Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Top 5 Things They Don't Teach You

I've only been working as a RN for 4-5 months, but I have already figured out there's a TON of stuff you don't learn in nursing school...

1. How to talk to doctors
This was probably the hardest thing for me. I barely had any experience with this in school. Nurses love knowing the backstory to everything. Doctors are different. They just want to know what the issue is and any recommendations you have. Some doctors may not like nurses giving recommendations... It's really something you have to figure out along the way as you meet and talk to each doc. If you're night shift like me, it's also hard to figure out if you should call the doctor now or if it could wait until morning. This is where I really lean on the more experienced nurses for advice. Once you gain a relationship with the doctors, they will respect you and really listen to what you have to say. I promise.

2. Different medications
I work on a cardiac unit. As everyone knows, there are a ton of different cardiac meds. It was hard for me to figure out the differences between all of them. We also get a lot of different drips on my floor. Some are titratable, and some aren't. I ended up looking up the policy on all drips my floor gets and making note cards that I keep with me at work. Now I have all of this information right at my fingertips.

3. Preparing for procedures/surgeries
NPO or not? Consent or not? What meds should I give/not give? This was very hard for me to figure out. I actually got a few different cheat sheets from some of the nurses on my floor to help. If none of the nurses are sure, I always call the doc or the department doing the procedure to ask. It never hurts to ask questions just to be safe and prepared!

4. Post-op care
We take lung and open heart surgeries on my floor. Often times, these patients have chest tubes, drips, wires, etc. I never had experience with lung and heart surgeries in nursing school. Some people in my class got assigned to CPCU for med-surg clinical, but I wasn't that lucky. It was hard to get used to at first. I actually am still training to take open heart patients. I'm supposed to go see an open heart surgery and follow that patient to the ICU, which I am super excited about! Not many people get that opportunity in school.

5. How much responsibility comes with being a nurse
I knew nurses were kind of a big deal, but I didn't realize how much say in patients' care I really have. Nurses are the eyes and ears when the doctor isn't there. We are the ones to catch things before they go wrong and fix them when they do. We decide what meds to give and what meds to hold. We really do have a lot of responsibility, and I guess I just didn't realize it until I was the nurse.

The list could go on and on....

What other things did you realize you didn't learn in nursing school? Let me know!
Until next time,


  1. Jennie this makes me so nervous and excited all at the same time. Between me and you I've "unoffically" found out I passed my boards (I'll post the announcements when it pops up on the board of nursing), so I'll be starting on your unit next week! I'll be eager to talk to you more and am excited for your advice and guidance :) I am going shopping for my scrubs and shoes tomorrow and other necessities. Do you recommend I get a binder to stay organized with during my shifts? Should I get scissors or a pen light? What do you use on the daily?

    1. Ahhh congrats! I am so excited to have another friend on the floor :) I wanted to poop my pants the first three months coming to work each day but now I'm a lot more comfortable haha. Having a preceptor is awesome. The scariest is your first day without them lol. I know you'll do fine! Yes I would get scissors. I don't use them too often but they're definitely nice to have for dressing changes. You'll do a lot of chest tube dressing changes if you're on day shift. I have a penlight and barely use it, but it is nice to have bc we do get stroke alerts sometimes since a lot of our patients are a fib and throw clots. I have a binder! I would get that or a clipboard. I have a ton of papers I can copy for you that are like cheat sheets lol. Let me know who your preceptor is when you find out!

  2. This is a great post, thanks for sharing. I promoted it on Fb bc it's so helpful :)

    1. Thank you so much. Glad you found it helpful!