Nursing is hard work requiring comprehensive training along with a healthy dose of commitment and dedication. Every day, nursing schools across the country graduate students looking forward to getting their first assignments as medical professionals, some as locum workers and others as permanent placement employees. What they all have in common is this: there are certain things that every registered nurse learns on the job rather than in the classroom.
Experience is a wonderful teacher. There is nothing quite like it to help the new registered nurse make the transition from what was learned in a book to how that knowledge applies to real life. But believe it or not, the most important things the registered nurse learns on the job have very little to do with biology, physiology, or patient care. They are about the nurse him/herself.
It is true that we all work – even registered nurses – because money is required to pay the bills. Knowing that, nurses do have to be concerned with the financial aspect of their careers to ensure they are getting paid commensurate with their skills and experience. However, it doesn’t take long before the new nurse comes to realize that what he or she does is about more than just earning a paycheck. In fact, money pales by comparison when a nurse thinks about the daily opportunities to help improve lives.
Veteran nurses are more likely to find that their greatest reward is seeing a smile on the face of a patient, being able to bring some comfort to loved ones, or watching a patient walk out the door after weeks or months of long, arduous treatment. No paycheck can match that.
Nurses spend their days moving from patient to patient, doctor to doctor, and family member to family member. They juggle dozens of things all at one time like so many performers trying not to let down the crowd. In the midst of all the hectic activity, the registered nurse who learns how to listen is one who knows how to make sense of it all.
Listening skills are valuable skills that are not necessarily taught in school. But they are vital nonetheless. The nurse who can listen, rather than just hearing, is one who can better treat patients and skillfully interact with the rest of the healthcare team.
Lastly, no amount of nursing school training can prepare the registered nurse for the reality that sometimes he or she just has to let go. Nurses work very hard to do whatever they can for patients in the hope that the patient will make a complete recovery in due time. Sometimes it works out, other times it does not.
It can be tough for the new registered nurse who, for the first time, comes to the conclusion that not everyone can be saved. It is tough to learn the lesson that sometimes the nurse just has to let go. Still, it is an unshakable reality that is part of the nursing profession.
We owe a lot to our nurses who work very difficult jobs that make our lives better. We should never forget that they are learning new things about themselves and their professions with every shift worked. They will never stop learning.
If you are a new registered nurse looking for your first job, we wish you well. That first job will be very much a learning experience as you get to know yourself and your career choice a little bit better.