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.

The next three articles in the Scrubs that Fit column are a collection of helpful skills, tips, tricks and personal reflections written at the end of the first rotation of Lucy’s graduate year. Here is Part 1.


Congratulations on completing your nursing degree, or for those reading who are preparing for post-graduation, congratulations for being organised and proactive to secure a job in the coming years.

You have just taken a first step which will influence the rest of your life. From your initial day onwards you will be impacting your patients and their family’s lives in ways you never thought possible. Yes, what a generic saying, but early in my graduate program I discovered how true that sentiment is.

These are my coping strategies, observations and recommendations from throughout my graduate year at a busy public hospital in South Australia and all of which I still use today, almost a year down the track. My two rotations were a surgical/medical ward that specialised in upper gastrointestinal (GI), colorectal and gastroenterology and the emergency department. This article will cover my surgical rotation, as someone who loves critical care and finds that emergency and ICU are more my style I wanted to show you that every area of nursing is has something to offer whether or not it has your particular interest.


Preparation for your first day

In the weeks leading up to your first day you may be anxious and stressed, there is no escaping these feelings. The best way to deal with them is organisation. Get everything you could possibly need ready, for example, have you ordered your uniform? Worn in some comfy shoes? Have you got an endless supply of pens? Fob watch, hair ties, socks, etc. You can never be too organised. I had emailed just about everyone I could think of, organising my roster, making sure I knew times, dates and anything I could mistake. Now in saying this there is a line, sending one or two emails with lots of information is a considerable amount better than sending 5+ small emails. First impressions are lasting impressions, be professional, seek the information from other places first and if you still cannot find it, then email.


First day

On your first day you won’t always be required to wear uniform, I wasn’t, but the following still applies if you do have to wear uniform. Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed, as mentioned first impressions are very important. If you aren’t required to wear a uniform here is a list of some things that are appropriate, but most importantly comfortable:

  • Dress pants
  • Mid length skirts (no short or maxi skirts) stockings are good, especially if the skirt is above the knee
  • Dress shirts
  • Cardigans/blazers
  • Mid length dress.

‘Bare below the elbows is a term that is constantly used around the hospitals I have worked in and is a huge part of infection control. It’s a quick way of saying no nail polish, no rings (other than a plain wedding band), no watches, no bracelets and no fitbits. You are now in a clinical environment and you need to ensure you are not increasing the risk of infection, including during orientation. Hair is much like dress code, neat and tidy is my advice. Hair below the shoulders is to be tied back. You’ll find that each hospital has a slightly different approach to appearance and this is just a general guide, not gospel. It’s important to be yourself, just remember to be professional in approach and appearance.

Arrive early; I get super anxious about time so I arrived one hour before we needed to start. I did this for orientation and for my first shift. One hour is a bit of overkill but get there around half an hour early to give you enough time to find the room. Ensure you have completed any pre-readings or learning, take a note book, pen, ID and be ready to sit a likely medication calculation quiz.


Coming soon: Lucy reflects on what she learnt form her rotation in the surgical ward. Read the rest of her Scrubs that Fit articles here.

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