Transitioning from Nursing School to Actually Being A Nurse

Let me first start out by saying that working as a nurse is so  much better than being a nursing student! I know a lot of people find nursing school particularly stressful, so don’t worry there is light at the end of the tunnel haha. But real talk. Today I wanted to dive into what my transition was like from nursing school to being an actual nurse and hopefully this will help any of you out there with any questions or “concerns” you have about life after nursing school!

For those of you that don’t know, I am a medical ICU nurse. This was my first job out of nursing school ( I graduated December 2015). So yes, you can work in an ICU when you first graduate but most places require that you have a certain number of clinical hours in an ICU prior to. For me, I did my capstone in a medical and surgical ICU, but I also did a summer internship while in nursing school at a medical ICU. During this summer internship, I worked alongside a RN so I could see everything that the job entailed and also practice my skills that I would need. The hospital and unit that I work in now is where I did that internship. With that said, I felt like my transition into nursing was a little easier because I was already familiar with my unit. However, there are still things that you can’t be prepared for and just have to learn on your own!

Before even getting into the transition of working as a RN, I want to talk about nursing school for a second. For all of you out there that are stressed because you aren’t making straight A’s, because you did poorly on your last test, because you failed “how to make a bed” during your first semester–which is so stupid by the way because there are fitted sheets in the hospital LOL and also who gives a fuck on how to make a bed when you’re trying to safe the patient’s life (maybe that is the ICU nurse in me talking LOL but whatever!) Point being….DO NOT STRESS. Guys, I get that nursing school is stressful but let me tell you something. Those of us that graduated with honors and had the “best” grades, did not get any better of a job. Yes, grades are important to an extent, BUT it’s also about your personality, your work ethic, if you’re a good fit for the position you’re applying for. TRUST ME ON THIS. Quick example.

I applied to Duke’s accelerated BSN program and I got in, but it was so  expensive. So I had the choice to either go to UNCW and not have any student loans, or go to Duke and have over 100K in loans. I ended up choosing UNCW but I was so concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get a job at a hospital like Duke if I didn’t go to their program and have the best grades from a top tier school. Well, you know what? I got the summer internship that I applied for at Duke, and I got hired there right out of nursing school in my first unit of choice. While I work with other nurses that went to Duke’s program, I’ve also met several other nurses during orientation that went to Duke and applied to their unit of choice and didn’t get the job. SO. POINT IS. There’s a lot more to it than going to the “best” school and having the best grades. Some of the best nurses I know didn’t make amazing grades, and some other nurses I know who made amazing grades…well, you know where I’m going with this hahah.

Okay, so let’s talk about those first few months of working after graduation. FORGET WHAT YOU LEARNED IN NURSING SCHOOL. Kidding, well, sort of. I mean nursing school will obviously give you a great foundation to a certain extent but so much of being a nurse is just what you learn from experience. Like, remember those bed baths you gave in nursing school? Yeahhh, not anything like the real thing. So what I’m trying to say is, that every unit, floor, hospital does things a little differently and it will just take time for you to adjust and acclimate to learning your unit’s policies in addition to how to be a nurse. In the beginning you will be super task oriented. Like, you’re not doing as much critical thinking because you’re so focused on getting the actual task done itself. That’s okay in the beginning. But as time goes on, those tasks will become much more second nature, your time management will improve immensely, and you’ll be more focused on the critical thinking that you have to do. So don’t worry, it just takes time.

I will say that one thing I think is SUPER important when starting your job. Choose a position somewhere that you like the people you work with! The unit or floor culture that you end up working on has a huge impact on how your first job will be. For example, my manager is amazing–she always advocates for us and you can tell that she cares about your wellbeing. Also, the other nurses I work with are pretty great. Everyone is willing to help each other out, and I when I first started (and now) I felt like I could ask questions and not be made to feel stupid (side note: do not be afraid to ask questions. It’s the new nurses that don’t ask questions that people are scared of! haha). I’ve heard many nurses say that the reason they had a less than optimal experience as a new grad is because they didn’t like the people they worked with, or their manager wasn’t that great. When you’re a new grad especially, you will need to rely on others for help more often. You want to work somewhere that you feel like you can ask for help and guidance. You want to have good teamwork.

As far as the actual nursing schedule goes, I think most new grads end up working 3 12 hour shifts a week. Some will do more of a traditional 9-5 schedule if they are in a clinic, but I think most of us end up working the 3 12’s. I won’t get into working night shift in this post, because I’ve already covered that here. But I will say that in general, the 3 days a week are amazing…like, I can’t imagine working 5 days a week! However, they are tiring. Especially in the beginning when you’re still trying to figure it all out as a new grad. I feel like it takes an extra toll on you because you have more that you’re trying to navigate through–it’s not just  a 12 hour shift. But, like anything, that will pass and before you know it you’ll find your rhythm. I will also say that I loved both my preceptors, but I know that people who have several preceptors may find it difficult to find their own routine because you’re taking in different approaches that have worked for different nurses. Just know that you will eventually find what works for you, and your day-to-day will be much smoother!

I feel like I could go on and on about this topic but those are just some of the highlights! What other topics do you guys want covered that are nursing related? Please let me know as I’m happy to help you guys and write about them! xx C

Shop The Post


Ps. For those of you that have questions about my hairstyle & color in the photos above, be sure to check out my hair post if you missed it!


Let's Get You Subscribed to Claire Guentz!!

What will you get as a CG subscriber? A weekly newsletter packed with CG life updates, a tip of the week, and you saw it here first content (you get all the sneak peaks!)

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

17 thoughts on “Transitioning from Nursing School to Actually Being A Nurse

  1. So true about getting a job after nursing school! It doesn’t matter about going to a private school! I went to a state school so I would have less debt, but I worked hard and made connections and was able to get a job as a new grad in one of Boston’s best hospitals.
    Love this blog post! 😊

  2. Such great advice. I completely agree with your thoughts on starting out in nursing. Thanks for sharing this, I wish I knew of someone who went into this much detail about what it would be like by the time I graduated.

  3. My sister is IN nursing school and living with us and I just sent her a link to this because sometimes I think she just needs to breath and realize that her grades are incredible (they really are), but they don’t necessarily have to be perfect……all about that “living a little life” haha. Thanks for writing about a topic that can help us all relate to the nurses in our lives 😉

    1. Yay! Yeah I hope this is helpful cos I know how you can get tunnel vision in nursing school. If she ever has any questions she can always ask me!

  4. I’m in nursing school currently. And it was so nice to hear from you and your thoughts!! Thank you, I️ really enjoyed reading this and hope to see more 😊

  5. I am currently in my second semester of nursing school, and I am so glad to have found this post! Thank you for sharing your insight! I’d love to hear how you chose the ICU or tips on finding the right unit/job!

    1. So glad it was helpful! And I think as you go through nursing school you start to realize what areas are definitely not for you, eliminate those, and then go from there. For me, I always knew I didn’t want to do babies or kids. And I loved patho pharm so I wanted to work in a unit where I would use a lot of critical thinking—which lead me to the ICU!

  6. This was such a great post! I am currently about to start my second semester of nursing school and can’t wait to start my nursing classes next fall! I am focusing right now on my gen eds and then will take nursing classes! Can’t wait! I have considered surgical nursing but still haven’t done clinicals so will probably be more opened by career options! I started my blog back in Aug of 2017 and am a recent high school grad. Just trying to connect with other nurses and bloggers out there! My blog is all about positivity, fitness, health, food, nursing school and just this average gals life! Totally believed it when you said personality is important when being a nursing which is very true! I wouldn’t want to be sick and go see a nurse who wasn’t nice because that would make me feel even worse! Sorry this comment is so long just thought I would reach out! Thanks and have a great day!

    1. That’s so awesome—congrats!! And yeah as you go through your nursing school clinical you will see more of what you like and don’t like but I always thought surgery was interesting too! Especially surgical trauma. And thanks for saying hi!! Good luck with everything—Nursing school can be tough but it is definitely worth it! You can do it!!

  7. Liked your post. Just pinned it to a group board. I’m a new grad preparing for the NCLEX, who has just started a blog on the nursing school experience. I’ve accepted an ICU position and plan to write about the experience as well. Started following. Look forward to your next post. 🙂

    1. Oh yay! that’s awesome! And love that you’re going to share more about your experience 🙂 thanks for the support babe!

Leave a Reply