What to Expect During New Nurse Orientation

Nurse Looking at a Clipboard

Another semester is coming to a close, and that means nursing students across the country are about to complete their degree programs and enter the workforce. For many, this is the final push before they sit for their NCLEX and prepare to become one of the more than 5 million nurses nationwide.

This transition to practice will be accompanied by emotions ranging from pure relief to a sense of excitement and anxiety as you embark on a journey you’ve spent years preparing for. However, there’s a huge difference between the classroom and the examination room. The first few months of shifts—particularly if they’re at unusual hours—can represent a major adjustment that many young nurses struggle to manage.

Giving yourself some grace and taking the right steps to get acclimated to your new life and environment are key to being successful as you move into the workforce. And Premiere is here to help! By providing easy-to-access online resources for nurses like our Unlimited Nursing CEU Subscription, you’ll never find yourself out of your depth. And for all the details that need to be learned on the job, here’s what you can expect—and the things you’ll need to know—to survive new nurse orientation.

The Structure of Orientation

If you’re hired at a hospital or long-term care facility you will likely be required to attend general institutional orientation before starting your nursing-specific orientation. The HR orientation typically lasts one or two days, and it’s when you do things like get your ID badge, get up to speed on parking and payroll, and review policies.

Don’t expect to learn anything about your patients—but this may test your patience! The nuts and bolts of working for any employer are just as important as your healthcare work. Pay careful attention, because without taking the time to get familiar with the work culture and processes, your new job will be unnecessarily stressful and full of unforced errors that drag you down.

General Nursing Orientation

After HR orientation, new staff are released to their nurse-specific orientation, or what is often called “general nursing orientation”. Depending on the facility, this can last from a couple of days to a week and includes more mandatory training and education specific to your role as a nurse. This often occurs in a classroom or skills lab, so be prepared to do a lot of listening. During this part of new nurse orientation you can expect to learn about topics like:

Unit-Based Orientation

After general nursing orientation, you will transition to your unit-based orientation where you integrate with the clinical specialty you were hired into. This is where the real fun begins, and it’s when you start meeting the people you’re going to work closely with every day. The timeline, orientation goals, and milestones, along with specific competencies to be validated, all come together for the unit-based framework.

During your unit-based orientation, you will also be paired with preceptors. While consistency in preceptorship is favorable, you may find yourself working with more than one preceptor as you progress. The main role of the preceptor is to guide you through your acclimation to the unit, support you through the learning process, and offer an assessment of your progress.

Feedback is critical during this stage, so be prepared to receive both the good and the bad in terms of your performance. It can be frustrating, but it’s important not to take any criticism personally. It’s a preceptor’s responsibility to give an honest assessment because these are the details you’ll need to digest to develop professionally.

Education vs. Competency

Nursing orientation is a formative and intentional process that’s guided by specific goals to ensure the nurse orientee progresses toward independent work. To support this, you will likely be given some form of a checklist. It will include items specific to your clinical area that need to be documented to verify you are competent.

Competency validation is a crucial and universal process in healthcare, and it will continuously be assessed throughout the orientation process. You will not complete your orientation until you have been deemed competent.

Finally, when it comes to that checklist, treat it like a prized possession—it’s your ticket to freedom! At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility, not the preceptor’s, to make sure the checklist is being completed. If you lose it, you also lose the proof of your competency.

New Nurse Orientation Tips for Success

Nursing school was tough, but new nurse orientation presents a whole new set of challenges you’ll need to tackle. Here are some tips to help you along the way.

Ask Questions

You're going to have questions during orientation, and make sure you ask them. Nothing is more scary than someone pretending to know what they’re doing when people’s lives are on the line.

Preceptors, nurse leaders, nurse educators, peers, medical providers, and other specialists like pharmacists can offer a wealth of information that can point you in the right direction. After all, asking questions is really about knowing your resources, and being able to find answers is as important as having information.

Be Ready to Put in the Work

New nurse orientation will provide you with a lot of people to support your success, but you need to be ready to put in the work. You may need to practice your skills, study outside of work, and show the people supporting you that you’re eager to be successful.

It Can be Overwhelming!

Even experienced nurses have hard days and as an orientee, you’re going to have days where you feel completely overwhelmed. This is completely normal—talk to your peers and mentors, learn about chronic stress, compassion fatigue, and the symptoms of burnout, and don’t forget to eat well and take care of yourself.

Sorry, Some of it’s Boring

Truth be told, some of what you’re going to learn about during orientation (especially at the beginning) is a bit mundane. Sitting in a room listening to a lecture might have you feeling like you’re back in nursing school, but keep in mind that there’s always a method to the madness. Even the boring topics are still very important to your success even if you can’t see why today.

The Learning Never Stops

New nurse orientation is just the beginning of the learning process when you’re a nurse. Before you know it you’ll be thinking about opportunities like becoming a travel nurse or considering advanced licensure and specialization!

Continuing education is a huge part of being a nurse and whether tied to licensure requirements or certification renewal, continuing education benefits you and the patients you care for. Resources like Premiere’s Unlimited Nursing CEU Subscription represent one key to professional development and success no matter what stage of your career you’re in. With evidence-based content created by industry-leading experts at your fingertips, how can you go wrong?

Of course, no matter how prepared you feel, entering the workforce with new nurse orientation staring back at you can be scary. In the end, it’s just another bump in what is sure to be a road to success, and Premiere and its experts are here to support you with excellent continuing education content along the way.

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