I could choose to go on and on about negative aspects about the nursing career like low salary, high stress, and shift work but this is National Nurses Day (so I’ll save that speech for another day). Nurses Day is one to celebrate and recognize the amazing work that nurses do. So although it can be very tough, there’s a list of things fresh in my mind to share to new nurses about what I’ve learned from nursing and how I’ve grown into a better person.

The majority of my nursing knowledge and professional growth has been in a hospital setting in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). For which I will forever be grateful. Although this list is purely personal, most nurses could relate to what I’ve learned from the profession.

Being a nurse has taught me to…

Be Resilient. Bouncing back from an emergency situation is key. Sometimes you have multiple patients in critical need of your care. So once you’re done with one task, move on and don’t dwell on the outcome. Your mind needs to always be sharp and ready for action. When I had a tough shift, I learnt that I need to deal with it in order to be fresh for the next morning’s shift.

Reflect. Ever since nursing school I learnt to reflect about each day on my way home. This usually involved going through the motion of the day and deciding what needed more organization, and how it could have been done more efficiently. It was not only negative or ways to find improvements, it was also a time for me to tell myself I did everything I could, or that I did a great job. This helped me to become resilient, not dwell on the day, and bounce back more easily for the next shift.

Keep Calm. A clear and calm mind, is so much smarter than a chaotic one. Sometimes it takes self-reminders to stay calm, take a deep breath, and to then go into adrenaline mode. This took me one to two years to learn this at the NICU. At first when I would witness emergencies, I had a sense of panic. But becoming more confident has helped me to remain calm and collected.

Be Strong. Experiencing and witnessing emotionally difficult circumstances has shaped me into a stronger person today. Going through these traumas can teach a nurse that life can change in just a moment, so being able to handle these situations is what makes great nurses.

Be Emotionally Intelligent. Controlling my emotions such as anger, sadness, or frustration is a quality that I have adopted after a year or two in nursing. Being able to control your emotions, is more professional and respectful to your patients and colleagues. But also knowing that when something is sad its okay to cry and show emotions in front of your clients. It’s also important to know that it’s okay to cry at home too and to talk about what you’ve experienced that day at work. Critically Think. A nurse who critically thinks about a dilemma, is one that can quickly come to the best conclusion after scanning all options. This allows for the client to be cared for thoughtfully and most effectively. I learned most of my critical thinking skills in nursing school. Critically thinking out a care plan rather than having a one-track-mind will bring a nurse much further in her career as well as in personal growth.

Be Vocal. Speaking up in the nursing field is something I learned to be very important in the first year of my career. Patients whether babies or adults, rely on their nurses to advocate for them when they cannot advocate for themselves. If I did not agree on something, I learned quickly that I needed to speak up about my concerns, the life of my patient relied on it!

Have Confidence. Confidence is key. What you know is golden and powerful, be confident about that. No one in the health field will listen to anyone who does not have confidence. They will feel less secure and question what you are saying. But also knowing when to have confidence is just as important. If you’re not sure about a situation – that is not the time to be confident. Be true to yourself and the knowledge you possess.

Be Willing To Learn. Once the nursing degree is completed, that is not the end of the road. There’s always a constant amount of learning about new technologies, new theories, and new studies. It’s always important to keep up to date, but also to refresh your knowledge. When I first enrolled in nursing school, I remember thinking that it was cool that once I finished my career program that I get a job and I’m all set! Well yes, that’s partly true, I was all set with a hospital job right after school. But what I quickly learned is that there’s constant improvements in health and in nursing, so being informed is a vital and daily part of the nursing career.

Not Take Life For Granted. In an acute hospital setting, a nurse will learn that life is precious. Seeing tragedies on a daily basis can allow a nurse to not let life pass you by. The life of yourself or a loved one can change in a flip of a dime. So cherish the moments you have with them, treat your loved ones and your colleagues with kindness, compassion, and mindfulness and remember that everybody has a story.

I have also learned that the nursing career is not one size fits all. My options are endless, my limits have not been reached. I have learnt in the process of co-founding a private nursing agency that anything is possible. It’s dedication, ambition, drive, and courage that will let your dreams become a reality.

Whether you are thinking about going into the nursing career or are a new nurse that is seeking guidance, I hope you enjoyed my story and how being a nurse has shaped the person I am today.