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Starting as a “real” nurse wasn’t the easiest experience for me. 

The step up was bigger than I expected. I was slow and felt like I was letting my team down.

It also took me a long time to get lots of my essential training, in part because in-person training had just restarted after COVID-19, so there was a big backlog, but everyday tasks also felt like they were taking me an inordinate amount of time. 

 I'd convince myself I could manage, when really, I was struggling

Don’t get me wrong, my team were supportive, and more than once I was told by colleagues that it’s better for me to be slow and get it right than to hurry and make mistakes. 

Part of the issue was my inability to recognise I needed help until I was overwhelmed, so I wouldn’t always ask. Or I’d convince myself I could manage, when really, I was struggling. My first time in charge was unexpected, due to staff sickness, and was a bit of a panic – I didn’t really know what I was meant to do. 

From self-doubt to self-confidence

I had self-doubts, especially when it came to things I had little practice in or hadn’t done for a long time. However, I’m a persistent person and I don’t give up easily. So I stuck it out, and I’m so glad I did.

Speaking to other newly registered nurses (NRNs) really helped. It showed things weren’t a “me” issue, but just all part of learning and being an NRN. It gave me validation and comfort, especially as I was the only NRN on my ward.

I'm more confident in my abilities and judgement 

I’m 18 months in now and things are better. There are still difficult, stressful shifts and, while I’m significantly quicker than I was, I’m still slower than average. However, I feel I’ve really grown into my nurse role. I’m more confident in my abilities and judgement, which is just as important as being able to complete a task. 

I also get on well with my colleagues and sometimes they even come to me for advice – not something I could see happening when I first started.

I’ve learnt a lot and I’m working on the things I struggle with. I ask for help more easily, although I'm finding I need it less. 

Lucy’s 5 top tips for a smooth transition 

  1. Remember you can do this. 
  2. Reach out for help if needed. 
  3. Find other NRNs to talk to. 
  4. Celebrate your triumphs.
  5. Reflect on what you can improve.

When I was a student, the most rewarding part was making patients better, but that’s changed for me. 

Sometimes it isn’t possible to make someone “better”, but it is possible to help them. I take pride in listening to patients and families, in advocating for them, making sure they get the best treatment for them, or ensuring that they have a good death. 

I’ve even been able to make some little changes on the ward, which I hope will make care better. 

Looking to the future

There's still a lot to learn. I can still improve. But I feel more confident each day to call myself a nurse and am starting to think more about my future and next steps. 

There are times when I wondered if I could really do this, whether I was failing. But I’ve made it through this far and I want you to remember my story in times of doubt. 

Be proud to stand up and say, ‘I am a nurse’.

Newly registered nurse and RCN steward Lucy works in older people’s acute care. 

Further information

Curious about what life’s like as a newly registered nurse? Check out these short films from RCN Newly Registered Network members to find out what your future career in nursing could look like.

Join the Newly Registered Nurse Network.

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