Oh, if I could go back to when I was a new nurse.  The things I would do differently!  I have been a nurse for a little more than 20 years but I really didn’t get it until I had been practicing for almost 8 years.  I was a good nurse – I didn’t call off, I took good care of my patients, helped other nurses, was kind and respectful to all staff from housekeepers to attending physicians but that’s pretty much where it ended.  Once I was done with work, I punched out and went home to be a mom, wife, neighbor, sister, etc.  I didn’t really embrace my role as a nurse until I punched in the next shift.

I realize now that nursing isn’t a Monday thru Friday punch in and punch out job. It’s a professional career that requires an infusion of nursing practice beyond the walls of our healthcare institutions.  So, what would I do differently if I could go back?  I would get involved right from the beginning.

To get involved as a new nurse, follow these 3 steps:
Step 1: Join a professional nursing organization and attend a local chapter meeting.  This is the best way to get involved with minimal risk.  Look for information regarding local chapter activities in your area.  Talk to your preceptor, educator or unit manager about professional organizations that they support.  It’s a great way to meet other professional nurses and learn about nursing practice without really investing too much of your energy.

Step 2:  Participate on a committee or council at work. Not only does this look good on a resume but it gives you an opportunity to see how meetings are run (the good, bad and ugly), how decisions are made and how improvements are implemented.  Attending these meetings can really help you to understand how the business of healthcare works and the important role of nurses in quality improvement.

Step 3:  Read, read and read!  Read professional nursing journals, blogs (such as mine!), social media (twitter messages, Facebook posts from nursing sites) and even your local newspaper to get a feel for what’s happening in healthcare.  Then, share what you have learned and even repost a comment or 2.  You will start to believe in the power you have as a nurse to truly make a difference.

I’m trying to catch up for lost time right now, but you don’t have to.  Start small and be consistent.  What you learned in nursing school is just the tip of the iceberg.  To truly be successful as a nurse, you need to get involved and stay involved.  Trust me, your colleagues and your patients will thank you!

Take care