STUDENT VOICES: The unspoken: The stresses of a novice nurse
Laura French RN

December 2011 
Volume 41  Number 12
Pages 16 - 17
  PDF Version Available!

ALL NEW NURSES go through a "breaking-in" stage, which is accompanied by an unfathomable stress. Unprepared for the pressure, they're often reluctant to talk about it. In this article I'd like to speak for all new nurses by describing my experiences as a new nurse during one typical shift.When I enter the unit, I hear bells and beepers, nurses talking to healthcare providers on the phone, a patient screaming for help, and another one vomiting. I see nurses scrambling to pass meds, unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP) darting from room to room, and the exhausted expressions on every worker's face. I smell the strong odor of gastrointestinal bleeding and wafts of leftovers from dinner trays as they're carried down the hall.My chest begins to tighten as I smile and say hello to the previous nurse to get report. I haven't even started my work; simply entering the environment floods me with stress.After receiving report on six patients, each with different medical diagnoses, I make a list of everything I need to accomplish during my 12-hour shift: * complete and document assessments * administer medications, including I.V. antibiotics * suction, measure, and record intake and output * insert a urinary catheter * draw blood for lab work * check each medical record to make sure all prescriptions were entered correctly.I'll get everything done if I just keep moving, I think to myself."Beep beep beep!" The sudden high-pitched tone of the pager at the nurses' station makes my stomach flip."Great, we're getting another admission. Can't they see we're full already? Now we're in overflow," one of the staff members grumbles. I strain to hear who will receive the admission."That would be Laura," states the charge nurse.I stop what I'm doing and quickly reprioritize in my head as I attempt to focus on my newly admitted patient as he's transported down the hall. As I gather the necessary paperwork and prepare to begin my admission assessment, everything escalates from bad to worse.

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