Nursing is an ever-changing field with constantly evolving duties and responsibilities. There remain bedrock philosophies and principles that sustain careers, however.
We recently asked some of our veteran nurses for advice they would give to those new to the profession and those looking forward to making it a career in the future.
The messages, crafted via decades in the profession, are inspirational, encouraging and acknowledge nursing’s challenges.
Take Deb Ferris, for instance. She is an RN at Sanford Bemidji Children’s Clinic who has been working in health care for about 50 years. She started on this lifelong mission in high school as a CNA at a nursing home operated by nuns who were registered nurses. She learned about hard work, compassion and the satisfaction that comes with helping people.
“A lot has changed over those years,” she writes. “From nurses wearing full whites and glass IV bottles to patients being allowed to smoke in their rooms. What hasn’t changed is that as a nurse you must be ready to expect the unexpected every day and at every moment. It doesn’t matter if you work in private care, a clinic, a hospital or with labor and delivery. You have to be flexible and able to enjoy and manage a little bit of chaos.”
Who could not want to be a nurse knowing you’d get to work with people like Ferris?
Here’s more advice from some of Sanford’s best and brightest nurses:
Brad Arett, RN, Fargo, Sanford Fargo Inpatient
“Nursing school has given you a fantastic foundation for all the learning you’ll continue to do while on the job, and it’s important to not let yourself get overwhelmed. It takes time to absorb new information – allow yourself a little bit of that. Lean on others with more experience, don’t underestimate a good nursing assistant and make time for nursing students. You want them to work with you, trust me. And above all, be confident in your abilities – you’ve already made it this far, after all.”
Susan Marquart, RN, Clinical Care Leader, Sanford Fargo Inpatient Pediatrics
“I offer three pieces of advice: 1) Nursing is a challenging and incredibly rewarding profession – one in which you’re sure to learn something new every single day. Make the most of it. 2) Change should be expected and embraced, because if you don’t embrace it, you just might go crazy. 3) Most importantly, listen to your patients and their families. They know what’s best for them and their children and your support will mean the world to them.”
Mary Erickson, RN, Clinical Care Leader, Sanford Fargo Inpatient
“Even after 34 years in the ICU, there is still plenty for me to learn and there will be for you, too. A nurse who asks a lot of questions and continues to expand their knowledge and expertise will undoubtedly provide good, quality care to patients. Also, always strive to go above and beyond – support your team members and co-workers. Be a team player, be prepared for any scenario, speak up for safety, be kind and care for every patient in a way you’d expect to be cared for yourself if roles were reversed.”
Susan Jarvis, MSN, RN, President and CEO, Bemidji, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota
“I still remember my first year as a new nurse in the ER and how honestly scared I was of having the responsibility of a patient’s life. What I did my first year – besides worry – was learn as much as I possibly could. Nursing is a lifelong journey. The time I invested in educational opportunities throughout my career prepared me to take care of that extremely ill infant or cardiac patient that presented in the emergency room. It also prepared me to be in the leadership role I am in today.
“When I was a new nurse, it wasn’t my career goal to ultimately be the president and CEO of a major medical center or regional health system. But, I did take advantage of every opportunity and role that presented itself to me. The foundational skills you learn as a nurse give you opportunities to do so many different things. You can provide direct patient care – the heart of nursing – but you can also work in IT, manage people, provide care management or train others. The opportunities are endless.
“Even before nursing school, I started my career as a CNA. I then went on to become a nurse and work at the bedside, eventually moving to management. Having these experiences has gotten me to where I am today. I have a great appreciation for the people who do the ‘real work’ because I have been in their shoes. Today, as a leader, this background gives me an even deeper understanding of how complicated and challenging health care can be. My role now is to support those people to the very best of Sanford’s ability.”
Sam Wagner, RN, Sanford Bismarck Region, Oncology
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It is always better to clarify something you are unsure of rather than potentially do something wrong.
“If you don’t feel like you are clicking with your preceptor, speak with your manager about switching preceptors. Everyone learns different ways and at different paces and you may find that you learn better from someone else.
“Starting out as a new nurse is hard in the beginning! It is different than clinical rotations and you have more responsibility. Don’t get intimidated! Before you know it, all the tasks you do will feel like second nature and you will be able to critically think without second-guessing yourself. If you passed nursing school and you passed your NCLEX, you have the capability to be a wonderful nurse. Have confidence in yourself!”
Lea Sala, RN, Sanford Sioux Falls Inpatient Labor and Delivery
“As a nurse for the last 41 years, I have a few just a few pieces of advice as you start your career. 1) Never be afraid to ask or offer your help. You may not be able to do everything yourself, but together we can do anything. 2) Be patient with yourself and your coworkers, we were all new once. 3) Be brave and take that first step and always offer to hold someone’s hand as they take their first step. 4) Always be aware. Keep your eyes, ears and your heart open and remember why you chose to become a nurse.”
Lori Sisk, Senior Director, Sanford Canby and Clear Lake
“In school you had a lot of things to memorize and I’m happy to say that’s no longer the case. What is important is becoming a lifelong learner. As you’re getting your first job and becoming acquainted with your units, be sure to ask a lot of questions and seek the guidance of those who have more experience than you. Go to work with the attitude of trying to learn something every day. Medicine, health care and nursing are constantly evolving. You need to evolve with them, so becoming a lifelong learner is key.”
- Nurses Week shines spotlight on nurses in every region
- Nurses in long-term care share their wisdom
- Pandemic adds special reason to say ‘thank you’ to nurses