Nursing Book Club

First Year Nurse: Wisdom, Warnings and What I Wish I had Known My First 100 Days on the Job by Barbara Arnoldussen, RN, MBA

Helpful Advice for the New Nurse

I look back on my early years as a nurse as having been really difficult. We still had glass IV bottles and no IV pumps. We mixed our own antibiotics. Patient/nurse ratios back then would probably be illegal now. We often rotated all three shifts each week, working three weekends out of every four.

Today, 40 years later, I have a vast amount of nursing wisdom that I wish I could share with that terrified earlier version of myself. If you know a new graduate RN who is (or will shortly be) in the same boat I was back then, Kaplan Publishing has made it easy to share a veteran’s wisdom with fledgling nurses.

The current edition of a book first published in 2004 (as Training Wheels for Nurses), First Year Nurse outlines what every new nurse needs to know, amplified by advice and quotes from nurses in almost every specialty, from every corner of the country. This small volume, which could fit in a scrub jacket pocket, is one of those rare books that make you feel proud each time you can say, “I knew that!”.

First Year Nurse begins by acknowledging how difficult it is to bridge the gap between nursing student and working nurse. The book then offers worthwhile suggestions on finding that first job, knowing what to expect when you get it and learning how to fit in. For instance, you may not have anyone to shadow, which could leave you feeling like you’ve been thrown in the deep end. Finding a mentor to help you, even an unofficial one, can be huge step toward success.

The book also covers small but important issues that no one ever usually teaches, like whether it’s better to have a short or long stethoscope and how the ear pieces should fit. It encourages you to attend conferences, guiding you in finding ones that will be most useful and offering tips on what to do when you attend (i.e., talk to others and don’t sit by yourself). There’s also advice on what to do with all the free literature you’ll pick up.

Building the Basics

A nurse who worked as a legal consultant once told me that every RN should follow at least two publications: one national nursing journal and one specific to his or her specialty. First Year Nurse includes a list of publications that you might want to order or at least check out from your local library or the library in your hospital (if there is one).

Are you going to work at a teaching institution? If so, this book has suggestions on how to deal with medical residents and the ground rules for calling attending physicians at night. (A key tip: Have all the necessary information ready before you place that 3 a.m. call.)

This book’s practical advice doesn’t end with what to do while you are on duty. First Year Nurseeven manages to fit in some wonderful advice on self-care during the stressful early years of a profession that can test the limits of your physical, mental and emotional endurance. Loving your job doesn’t mean that you can’t also take some time off to enjoy other pastimes. Learning to energize yourself during the workday is only half the battle.

Nursing Education

The quotes from other nurses sprinkled throughout First Year Nurse are invaluable. New graduates are often terrified of making mistakes (or else blithely convinced that they never will). What you find difficult today will make you a better nurse in the future, so learn as much as you can and don’t be so hard on yourself.

When things have seemed impossible in my career, I’ve found that just knowing that good, experienced nurses have been in the same spot makes the challenge somehow more bearable. I have been a working nurse for 40 years now, so I can say for certain that the job does get easier and more rewarding.

I wish that my nursing school or first hospital had provided me with a copy of this book. It translates what you learned in school into solid advice that you can use on the job. Even if you’re closing in on retirement, reading this volume can help you become a better instructor or mentor to the newbies on the floor. There’s something in First Year Nurse for everyone.

First Year Nurse: Wisdom, Warnings and What I Wish I’d Known My First 100 Days on the Jobedited by Barbara Arnoldussen, RN, MBA (Kaplan Publishing, 2016)


Christine Contillo, RN, BSN, PHN, is a public health nurse whose 40-year nursing career has taken her from inner cities to medical missions in Central America. She turned to writing because she believes that everyone, not just nurses, needs to understand what nurses do.


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