Tips For Nurses

There is always a lot to learn with a new career and nursing is no different. But once you have a degree and start looking for that perfect job , the education really begins. Here are a few tips to help make that transition from degree to job a little easier.

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) Tips:

Many nurses start their career as Certified Nursing Assistants. Since CNA's are trained on-the-job or through very brief community college course, there is a great deal of information to digest very quickly. One of the best tips for new CNA's is to get a small notebook to carry around. In here you can write down information needed about everything from telephone numbers to resident issues. Jotting down information is a good way to remember it so you can review it later when you have more time. When you think of questions and no one is around to answer them- write them down. Later you can refer back to the book.

The Details of your New Job

Rules where you work can be overwhelming, too. It is always a good idea to know the facility policies and rules before starting a new job. You should make it a point to find out where to go to get this info if it isn't provided to you. Here are some questions to have ready either at your interview or first day of work in a new place:
  • Do holidays pay more than regular work shifts?
  • Does overtime pay occur after 40 hours or after 80 hours?
  • What are their attendance and tardiness policies?
  • Are their pay increases based on merit or amount of time you have worked there?
  • What is their policy on Performance Reviews: When, how often, are raises included with them?
  • What is their uniform policy? Do they provide them?
  • Does facility offer enough hours to meet mandated 12 hours for in-service requirement?
  • Phone numbers to call: For when you need to be out. Time limits?
  • What benefits are offered? When do they go into effect? What will cause termination of benefits?
  • What is their policy on staff meetings? Are the mandatory?
These are basic policy things every employee should know, and know well. Once you have this info, you can make choices about what you need to do and when. Knowing this information will make your life a lot easier and will prevent surprises down the road.

Care Plans. Once beginning your job it is important to find out which residents you will be working with on a regular basis. Reading their care plans is one tool that can help you get to know them. Knowing what you are expected to do for their care is the reason you are employed. Knowing what is in the plan will help you care for these residents in a safe and appropriate manner. You may not understand some of the things in the plan, if this happens you can ask the nurse in charge of the unit. Nurses write the care plans, and they depend upon CNA's to carry out the objectives to meet the goals in the plans.

Find a Mentor. The nurse is an excellent resource for CNA's. In your little book you may want to write down things about your residents from the care plans. Ask questions and learn. Your mentor has experience and can teach you much about your new patients. Watch how your mentor works directly and indirectly with residents and staff. You should learn much just from observing. It is also recommended that you check with the nurse at the beginning of the shift about what is expected of you (or to find out if any duties have changed):

Know your responsibilities. It is also recommended that you check with the nurse at the beginning of the shift about what is expected of you (or to find out if any duties have changed): Do any of your residents need Vital Signs, baths/showers, weights, or other care? When are VS needed by? Also ask about special snack/drink requirements. It is so much better to know this stuff ahead of time rather than ten minutes after they were due. Communication is vital in nursing homes, hospitals and other care facilities among nurses, peers, and residents. Find out where you are supposed to document your care. Ask about paperwork and where it is. It is very important that you get the paperwork done every day.

Planning and Organization. After a few weeks, you will know which residents work well together; you will figure out how to prioritize your care to meet everyone's needs. It takes practice and hard work. One thing that is very helpful is taking a few minutes at the beginning of the shift to plan your assignment- who gets done first, who gets showers and weights and what not. Gathering all your supplies you need before entering a room is a great time management skill all CNA's need. Carry around a pocketful of gloves too. Check with the nurses, investing in some of your own equipment like a blood pressure monitor, is something to consider, too. Back to top

Read More About: CNA / Certified Nursing Assistants

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/ Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Tips:

Becoming an LPN can be a good way to get into nursing as quickly as possible. Therefore, many people that wish to eventually become a registered nurse will start out as an LPN first. Since most all of the duties of an LPN/LVN require attention to detail: taking patients' medical history, taking vital signs, collecting samples for laboratory exams, performing lab work, applying dressings or treatments, administering medications, giving injections, assisting in surgeries, feeding patients, helping patients with hygiene tasks such as brushing teeth and bathing, caring for infants, instructing patients on proper health care, supervising certified nursing assistants, and assisting registered nurses, it is very important that they follow a few very important tips.

With any new job site there are practical questions. Most of these were covered under Certified Nursing Assistants: "Details of Your New Job" section. Those details will apply to all nursing jobs.

LPN/LVN's can become very successful in their jobs by learning the following:

Be careful. Everyone makes mistakes. Nurses are human, and any nurse who has worked for any length of time will tell you that he/she has made a medication error at least once. There are steps to learn to prevent errors in medications or performing other duties. For example, LPN/LVN's take a course in pharmacology in their educational programs. It is essential to follow the "six rights" of medication administration and documentation, even if you have given that same medication to that same patient many times. Physician orders can change, and unless we check the Medication Administration Record (MAR) each time when passing meds, we may not know of any such changes. Shortcuts when times are busy can lead to mistakes. Always think before you act. If unsure, ask someone for clarification about the order you are trying to carry out. Maintain high ethical standards as you practice. Remember that as a nurse, you are the face of the profession and the face of the facility.

Know your responsibilities. The scope of practice for LPN's/LVN's differs somewhat from state to state. It can also differ from facility to facility. All nurses have a professional responsibility to be aware of their legal scope of practice where they work. If you are unsure, contact the Board of Nursing in that state by accessing their website or other means to get the information that you need. Just because you know how to do something doesn't make it legal or consistent with facility policy.

Become involved in professional associations for nursing. There are a variety of professional organizations for LPN's/LVN's. Find out what these are on both a local and national level, and join if at all possible. Nurses can have an incredible amount of power and influence, provided that we work together towards common goals.

Become a Leader. Anyone can be a leader in his/her place of employment as well as his/her profession. Serve on facility committees, present yourself professionally, and be visible (in a positive way, of course) in your workplace.

Set Goals. If you do not plan on continuing your education in nursing, set professional development goals such as joining the professional organization, reading nursing journals, or anything else which would interest you. If you plan to continue in school, make a plan for that as well. Back to top

Read More About: LPN Licensed Practical Nurses / LVN Licensed Vocational Nurses

Registered Nurses (RN) Tips:

Beyond what was covered in the sections of CNA's and LPN/LVN for job success, the Registered Nurse (RN) faces a more professional interview process. Below are some tips to help that all-important interview go smoothly.

These questions will fall into some basic categories: your qualifications for the nursing job and your motivations for being a nurse that help determine whether you will fit in with a particular facility.

Qualifications Why are you interested in this particular nursing job? / Why do you want to work here? Prepare for this by finding out as much as possible about the nursing job and the facility. Use this background research to match your qualifications to the particular job you are interviewing for. For example, say, "I am looking for a position in a facility like this because of your excellent reputation for emergency care."

What do you consider the most important qualities for this nursing job? Make your answer to this nurse interview question relevant to the specific nursing job. For example, common qualities required for an ER nurse include resilience, adaptability, critical thinking, organization, emotional stability and high stress tolerance.

What do you consider your nursing job strengths and weaknesses as a healthcare professional? Prepare three or four key strengths that are compatible to the nursing job and relate them back to other nursing job interview questions wherever possible. Reinforce each attribute with a concrete example - such as how you once handled a particularly stressful ER case. Do not use answers like "management" or "inter-personal skills" unless you can describe, with specific examples, the characteristics of management (planning, organizing, results, staffing, etc.) or how your relationship skills have proven critical to your success. Be honest about your nursing job weaknesses, but choose one or two tolerable ones that you are working on improving. Show that you have the maturity and personal insight to recognize your faults. Discuss how you are managing each one and the improvements you have made so far.

What have been your most significant nursing job accomplishments to date? A good answer to the question about your nursing job accomplishments can help you get the job, so prepare extensively. This would be a good place to insert into your nursing job interview a two-minute story that details achievements relating to this particular nursing job. Highlight personal involvement in a case or situation: Describe how things were when you arrived, how you affected change and the measurable results. Discuss hard work, long hours, pressure and any important issues that were resolved.

What are your future travel nursing job goals? / Where do you see yourself five years from now? Ten years? Your answer to this nurse interview question needs to show your commitment to this job and facility. State one or two reasonable, achievable long-term goals -- otherwise you will come across as immature, unrealistic, or even a dreamer. Explain that this nursing job meets your long term-objectives by providing an opportunity to grow and develop your nursing skills.

Motivation Why did you choose your specialty area of nursing? Whatever your specialty area of nursing - Emergency room, Occupational Health, Community Health, ICU, etc. -- the key to answering nurse interview questions about your career track is to be very specific about why you chose it. What influenced you in your choice? How did you explore your options? Describe how your strengths are utilized in this specialty and how it suits your personal goals.

How do you stay current with the nursing profession? Nursing job interview questions about your motivation to learn and stay updated are meant to ascertain your commitment to nursing profession and career. Possible answers include attending conferences, obtaining certifications, subscribing to professional nursing journals, and joining relevant forums and groups.

What are the biggest challenges facing nursing today? One of the biggest challenges in nursing is the shortage of trained nurses. A good interview tip is to use your answer to demonstrate that you have thought about this issue by offering some likely reasons for the shortage of nurses to fill nursing jobs - and possible solutions. Possible reasons include low nursing-school enrollment due to poor perceptions of nursing as a rewarded career, and nurses leaving the profession due to job dissatisfaction. As for the solutions: This is a perfect time to pitch your talents and capabilities as a nurse. Back to top

Read More About: RN / Registered Nurses

Advanced Degree Nurses (ADN) / Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) Tips:

Nursing is a career in which you can spend your lifetime learning new things since techniques and information are constantly changing. Moving to the next level does not always include a management position. It could also mean examining where you might want to go next with your nursing career. If you are considering an advanced degree to specialize in your area of interest, these tips for each of the advanced degrees might help you in your pursuit.

Obviously, if you are considering an advanced degree, you are either in the process or have already obtained the specialty training required. Some facilities are willing to train or provide reimbursement for your advanced education. It is important to let your supervisors know your goals. Back to top

Nurse Practitioner (NP) Tips:

According to one state Nurse Practitioner Organization, "Nurse practitioners are registered professional nurses who are prepared through advanced graduate education and clinical training, to provide a range of health services, including the diagnosis and management of common as well as complex medical conditions to individuals of all ages." This advanced degree requires rigorous study and tests through licensure to achieve. Beyond the numerous requirements and tips already listed under the previous nursing positions, NP's might benefits from the following:

Networking with other professionals. While beneficial to all careers, networking can allow Nurse Practitioners to find the best fit for their training and specialty. Developing relationships with other professionals in their place of work or through their graduate studies is a proven path to success.

Continued Education. It does seem strange that the most advanced degrees carry this tip, but with constant changes in medical techniques and medicine, this remains one of the most important things a NP can do to help their career.

Treat your degree and career professionally. Keeping an updated resume, making business cards, joining professional networks all help to contribute to your growth as a nurse practitioner. Back to top

Read More About: NP / Nurse Practitioners

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) Tips:

As a nurse midwife, your job includes providing care to the mother before, during and after childbirth; assisting in the delivery of babies; caring for babies after birth; and administering medications. In some states, certified nurse midwives are also legally allowed to prescribe medications. It is important to remember the following:

Details. You will manage the prenatal care and the delivery for new mothers. This means you will need close attention to detail, ability to work in stressful environments and quick thinking. You can be called for deliveries at any time day or night and in some clinics, may be required to do some shift work. With these requirements and the scope of your work, attention to detail is of the utmost importance.

Become certified and continue your education. Determining how to become a midwife can seem difficult at first. The most direct method is to get your Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN), then complete a graduate degree program in midwifery to become a nurse - midwife. But options are available for RN's without a Bachelor's degree or for non-nursing students with bachelor's degrees in other areas. Certification for nurse midwives is administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. When you pass the certification exam and present documents that you graduated from an accredited nurse - midwifery training program, you will be designated as a Certified Nurse Midwife. Certification is only good for eight years, so commit yourself to continuing education to maintain your certification.

Consider getting a Master's degree. Although not universally required, many employers prefer nurse midwives to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a concentration in nurse midwifery. This is because nurse midwives today are given more serious and complicated responsibilities. A MSN can be completed within two years and exposes students to clinical practice, rotation and women health issues. Coursework includes pharmacology, genetics application, reproductive dynamics and primary care of women. When you earn an MSN, you can expect to be assigned to supervisory levels, accepted to teach at universities and involved in research. Back to top

Read More About: CNM / Certified Nurse Midwives

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Tips:

According to the APRN Consensus Model for Regulation (2008), "The CNS has a unique APRN role to integrate care across the continuum and through three spheres of influence: patient, nurse, system. The three spheres are overlapping and interrelated but each sphere possesses a distinctive focus. In each of the spheres of influence, the primary goal of the CNS is continuous improvement of patient outcomes and nursing care. Key elements of CNS practice are to create environments through mentoring and system changes that empower nurses to develop caring, evidence-based practices to alleviate patient distress, facilitate ethical decision-making, and respond to diversity. The CNS is responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion, and prevention of illness and risk behaviors among individuals, families, groups, and communities."

The ideal job for Clinical Nurse Specialists is one that is satisfying and challenging over time. Negotiating the fine details to that happen is a process that starts at the time of hiring and extends throughout the time you have the position. The following tips may prove helpful:

Prepare. One of the many attributes associated with Clinical Nurse Specialist is their organization skills. This skill can help them prepare for their job search, prepare their portfolio/resume and research prospective employment opportunities. It is very important as you move up the career ladder of nursing that you keep extensive records of your work experience and educational presentations.

Professional Resume. Keep your resume compact and precise. It should be no more than one page in length, even if you have a lot of accomplishments to highlight. Distill those accomplishments into their purest and most concentrated form. Make sure the resume stands out by using a thicker and sturdier grade of paper than typical typing paper. Avoid using "special effects" like glitter or strange looking fonts. Bold text and different font sizes are okay in moderation. You want a crisp-looking resume that's professional looking and easily readable. Present more than a list of places you worked. Describe your achievements, skills and responsibilities to show what you gained from those jobs. Back to top

Read More About: CNS / Clinical Nurse Specialists

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) Tips:

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA's) are advanced practice nurses who are certified to safely provide anesthesia care to more than 22 million surgical, obstetrical, and trauma patients each year in the United States. They administer every type of anesthetic, work in every type of practice setting, and provide care for every type of operation or procedure-from open heart surgery to pain-management scenarios.

Important things to remember for those considering this CRNA career:

Professionalism. As in the other advanced professions, a professional resume and extensive work experience record is very helpful to this career. Details and Desire. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA's) should have the ability to pay close attention to detail and the desire to help others. Organization. They should also be organized, level-headed, active listeners, and good record-keepers.

Able to handle stress. The ability to work well in pressure-packed situations is a must. It is quite beneficial if nurse anesthetists have a calm and reassuring demeanor, even in stressful times. Back to top

Read More About: CRNA / Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists