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Profiles and Features November 8, 2018

By Melissa Mills, RN, BSN, CCM, MHA

Top 10 On-the-Job New Grad Nurse Mistakes

Your first new grad nurse job is exciting, thrilling, and fun. However, it can also be nerve-racking and scary at times. 

New grad nurses are eager to jump into their new job, which can often lead to mistakes.  

“Every new grad is in a rush to become the seasoned nurse. New grads have a hard time accepting that it will take up to two years to sharpen the skills they are learning,” Sean Dent, Nurse Practitioner, educator, blogger, and vlogger, told NurseChoice in an interview.

Sean recognizes that mistakes are understandable, stating: “First and foremost, it’s okay. It’s not only okay to make a mistake; it’s almost expected. This job is tough. But, be sure to learn from your mistakes.”

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10 Common New Grad Nurse Mistakes

1. Medication Errors

As a new grad nurse, you will make medication errors, which have many types and causes. One of the biggest reasons for medication errors in new grad nurse jobs is lack of knowledge. But this comes with time.

Dent offers this as his number one medication error tip: No distractions. Do not allow anyone to distract you when manipulating medication. That means no chatting, no talking, and no answering calls.

2. Documentation Errors

Most new grad nurses have no clue how time-consuming documentation will be. The key to documentation is organization.

One practical tip from Dent is to keep a tally of your timeline during your day. He adds: “Develop a system of remembering ‘when’ things occur. It’s a wonderful way to review your day. Oh, and never pre-chart. Ever.”

3. Being Unprepared When Calling a Physician

“Practice makes perfect,” says Dent. While this error does not pose any risks to your patients, it could pose a threat to your credibility if it occurs too often. You need to practice essential communication skills to be successful.   

“You will get better at this the more you do it,” he says. “Don’t avoid it. Have all your ducks in a row before you pick up the phone. Anticipate the questions asked.”

4. Fall Safety

As a new grad nurse, it is easy to forget simple fall-risk precautions. Check patients frequently. Place all needed items, including the call light, within reach every time you leave the room.

5. Dress 

As a new grad nurse, you want to provide a great first impression. Follow the dress code every shift. Uniforms should always be clean and wrinkle-free.

6. Professionalism 

“No matter what happens to you, remember this is about the patient, not you,” says Dent. “Don’t raise your voice; elevate your argument.”

7. Not Asking For Help

Many new grad nurses make the mistake of trying to go it alone. No one expects you to know everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

8. Missed Opportunities 

New grad nurses often think they are not qualified to be a part of committees or councils. This is not true.

Putting yourself out there can also be a launching pad for other opportunities in the future. It is never too early to leverage your willingness to be involved in your future career as a nurse.

9. Infection Control 

Nursing is busy. It can be tempting to cut corners with simple precautions such as handwashing instead of proper sterilization.

Don’t do it. The risk to the patient is just too great. Follow all standard precautions and ask questions about procedures if you are unfamiliar.

10. Workplace Gossip 

As a new grad nurse, you may want to fit in, but Dent offers this stellar advice: “Do your best not to participate. Gossiping is bullying.

You will always remember your first new grad nursing job. Your knowledge will grow exponentially in these early years.

One reminder from Dent: “Coming off new grad nurse orientation is the first of many baby steps you take to learning your new role. Be patient. Ask questions and expect to make a lot of mistakes.”

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