Journal of a New Graduate:
I’m a new grad, I went to a great school, didn’t miss a clinical, a good study group, focused prep for NCLEX, passed with relief at only 75 questions, accepted into the first position applied for - the position I’d dreamed of all through nursing school. It just seemed too good to be true. I’m excited to be here in nursing orientation, excited but nervous about what the next twelve weeks will bring.
I’m a bit confused with what I’m supposed to be doing. My educator seems to be disorganized, giving me the wrong packet, one that’s supposed to be for another nurse, and vaguely waving her hand she’ll get it to me “at some point”. That was two days ago, I’m in the Library, doing some online learning that I happened to find out about from a fellow new graduate. I hope that’s what I am supposed to be doing. My educator waved me off again, saying she would catch up with me at some point.
I’m on the unit. Gulp. I completed the online learning, mostly in my own time, since the modules I was doing wasn’t actually what I was supposed to be doing. I completed the work on my own, as my educator emailed me a packet late Friday, stating it needed to be completed by Monday. I was two days late, despite staying up late every night to do it. Today I’m on the unit, I’m shadowing my preceptor, who wasn’t told I was coming. I’m beginning to think I chose the wrong place. My Preceptor seems really annoyed, muttering to another nurse that she was tired of orienting new nurses. I feel like I don’t belong.
I’m tired, and It hasn’t even been a month yet. My preceptor yelled at me for fumbling with an arterial line set up, saying I would have to do this on my own someday, and I shouldn’t be expecting her to be right next to me every time. I sat in my car on my lunch and cried, so no one would see. Fine. I can take the yelling, except I haven’t ever actually seen an arterial line before, just on the computerized learning module. I haven’t practiced with one yet. I don’t belong here.
I saw my educator today. I’d forgotten what she looked like. She pulled me into a mid point evaluation with the nurse manager and preceptor. They all looked grim. I wasn’t progressing in the way they’d hoped, or expected by this point. They wrote up my error in levelling the EVD, when I had never seen one before, despite my asking my preceptor for help, only to hear the same, “You have to learn to do these things on your own.” They wrote a verbal warning that I wouldn’t make it through orientation with my slow time management skills, and I just sat there and nodded. They didn’t ask me how I was feeling, and I didn’t want to tell them. They already wrote me off a long time ago.
I asked my preceptor today what her experience was like as a new graduate. She said I had it easier than her, then she turned away. Whatever.
Day 40, last day orientation:
Today, I met a patient who probably saved me (even though we’re supposed to be saving them, I suppose). She was young, maybe 21, s/p cardiac arrest r/t overdose on red bull, Her family and friends perched on seats at her bedside, praying. “Get them out,“ barked my preceptor, “you always spend too much time talking to the families. Just another young punk overdose.” So, after 40 days of following her instructions, today I did the opposite. Today I closed the curtains in the little corner room of the ICU, and I sat with the family, and asked them to tell me about her; tell me about your daughter, tell me about your sister, tell me about your friend. Tell me about how she’s been feeling, tell me about what she did the night before the ER. “She was quiet, she wanted to be a nurse, but she just kept failing all her exams. We think she might have tried to take her own life, but the doctors breezed through all that. They just assumed she was some wasted teen on a Saturday night trying to get high.”
And I knew, it wouldn’t matter what my preceptor had said about taking too long with patients, some day I would speed that up, it wouldn’t matter that I had fumbling hands with A-line, someday I would get it, someday I wouldn’t be so nervous. It wouldn’t matter that every day I felt abandoned by my educator or preceptor, or apologetic for the disappointment they thought I was, as one day I would have the confidence to not look for that validation. It would matter only that I could listen, and maybe use what little skill I had, not learned from any textbook, not garnered from any preceptor, something that would remind me to keep fighting for the patients who couldn’t fight for themselves. Someday I would be faster at that, too.
And so, on the very day I planned to quit, the very day I “graduated” from my preceptorship, I survived. I survived orientation, and it wasn’t because anyone had fought for me. It was because I fought for myself, alone.
~ As told by a graduate nurse, 6 years before she became a preceptor, a mentor, and a charge nurse who remembered what it was like to walk in a new orientee’s shoes.