Beginning Your Nursing Career with Confidence

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

Graduating from nursing school is a monumental accomplishment, and passing the NCLEX and earning your license are icing on the cake of a long journey. When all is said and done and the dust has cleared, launching your nursing career with confidence is your next crucial task. Are you ready? 

Humility and Curiosity: Your Best Friends

Every new graduate nurse is obviously a novice, yet even a novice you can still be confident. And where does that confidence come from? It comes from the knowledge that you are intelligent, educated, and a person with your own history and life experiences. You bring a great deal to the table, including, but not limited to, your nursing education and clinical training. 

You can be confident about the things you understand: the medications and lab results you have memorized, the skills in which you know you’re competent, and the nurse’s intuition that you’ve begun to develop. Confidence builds as your intuition leads you in the right direction more often than it leads you astray. 

There are certainly things about which you know little to nothing, and there are things you’re bound to have forgotten; however, you can also find confidence in your willingness to admit what you don’t know. There’s a certain strength in being able to verbalize your own ignorance and use that as a springboard for asking meaningful questions. In essence, humility and curiosity are your best friends. 

Life Experience Matters

Prior to your nursing program you may have graduated from high school and not had the opportunity to see or experience a great deal outside of your hometown; no matter, you’re still a human being with a life where you’ve learned something about yourself, other people, and the world around you. Or perhaps you were lucky enough to travel extensively with your parents, or maybe even spend a semester of high school abroad or take part in other activities that provided deep enrichment and understanding. 

Time spent caring for loved ones counts for a great deal when becoming a nurse. Maybe you came to the profession after caring for a sick, disabled, or dying family member. This experience can prove to be the basis for choosing nursing as a career, and this may include having had observed nurses in action as they skillfully cared for the person you love, which resulted in the inspiration to emulate them.  

You may be one of those nursing students who’s spent time as a CNA, EMT, phlebotomist, or otherwise worked within the healthcare system. If this is so, you’ve likely seen a fair amount and can count your blessings that you had some preliminary exposure and the golden opportunity to soak up as much experience as you could. 

Or maybe you’re an older nursing student who has a degree and professional history in another area of expertise, which may have been an entire career lasting several decades or more. All of these scenarios add up to one thing: your life experience — both personal and professional — matter in terms of the nurse you will become. 

Confidence Comes from Within

In the end, confidence is an inside job. No one can do it for you, and no one can magically bestow confidence upon you like a fairy godmother waving her magic wand over your head as she recites a nursing incantation. 

Confidence in your own ability to use your powers of critical thinking to evolve as a nursing professional must by necessity be generated from within. You may assuredly not know everything you need to know in order to be a successful nurse, but knowing that you don’t know is a great start (there’s that humility once again). 

And although humility can indeed be one of your best friends, you can still have self-confidence even while remaining humble. If your mind is intellectually sharp and lubricated with an unquenchable thirst for learning, the battle is already half won. A nurse’s mind powered by curiosity is an unstoppable force for good, and if you’re the kind of nurse who doesn’t accept complacency within yourself, you’ll go far. 

Your agile and sponge-like mind, willingness to ask questions, and desire to grow as a nurse can serve you in countless ways. A vibrant mind and caring heart make for a very effective nurse. 

Paging the Confident Nurse

You can certainly step into your new nursing career with confidence. You can plan to collaborate, ask, listen, read, observe, practice, and then practice some more (they don’t call it nursing practice for nothing). Moments of doubt will arise; you can subdue them by talking back to the doubts and allaying your fears by rededicating yourself to learning and growing. Doubts can be debilitating, but they can also be fuel for forward movement. 

Send out a page and ask your most confident and humble nurse self to come forward. Feed that nurse with the right intellectual and heartfelt nutrition, and they will shine in ways you could never before imagine. 

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