My first year as a graduate nurse


Guest post by Anna Scott-Murphy.

This year I am a new graduate in nursing. I started the year with no idea of what to expect. High off my summer of just-graduated euphoria mixed with absolute dread of what could be waiting round the corner, I nervously started my first weeks at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney’s Randwick.

No longer a student, I felt absolute terror at the thought of my newfound freedom as a registered nurse. No longer would I spend days following a nurse around before popping off to lunch with a facilitator to debrief over a coffee in the hospital cafeteria. I had no idea if I had managed to learn anything during those late night cram sessions before exams. I was out on a ward working as a ‘real’ nurse.

Looking back, those first few weeks are a blur. All I can make out is huddling with the other new grads trying to decide on the right course of action before nervously running to the educator’s office to ask how to dispense a medication when I had no idea of what it was, how it worked or where it was kept.

Being a new grad is tough. Not only do you need to deal with the fact that you feel like you didn’t learn a thing while at uni (and maybe spent a few too many hours at the uni bar), but you also need to adjust to working as an employee and as part of a team. This can be very challenging.

The majority of other nurses were helpful and really tried to facilitate a conducive learning environment. However, there are always the few nurses tired from their 12 hour shift, stressed at the constant demands of patients and carers, who have no time for the new kid on the block.

One of the first skills I learnt was who to ask for help. The second was how to be part of the team. Coming to terms with your place in the unit and what you can contribute helps to remind you and the rest of the team what you are capable of.

Despite the stress and many tears, this has been one of the best years of my life. One of the greatest things about being a new grad is looking back now and realising just how far I have come and how much more I know now compared to when I started. I would not have thought I was capable of half of what I can now do, competently and confidently.

Every day I am learning something new and becoming more confident in my nursing practice. I love working as part of a team, learning from others and teaching the new skills I have learnt. The greatest revelation I had this year came when I spent a shift buddied with my own nursing student. As I spent the day explaining step-by-step the care of our patient, I realised how much I actually knew and was capable of.

I started to consider how I was making decisions. The greatest tool I learnt at university was an ability to critically analyse and discover information for myself. As nursing health care evolves it is so important to be able to partake in self-directed learning.

The new graduate year is one of constant learning. It’s easy to think that graduating from university meant leaving the books behind, but if anything, this year has taught me just how little we know and what is still to be discovered. One of the amazing things about nursing is the continuing education and learning new things. The thing to take from your university days is how to learn, because it won’t stop.

Image credits: Anna Scott-Murphy/Press Association



  1. Congratulations Anna,
    So glad you learned the importance of asking questions. It never changes….the old saying “if you’re afraid to ask, you’re afraid to learn” will always apply.
    You sound like you will do well in your career…go for it!

  2. Congrats on feeling more confident. I loved that feeling as a new grad ( though it took about 6 months). Enjoy your nursing, you sound really sweet and switched on

  3. Some quoted words from your opening post:
    ” … I started with no idea what to expect”.
    ” … I had no idea if I had managed to learn anything …”
    ” … looking back on those first few weeks … I had no idea how to dispense a medication, what it was or where it was kept “.

    I don’t care if you are female or male, such ‘dizzy’ words do not inspire confidence in the current system of basic nurse education.

  4. There is always one person willing to put another down, which is really disappointing. Yes, she wrote those words (who wouldn’t – you’re trying to assess your own abilities) but she also wrote she knew who to ask and she wasn’t afraid to do so.
    I’d feel privledged to have her as a nurse, someone who is able to define their scope of practice and be able to continually modify and build upon it.
    Please be mindful of other people, everyone tries to do the best they can, give them some credit where it is deserved.

    • I think Gordo is criticising the current *education* system for nursing, which is obviously lacking in many respects. Universities have turned education into a money-making machine, particularly through nursing, as people are falsely led to believe that nursing is a recession-proof job. The course I went through at Flinders was pathetic because it was geared towards nurses who already had a year or so under their belt. I learned nothing of relevance to clinical nursing despite obtaining several DIs and HDs. It was all too academic.

      In short, who would win: a hospital-trained nurse or a uni-trained nurse? The answer proves the lack of adequate training through the university system.

  5. Congratulations Anna, and well said. The way you have told your story describes the way I have felt in my first year as a new grad RN. It’s a great feeling to realise how much I have learnt. The increase in confidence and skill really does surprise me and I feel very proud in how far I’ve come, especially when teaching and guiding your own students. I have also felt that I now fit in and feel part of the team. Like you said, it’s the issues of settling in and knowing how to ask for help and where. Congrats again!


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