Travel December 6, 2023

By Tiffany Aller

New Grad Nurses: How to Prepare for Post-Grad Life

Congratulations! You’ve worked very hard all of the way through your nursing program, and as a student about to graduate, you’re ready to take on the world and tackle your new grad nursing job. 

To help you get ready, we talked with nurses who are experts in their field to get advice and actionable tips on how to prepare for post-grad life as a new grad nurse. Check out the helpful nursing tips and tricks to help you prepare for your new grad nursing job. 


Ways New Grad Nurses Can Prepare for Post-Grad Life

You’ve spent years learning practical and technical nursing skills while also being immersed in medical terminology and technology to prepare for your long-term RN career. Now that the end of school is staring you in the face, you may be wondering where or how to get started as you move forward toward your first new grad nursing job. We asked the professionals for advice for new nurse grads to help you out.

1. Remember: There are No Stupid Questions

Sharon A. Aronovitch, Ph.D., RN, is the Lead Faculty Program Director for the BS-MS Nursing Programs at Excelsior College, and she has the most important piece of advice you’ll ever receive as a new grad nurse: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” 

Aronovitch goes on to explain that “as a student nurse, you learn a lot of facts but don't always have the clinical experience to validate what you have read. Asking questions is a way to make sure you understand the patient situation or the specific equipment being used for patient care.”

You may feel awkward or intimidated about asking too many questions just as you’re getting started as a new grad nurse. 

After all, you’ll want your new employers to know that you are well trained and well educated. Instead of feeling like you may be bothering others with constant questions — or worse, not asking questions at all — try these tips to get your questions answered in a way that may be more comfortable for you and convenient for those you are working with.

  • Keep a notebook with you at all times or use a note-taking app on your phone regularly. Keep two running lists in this notebook: one for questions that come up during the day that you aren’t able to ask right away, and one for observations you make about fellow nurses and the situations you see them handling.
  • Ask to be paired with an experienced nurse in your new workplace who can mentor you. Make plans to have coffee or lunch with this more experienced nurse regularly as you begin your job, and bring your notebook along to ask the questions you’ve accumulated and discuss the observations you’ve noted.
  • Look for other new nurses in your workplace or nurses who may have started a few months ahead of you. You can pick the brains of these other newish nurses to see what questions they had as they began their new career and what tips and tricks they’ve picked up in order to be successful in nursing and patient care.

2. Make Time for Self-care

Your new grad nursing job will be a lot more demanding than the clinicals you performed and classes you attended while in school – and those were probably already fairly demanding themselves. You may be working up to twelve-hour shifts, and — depending on what type of nursing job you accept — you may find your patient care workload to be so fast paced that your breaks are few and far between.

Aronovitch says this is the time when it’s most important to remember to take care of yourself. “The stress of learning the system in your new work environment, taking care of patients and becoming a team player has you feeling exhausted by the end of the day.” 

While you may feel eager to jump in and volunteer for extra shifts or line up a lot of after work activities, it may be best to allow yourself the freedom while you’re getting started to have plenty of downtime when not at work. Otherwise, your stress level can rise to unsustainable levels and you’ll risk burning out just as you’re getting started.

3. Plan for your Future Career

It may seem silly to already be thinking about how your career will advance and what you’re going to need to do to obtain future jobs when you are a new grad nurse. Haven’t you just worked away for years toward this degree? 

But Dr. Marilyn Wideman, the Dean and Vice President of the School of Nursing at Purdue University Global, says it’s important to always seek learning opportunities. Wideman advises “by continuing to be engaged in your career, you’ll be able to enhance the level of patient care you can deliver as well as your administrative skills, which will help you continue growing as a nurse.” 

She suggests:

  • Continue your education and never stop learning
  • Attend various nursing conferences or nursing networking events to open doors that may lead to opportunities you don’t currently have access to
  • Find ways to give back to the nursing profession and help to move the profession forward

4. Look Out for Yourself and Stay Prepared

Finally, you can follow some advice from the nursing team at the Nurses Service Organization to look out for yourself in your career and remain prepared for all you may encounter.

  • Buy good shoes: You’ll be on your feet constantly, and quality heel support, especially, is a must.
  • Be patient with yourself: You’ll be encountering new situations each and every day. Remember to note questions and observations in your notebook and allow yourself the grace and patience to learn in your new role.
  • Get and stay organized: Keep your supplies and uniforms all in one place. Ensure any documentation you need is well organized and easily accessible. Replace anything showing wear and tear in a timely fashion.
  • Invest in medical malpractice insurance: You never know when something unforeseen may occur and this affordable investment will help protect you in your new career.


The 8-Step Formula for a Standout Nursing Cover Letter

1. Address it to a Specific Person

Starting with a generic greeting is one of the biggest nursing cover letter mistakes you can make. It’s a red flag for HR that you didn’t care enough about the position to do some research and find out who would be tasked with looking over applicants.

In most cases, you can find this information online on the facility’s website or its LinkedIn page, but if you’re having trouble, it’s usually a safe bet to go with the name of the Human Resources Director.

2. Ensure Formatting is Consistent

Attention to detail is an important soft skill for any position but even more so when it comes to the healthcare profession. In your daily duties, making a mistake can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Show potential employers you’re serious about your work by taking the time to properly format your cover letter. This means creating a header that matches your resume, making sure all the spacing and fonts are consistent and double-checking accuracy.

3. Focus on the Employer

When you’re creating your nursing cover letter you definitely want to focus on showing your skills and experience in the best possible light, but this doesn’t mean you should only focus on yourself. Remember that the person reading your nurse cover letter is trying to fill a need. They’re looking for someone to help them, not the other way around.

If your cover letter is all about you, you’re sending the message that you’re just looking out for yourself and your own career advancement. Instead, position your skills and expertise so that it shows the reviewer what you bring to the company and the role.

4. Be Specific

Phrases like “detail-oriented” and “team player” used to be commonplace on application materials, but now, they’re considered overdone. The majority of applicants for nursing positions are going to be all of these things, so you’ll need to include specifics — the more numbers and stats the better — to set yourself apart.

As a new grad, you may not have a lot of clinical experience to pull from, but you can still include things like familiarity with specific nursing software and proficiency in certain procedures in your nursing cover letter.

5. Highlight Professional Memberships

Being a member of a professional organization shows potential employers that you’re serious about your career, and it’s also a great way to participate in group events and learn valuable information you can apply to the job.

Deciding which nursing association is right for you can be a bit overwhelming at first, but you just have to narrow the field. If you’re planning on specializing in something — say, pediatrics, oncology or obstetrics — look for these specific associations first and move out from there to the more general.

Make sure you don’t get too excited. Spreading yourself too thin makes it harder to interact with the group and can come off as just gathering bullets for your resume. When it’s time to include these memberships in your nurses cover letter, make sure to give any relevant details on events you attend or positions you hold.

6. Show Off Clinical Experience

Even as a new grad, you still have some experience with patients, and you’ll want to make sure you include that in your nursing cover letter. Think about what you may have really excelled in or enjoyed during your labs. You may also want to mention what you’re most looking forward to when it comes to working with patients.

7. Conclude with a Call to Action

A great nursing cover letter always ends on a positive, friendly note, but to set yourself apart from the pack, go a bit further than thanking the reader for their time. Show that you’re serious about this specific position by giving the reviewer a time frame that you’ll check back in. It can be as simple as “I’ll call next week to follow up.”

Just make sure you do follow up, because some hiring managers use this lack of follow-through as a way to cull the stack if there are a lot of applicants for the position.

8. Have a Friend — or Two — Proofread

It’s true that knowing the difference between a comma and a semicolon can seem trivial when your job has you in charge of people’s actual lives, but good grammar, proper spelling and accurate punctuation are crucial in your new graduate nursing cover letter. Clean, concise writing shows that you’ve taken the time to look over the document and do everything you can to make it the best it can be.

Nursing is a rewarding profession, and with your training and education, you’re well prepared to take on your first grad nursing role. Keep these tricks in mind as you launch your career.

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