To the Next Generation of Nurses

As someone who has worked part-time and full-time as a nurse, both before and during the pandemic, I’ve seen the nursing profession change over the last few years. From the skills we need to thrive in this career to the complexity of the challenges we face, the landscape is going through a transformation. Even what it means to be a nurse is evolving as the next generation seeks different opportunities, such as travel or part-time positions.

I’ve recently faced several new challenges, including nurses leaving the profession due to COVID-19 fears and burnout, and felt the pressure of constantly having to adjust to new information. To deal with these challenges, I’ve had to change my mindset, learn new skills, and alter my approach.

To succeed in the evolving nursing world while still finding joy and fulfillment in the profession, here is my advice for future nurses.

Seek Collaboration and Trust

In nursing, you have to rely on your colleagues. When you’re in a tense situation, you need to know the people around you have your back and you have theirs.

Admittedly, we are not in complete control of our environment or our team, but trusting others starts with being trustworthy yourself. Be the person other nurses and technicians can turn to when they need help. Other people trusting you may be that necessary first step for you to trust them.

Help Patients Advocate for Themselves

It’s understanding to feel annoyed when a patient continuously calls for you. Remember, though, that the call light is more than a call light. It’s the patient’s voice. It’s their way of saying they need help, comfort, support, or someone to listen to their concerns.

It doesn’t matter who the patient is, what type of treatment they want, or why they want a second opinion. Their voice counts, and nurses need to empower patients by listening to them. Even if you disagree with what they’re asking for, you can still bring it to the attention of the physician and show the patient their voice has been heard.

Learn to Navigate and Understand Research

In healthcare, especially during the pandemic, there is a constant influx of updated information, contradictory articles, and new evidence. To navigate all this information and determine what’s true, you have to learn to remove your bias from your practice. You also have to be willing to accept new information once you vet it. Since best practices are constantly evolving, you have to continuously commit to seeking peer-reviewed research that expands your knowledge.

I recommend learning more about nursing research journals. It’s critical to understand why a peer-reviewed article must include evidence-based data, and why this is more reliable than an article from a journal accepting submissions from anyone. Nurses should also be able to evaluate sources, identify bias, and make sense of raw data.

Be Adaptable

I know “adaptability” is a buzzword in most industries and job listings. Most career paths require a certain level of being able to seamlessly adapt to new circumstances, but healthcare is truly all about change.

Without change and adaptation, we wouldn’t have gene therapy, advanced life support, new medications, or mRNA vaccines. In healthcare, you have to accept change because it is inevitably and necessary. With new policies, information, schedule changes, and more coming at you every day or week, you have to absorb the change and adapt to it.

Instead of just being willing to accept change, I encourage you to become an active part of it. If you want better patient outcomes or higher wages for nurses, or see another area that needs growth, I encourage you to advocate for it. Become part of the change by voicing your concerns, seeking new research, and finding better ways to adapt to the evolving world.

Prioritize Self-Care

I relate to the feeling that you have to take on extra shifts, have everything in order before your shift ends, or never say no, but this is not the path I recommend. If you don’t take care of yourself outside the hospital, you can’t be there for your patients the way you want to be.

No matter how many hours you work or how much energy you have, you must replenish it. Understand that things like sleep, time with your loved ones, and choosing manageable work hours are necessary parts of the nursing job, rather than just optional luxuries.

Seek Mentorship

first, I want the next generation of nurses to succeed both in their careers and personal lives. Keep in mind that after you graduate, the first place you end up might not be as supportive or conducive to your professional development as you need — but there are people out there who want to teach you and see you grow.

Don’t be afraid to seek mentorship, a supportive environment, or more learning opportunities. With leadership and resources, you can thrive as a nurse today.

Andrew Gilman, BSN, RN, is a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas. He is also a nursing content reviewer for UWorld, the online test preparation platform.

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