Real-Life Tips from First Day Mistakes in My New Nurse Practitioner Job

Perfectly content with my workload, and always borderline over-committed, I wasn’t looking for a new nurse practitioner job. Until, that is, the former medical director of the emergency department where I work sent an email asking for help in his new facility. Intrigued by the opportunity to work somewhere new, and attracted to the possibility of again practicing with someone who had been instrumental in training me to be the NP I am today, I accepted the job.

Having worked in the emergency department for more than six years now, I wasn’t too concerned about starting the new position. I figured I could handle learning the logistics of a new department since I’ve got experience to back up the patient care part of the deal. During my first shift, however, I was reminded of the pain of starting a new job.

Based on my first-day mishaps, here are a few tips for conquering the initial days on a new nurse practitioner job.

Identify Allies

Undoubtedly, when you start a new job as an NP, you’re going to have questions. Identify a few friendly individuals willing to help you out. Ideally, you will introduce yourself to one or two people who can offer assistance with clinical questions, and one or two people to whom you can direct questions about logistics, systems, and processes in the practice. Need directions to room 6? You’ve got someone for that. Not sure how to proceed with managing the elevated blood sugar in room 3? You’ve found someone willing to assist. By having more than one go-to, you can spread out your question-asking so you don’t feel like a burden to any one coworker.

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Be Prepared

On my way to my first shift in the new emergency department, I had to make a hurried stop at the scrub depot across the street. Nurse practitioners in the emergency department are asked to wear lab coats. And, of course, after rummaging through my entire house, realized I had left mine at my other job. Ideally, I should have figured this out a day or two before my shift to avoid the last minute rush and arriving, already frazzled, at the start of my shift. Not to mention, I would have left a better impression on my coworkers with a freshly steamed lab coat rather than one with those right-out-of-the-package wrinkles.

Do a Test Run

After my last second dash to the scrub hub, I pulled up to the emergency department to realize I was unsure about the parking situation for employees. My orientation had mentioned the name of the garage, but I knew I would never navigate the hospital complex, elevators, and hallways and make it on time to work. I should have done a test run so I knew where to park on my first day. It would have helped me arrive in a clearer state of mind.

Bring Sustenance

A few hours into my first shift, I got a massive, hangry, headache. I had packed dinner, but was generally feeling behind and unorganized and couldn’t find time to search for a microwave to heat up my meal. So, I relied on some stray Halloween candy I found carelessly tossed in a drawer at my desk (sorry if this was yours!). Needless to say, the mini Milky Way bars didn’t do the trick, and left me with a subsequent energy crash. Pack a lunch or dinner and snacks for your first day (don’t forget your nurse practitioner survival kit). And, make sure these are items that are quick and easy to eat. It’s likely you won’t find time for a true meal break your first day on a new job.

Flexibility is Key

I expected the clinical aspects of my new emergency department position to be pretty similar to those at the other facility where I work. Except they weren’t. In my new position, nurse practitioners are expected to take on more responsibility and have a greater scope of practice. Adjusting to new expectations clinically along with learning the logistics of a new workplace was more difficult than I expected (and exhausting!). Flexibility and adapting to unexpected responsibilities and situations is key when you start a new job. Don’t worry, you’ll get into a groove in no time.

Work Your @$$ Off

The emergency department was hopping on my first day. While I felt inefficient since I was learning the ropes, I tried as hard as I could to contribute…until the end of my shift. Worn out, I regret not mustering up more energy at the end of my 12 hours and staying late to tie up loose ends. The physician I was working alongside would have appreciated the help, and I would have left a more positive impression. Next time!

Are you starting a new nurse practitioner job? What tips do you have for others in a similar position? 


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