By Lucy Osborn MACN (ENL)
This column, The Scrubs that Fit, is all about the highs and lows of being a junior 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 or Instagram @aussie_nurses.
This is Part 3 of a three-part collection of helpful skills, tips, tricks and personal reflections, written at the end of the first rotation of Lucy’s graduate year. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Continuing professional development (CPD), is something you will hear a lot about now you are a working professional, evidence based practice is changing every day and it is your responsibility to be up-to-date. It is a requirement to do a minimum of 20 documented CPD hours to renew your registration every year. As a graduate, this is the least of your concern. During the program you will have so many study days, extra activities and online learning to do that you will have over 50 hours in your first few months, so you will not have to actively complete “extra” learning. Keep organised, download all of your certificates and keep them filed, if you get audited you will need to supply these. If you are a member of ACN, they have an online professional portfolio which makes it easy to log your CPD and is accessible through neo.
Some people in their graduate year are known to complete their honours, graduate certificates and some, like me, complete scholarship programs. Any of these are hard work and you need to be super organised, committed and focused if you think you would like to do this. Each university offers different programs etc. but generally the courses run part time over two years. Study, work and social life balance becomes even more difficult. You need to be disciplined and concentrate, do not leave things until the last minute like we are so use to doing at university. Being proactive is key.
My course involves a lot more communication and in-person exertion rather than studying and essays, so my plan has always been do what I can when I can to be organised for my days off or when I am going to conference or going to health expos.
My general routine:
Early shift: come home from work at 330, jump straight on the computer and write, email and organise as much as I can.
Late shift: same thing excect before work.
Night shift: I do some work, if possible, during my shift. In the low periods, when your patients should be sleeping.
You never stop learning, This is one of the most important things I discovered during my grad program. The medical world changes from day to day, hour to hours. There is new evidence based practice coming in to play every day. It is your job to be up-to-date with your knowledge whilst also following the hospital’s protocols. This can be tricky as sometimes they do not coincide, the best way to deal with this is by following the hospital rules, as when it comes down to it, you’re employed by them. If you break their protocols you can lose your job, even if you have evidence to support your decisions.
If it is easy you are probably missing something. On my ward there is no such thing as an easy day, if I’m sitting still for more than 20 minutes I know I am forgetting things or missing something. There is always something to do, if you have no paper work or no patient care to provide, help someone else. If no one needs help (this will never happen) restock whatever you can, prepare for likely events or clean something. If you can take this sort of initiative, then you will get noticed and receive great feedback and comments.
Work, Study, Live
Is it even possible to do all three? For the first month I thought it definitely wasn’t and I began to resign to the “fact” I would never see my friends again. Quite dramatic I know, but when you’re emotional, physically and intellectually tired, everything becomes dramatic. To me, and realistically all new graduates, work comes first, because we are eager to prove ourselves and develop ourselves. Nurses are forever being assessed and this is evident especially as a new graduate. You need to be able to show you are 100% committed to this job and to ongoing learning. A few ways to do this, if you are ever asked to do overtime, do it, unless of course you have a solid reason you need to go home. Do not use your sick days unless you are sick or need a mental health day. I can’t stress this enough, I see many graduates who come through and don’t make it because their commitment is not there, they take sick days to extend leave etc. This is probably the biggest no-no. Be on time, look presentable, be interested and smile.
Now I reckon you are probably thinking, how in the world am I meant to have a life when I am studying as well as giving all my energy to work. Well, let me be frank, it’s hard. Really, really hard, but possible. Send your friends your roster, let them know in advance when you can and can’t hang out. Plan ahead and don’t cancel just because you are tired, it is probably more beneficial to go out and see your friends than sulking at home – I found this out the hard way. You have to be prepared to do things after or before work. See your friends after an early, breakfast dates before a late, and dinners on night shifts. Don’t wear yourself out seeing friends all the time but I say aim for at least once a week, to keep your sanity.