t matter as I was able to make lifelong friends with lots of different age groups.
Of course, there are differences in the friendships you make, but it makes work so much easier to have people that you trust around you. You won’t get along with everyone, that’s just a fact of life, but you will always find a friend in a nursing workforce as we all have the shared traits of a nurse in common.
One of the only times I really felt the age difference was when we were on a work outing and a friend and I realised I was in the same class as her daughter at school. But nevertheless, we still keep in contact!
One of the best things about being a nurse is we have incredible flexibility with our working hours and our scope of practice. I encourage you all to take advantage of this. Swap your shifts, book your annual leave when you want it, go on a mid week getaway. Do all of the things that a 9-5 worker can’t. Start looking after yourself as soon as you are a student, or at the very least as soon as you are a Nurse. If you make an effort to protect yourself now, you will reap the benefits later! ( I promise)