Prepare for Your First Year as a Nurse

Once nursing school is over and you have passed your exams, it is time to prepare for your first year as a nurse. Nursing schools provide a time of learning and practicing skills, and the first year that you work as a nurse will continue this as you adjust to a new work environment and your responsibilities.

Depending on the area in which you are hired, you may work with a preceptor, which is usually a seasoned nurse who will do a lot of your training. You may follow a preceptor for a designated period of time as you learn about the institution’s policies and gain experience doing procedures. New graduates, while having practiced at school, may not be prepared for the pace of working as a nurse. Additionally, the policies at a new job may be much different from those that you learned in nursing school.

You may spend time practicing techniques and slowly building up to practicing completely on your own. Remember that seasoned nurses are still there to help you even after you have completed your preceptorship. As you work with others, you may feel as if you are making mistakes, but the first year is a challenging time of learning and you may discover some things that you will remember throughout the rest of your career.


When working with other health care personnel, remember to have respect for others’ time and efforts, as this may turn out to help you later if you need it. All members of the health care team work together, whether it is the nurses, physicians, pharmacists, assistants, or janitors. Each job is needed for the unit to function as a whole, and no position is better than another. Most other people have worked in that particular setting much longer than you have and understand how the work progresses. By respecting their efforts, you can make a smooth transition into your new job and as part of the overall team.

Ask questions and seek guidance if you do not know how to do something. Part of nursing is not just caring for patients, but for helping and supporting other nurses along the way. Eventually, you will be offering guidance to a new graduate nurse that has joined your area and may be looking for help.

Possibilities for Your First Job

Once you have passed the NCLEX and received your license, you can consider where to work as your first job. This is an exciting opportunity, as you will finally be able to put the skills you have learned in nursing school to use in the world of health care. Your first job as a nurse is a major time of learning from others, but you will be trained and prepared through school and the testing process.

When considering your first job, think about what areas you would like to work in. Deciding on a job involves choosing not only what you want to do, but what you are qualified to do. Some settings, such as intensive care units, trauma, and other specialized areas, do not hire new graduates and may require advanced certification. You may need to spend time working in an area that hires nursing graduates in order to gain experience for the more specialized units.

Some nursing schools or other programs allow graduate nurses to follow a clinical specialty, allowing them to work as a student for a specific period of time to learn many functions of the job. This may occur while still in school or as a student is waiting to take the NCLEX. Often, these opportunities are designed to be training programs that allow new graduate nurses to learn the ropes and then to go on to work there.

Another option that graduate nurses may consider is working in the float pool. This is a group of nurses that are assigned to work in various areas based on what unit needs help each day. For example, in some areas where there is a high volume of patients, a float nurse may be assigned to work in that area for her shift. The next day, she may be assigned to work somewhere else and “floats” between units without a specific area to call home. The float pool is a good way to learn many different areas of specialty, particularly if you are still deciding on where to work.

When considering your first job, consider a job offer as an opportunity to learn. Some nurses stay in their first job for only a few months before moving on to something else, while others stay for their entire career.