Congratulations, new graduates! You'll be fine.


You won't kill anybody.

No, I mean it. Seriously. Just remember Jo's First Rule of Nursing:

If you have to fuck with it, it's wrong.

This was brought home to me in a big way just yesterday, when I had a patient with one of those don't-stop-it-or-they'll-die drips. The pharmacy sent a bag with a certain concentration of drug, and that matched the doctor's order, but the pump....was fucked. I couldn't make the drug dosage on the order match the drip rate in the pump's library, no matter how much I fucked with it.

So I stopped. Because fucking with it until you can't remember exactly how you got to where you are means it's wrong. I got another pump, with a different drug library, and I reprogrammed that pump, and everything was fine and dandy.

Advice for the new nurse, graduate nurse, or intern, gleaned from five minutes' worth of actually paying attention over the last decade:

1. Do not freak the fuck out.

There will be time to learn everything you need to know. There will be people who are willing to answer your questions, and people who will have your back (even if you don't know it at the time) and people on whom you can call when things hit the fan. You are not doing this on your own. Everybody has been where you are; sometimes we feel like we're right there with you once again.

2. Actually killing somebody means that a lot of things have gone wrong.

Therefore, it's extremely difficult. With any medication or procedure or what-have-you, there is a string of quality-assurance checks that happen that are meant to ensure that you, New Nurse, will not make a mistake. Trust the procedure, but verify. Which brings us to:

3. Be sure to ask for help or advice when you're not feeling confident.

I ask for help every damn day, and I have been doing one thing for eight years. How many of you have done one thing for eight years? Show of hands?

Yeah. That's what I thought.

The point here is that the human body, even independent of doctors' orders, can do crazy shit with very little warning. Don't bully on through if you don't feel good about it. It's worth it to look like an idiot, or to take the extra five minutes to verify a policy or drug dosage.

4. This ain't no party; this ain't no disco; this sure as hell ain't no fucking Grey's Anatomy.

Don't sleep with your coworkers.

I don't care how cute that nurse is: you're asking for trouble if you have a horizontal relationship. Ditto the resident, the intern, the attending, the other nurse's boyfriend. Just don't. If you must have a relationship with another nurse--a decision which might lead to endless arguments about who had the worse code that day--make it a nurse you don't work with directly.

I, and your other coworkers, thank you.

For this one, Rob, I'm looking at you:

5. Don't work too hard.

There is time. Coco Chanel said that there was time for love and time for work, and no time for anything else. If you adhere to that philosophy, you'll be a crappy, burnt-out nurse in no time. I know you have loans to pay off and an electricity bill that's two months overdue, but you can't kill yourself the first six months out of school. Any knowledge or insight you gain will be overwhelmed by stress hormones.

Take some time to rediscover what you loved before you started drinking from the firehose that is nursing school. Remember what it's like to wake up in the morning (or evening) with nothing to do all day (or night). Read for pleasure. Go catch a movie. Spend a couple of hours doing nothing but daydreaming and petting the dog. It'll not only help you stay healthy, it'll make your brain more able to retain information, true fact!

You're done. You've walked the stage, you're about to take the NCLEX (and you'll pass, I swear), you're getting ready to start a hell of an adventure.

Congratulations! And I look forward to working with you.