When you’re in nursing school, it’s easy to feel confident. After all, you’re learning everything you need to know. You’re getting good grades and you’re acing your clinicals.
What could possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, once you start a new job, being the class president or top student won’t matter. You’ll have to establish credibility and that’s not an easy task. In fact, it can be downright shocking and scary.
Now, before we get to the best tips in handling reality shock in nursing, let’s talk about its stages first.
The Four Phases of Reality Shock In Nursing
Whether you are a new nurse or a veteran nurse trying out a new specialty, expect to experience reality shock. Here are its 4 phases to help you prepare yourself.
This is where you see your new role in a positive light. Everything looks bright and you feel great. You’re having fun and you enjoy learning a lot of things.
During this phase, you’ll begin to learn your unit’s routine. You’ll be introduced to new people and you’ll develop new skills that will help you be better at work.
During the shock phase, you’ll begin to notice the discrepancies and irregularities at work. You’ll find inconsistencies that will make you realize the flaws of the nursing profession.
This can include poor professional behaviors, being bullied, being humiliated, and realizing that you don’t have all the necessary tools and equipment for your work.
At this point, you’ll learn to make adjustments.
As you begin to regain your focus and values as a nurse, you’ll get a better idea of what needs to be worked on and how you can make things work. You’ll realize that your books and grades shouldn’t limit your practice as long as you are caring for your patients properly.
This is the phase where you realize the nurse you want to be. You have to be careful during this stage as it is the point where you consider adopting values and principles just to fit your working environment.
How to Handle Reality Shock in Nursing
It’s natural to feel shocked as you learn more about your working environment. However, instead of feeling anxious and stressed out, try to focus on finding solutions.
Here are the best ways to deal with reality shock when you’re a nurse.
1Take advantage of the honeymoon phase
Once you get the job, you’ll go through the initial stage called the honeymoon phase. It’s when you feel all positive, enthusiastic, and outgoing.
Take advantage of those feelings. Introduce yourself and keep asking questions. Learn everything you need to learn and show interest in learning them. Be humble and reach out to people.
2Expect the unexpected
When you’re reading case studies and studying different medical conditions, it’s easy to get comfortable with what you know. This is totally different from what you’ll encounter at work.
Different things can come up within a single shift and you might even encounter cases you’ve never seen before. With this, it’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios.
Think about the worst things that can happen and be prepared for them. If you are unsure, ask for help. Don’t feel bad about asking nurses with years of experience.
The transition from being a student to an actual registered nurse is already a tough process. If you don’t change your attitude and you continue to maintain high and unrealistic expectations, things can get more complicated.
Nursing is not a glamorous job. You’ll get exposed to urine, vomit, and even poop. You’ll meet difficult patients and you’ll have to deal with stubborn doctors. Failure to accept all these things can easily make you feel unsatisfied with your job.
So, instead of fighting reality, embrace it.
Know more about your patients and learn the best ways to approach your doctors. Instead of just focusing all your attention to your routine tasks, like taking vital signs and assessing patients, take the time to really read your patients’ charts and learn about diseases you are not familiar with.
Talk to your patients, too. Learning more about their medical history can make things a lot more exciting for you.
4Keep a professional journal
This can help you keep your values, beliefs, and principles as a nurse in check. Write down your feelings and acknowledge them. Reflect on what you think can be improved and work hard for them. Don’t forget to find your sense of humor. It can make things a lot lighter and less stressful for you.
5Identify conflicts and solve them early
As you find discrepancies and inconsistencies, conflicts can arise. Try your best to solve them as soon as you realize them. You can seek support from trusted professionals, like a senior nurse or a nurse manager, if you are having a hard time coping.
And as you experience successes, don’t forget to celebrate them no matter how small they are. By focusing on what’s working well, you’ll feel a whole lot better.