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Tips For New ICU Nurses

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at a hospital can be overwhelming, especially when you’re new to the job.

To ease the transition to your new work environment, we’ve put together these tips to help you excel.

Learn Assertiveness

If you’re a naturally assertive person, you’ll have little trouble fitting in.

However, if you’re not, you’ll need to work on being confident and standing up for yourself in stressful situations.

At first, the ICU staff of nurses and doctors can be intimidating.

Due to the nature of the environment, situations can drastically shift and fast.

One moment you’ll be laughing and chatting at the nurse’s station, and the next, you’ll be rushing to save a person’s life.

This harsh transition from lighthearted to ultra-serious can be a shock at first, and you may be surprised by how people can switch gears so quickly.

But Don’t Take It Personally

Working in the ICU requires attention to detail and confidence, not to mention a soft spot for checklists.

These traits, to someone unfamiliar with the work environment, may come across as rude.

As a new nurse, it’s important not to take it personally.

This can be particularly challenging during the adjustment period, but it’s important to remember that the ICU is a busy place with a lot going on.

Nurses are under pressure to keep track of everything happening, and their shortness often boils down to the ICU’s hurried nature and lack of time to explain something fully.

Sometimes, people are rude with no reasonable explanation.

If you find yourself rudely treated on a regular basis, this is where being assertive comes into play.

Speak up and address the problem.

Embrace What is Difficult and Conquer It

Confront your fears and learn to overcome them.

In the ICU, where so much is happening all at once, confusion is typical for new nurses.

There will be things you don’t know how to do yet that will seem scary or intimidating.

To succeed in the ICU, you’ll need to overcome these challenges head-on.

A good way to approach these challenges is to find someone comfortable with the equipment or skill you find intimidating and then ask them to help you learn about it.

Do this, and you’ll be able to turn former fears into newfound skills and strengths.

Tackling these challenges when you’re still new is the best approach, as you’ll have someone monitoring you to help advance your skills.

Set Realistic Expectations

You won’t learn everything at once.

Recognize this, and accept that the inherently stressful environment of the ICU requires time to master.

It will be difficult – likely more difficult than anticipated – and ICU can often be overwhelming.

It’s important to understand that acknowledging the difficulty does not make you a failure.

Develop realistic expectations of your skills and knowledge growth, and recognize that it takes time to gather the specialized skill set required for the ICU.

Even for experienced nurses transferring from a different department into the ICU, the learning curve can be steep.

You may find yourself feeling like a brand new grad again.

Remember that you will learn what you need to know.

Just don’t expect it to happen all at once.

Save The Bookwork For Home

Getting up to speed with everything you need to know in the ICU takes a lot of work and study.

At the hospital, you will need to focus on the work in front of you.

Use your work-time to ask questions and learn about the equipment and methods—reserve additional research for outside of work hours.

At home, open the books to expand your knowledge of things like disease processes, medication, and other general knowledge you’ll need for the job.

This is necessary knowledge you can apply on the job, but there simply isn’t time to learn everything during your shift.

If you find yourself administering a medication that you’re unfamiliar with, take note of it and look it up when you get home.

If you research it at work, you will find yourself without enough time to get everything done in a day.

Read the Room

There’s a time for questions and learning, and then there’s a time for quickly getting the necessary work done.

It’s important to read the tone and emotion of people in the room so that you know when to ask questions and when to hold those questions for later.

When everyone in the room is moving fast and working on completing important tasks, it’s a good indication that it’s not the time for questions.

Don’t Touch Someone Else’s Pumps

When another nurse monitors a pump they have set up, don’t make changes to it unless directly requested to do so.

Making changes will disrupt their workflow and can lead to issues caring for the patient.

Each nurse has their own method of working.

You don’t want to mess up their method.

This applies to changing the drip or adding volume.

For nurses transferring from another department, you may be used to making changes to pumps, but in ICU, it’s not an accepted practice.

Don’t Chat While Giving Meds

Administering medications requires care and concentration.

Any distractions can be opportunities for errors, which you definitely don’t want.

For this reason, avoid small talk with patients or other nurses while giving medications.

Since even minor mistakes can have devastating consequences, you need to pay full attention to the task at hand.

It Takes Time

Working in the ICU can be an overwhelming environment, with plenty to learn.

This is true whether you’re a fresh grad or an experienced nurse working in ICU for the first time.

Remember that it takes time, and a lot of hard work, to get up to speed.

You’ll need to put in the effort, yes, but don’t expect instant results.

With study, focus, and attention to detail you’ll figure it out.

Part of that study involves acquiring and maintaining the certifications you’ll need to do your job.

With ProMed, you can get BLS, ACLS, CPR, and other certifications online.

Get started today.

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