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Nurse First News Blog

Nurse Feature: You Don't Have to Know it All!

Posted August 9, 2021

When I first logged onto my NCLEX account and saw that I had passed my Nursing Boards exam I thought: “What a relief! I can finally take a breath!” Nope. Not even close. 15 years later I still hold my breath some days. Don’t worry though, I have a lot more stamina that keeps me going and you will, too.

Renee O’Brien, RN

Nothing prepares you for your first job as a nurse. School gives you that essential foundation. But you don’t know until you walk through those front doors of your first nursing job just how unprepared you are. I think that is the point, though. They don’t explain it all in school or even on the job. Eventually, you instinctively know as you make your way through this journey of being a nurse. You are always going to be learning, never knowing all the answers. There will even be some days where you have to completely change your practice because “whoops, we made a mistake and we were wrong about that.” After all, it is a nursing practice.

I believe that is the absolute second best part of this job (after caring for patients). Even to this day, I work with nurses who have been in the profession for 20, 30, 40, even 50 years! (She was amazing by the way. Didn’t look a day over 50). I have heard all of them say the same thing: “I don’t know.”

There was no shame or embarrassment. No fear or intimidation. They just said it with total confidence. It was inspiring. The smartest, most educated nurses I have ever met and they didn’t have all the answers. Neither will you, and that’s okay. You’re learning. Just like the rest of us. It will keep you on your toes, nourish your soul and mind, and make you a better nurse.

Sometimes it’s hard to have to admit you don’t know something. Even if you think that you should. Doesn’t matter. You can’t possibly know and retain it all. That’s why we always have a pharmacology book at the tip of our fingers. Along with IV pumps that calculate and have set parameters, call lights, schedules, calendar reminders, CEU’s, alarms, etc. The list goes on and on. Don’t even get me started on hospital policies and procedures. Those are conveniently located on your desktop and always changing!

“I don’t know.” Three simple words that show vulnerability. That makes us… Relatable. Approachable. Trusted. Human.

So, what is the point of this? I don’t want you to burn yourself out because you didn’t know “all the things”. I see it all the time. Young nurses getting overwhelmed and frustrated. They are dangerously close to throwing in the towel and saying “I’m done. I can’t do it anymore”. Step back, take a breath, then say “I don’t know”. The other end of that statement of course is always: “Let’s find out together.”

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