How to Get the Most Out of Your Nursing Orientation


I’ve made it through two years of intense nursing course work and clinicals. I’ve studied for and passed the NCLEX-RN exam. I’ve applied for nursing jobs and finally landed a good one. Isn’t this what I’ve been waiting for? This is my time to shine, right?

I’m not sure about you, but my first day on the job was a huge reality check. Wow, there were a ton of things I didn’t learn in nursing school. New admits anyone? Yikes. 8 AM med pass? Insane.

In order to make your transition from nursing student to full-fledged nurse a little less like…um, an emotional wreck…take advantage of the time you’re given in your nursing orientation. I was given nine 12-hour shifts to figure things out. Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but I made it work, and this is how I did it.

1. Observe. Spend the first day of training observing your nurse; do not leave your nurse’s side. Carry a few sheets of paper with you, and write down everything you’re told by the nurse. I wrote down passwords, how to fax new orders to pharmacy and lab, what to include in a Medicare note, how to admit a patient step-by-step, etc.


This is one of many pages of notes I took during orientation.

2. Set goals based on your observation day. For instance, one of my goals was to add more patients to my schedule each day. By day five, I was taking all of the patients I would have if I was working on my own. Other goals might be to admit or discharge a patient on your own, administer TPN, or call the MD about an INR result. You get the picture.

3. Ask for advice every single day on how you can improve. Adjust your above goals and work on accomplishing them during your next training shift.

4. Pay special attention to the organization techniques of the nurses you are training under. I trained under 3-4 nurses during my orientation, and I was able to pull a lot of cool ideas from each one of them.

I clip this contraption to my scrubs every morning so I can color-code my brain sheet!

I clip this contraption to my scrubs every morning so I can color-code my brain sheet!


I use this color-coded system on my brain sheet to quickly see the important things I need to accomplish during my shift.

5. Jump in when asked. If a nurse asks you to pull a PICC and that scares you to death, just say “yes.” If you’ve never done what they’re asking you to do, ask for guidance while YOU perform the skill.

6. Ask for more training if you need it. Hopefully, your job offers you enough time to get acclimated to your new role. If you feel like you need another day of training, ask for it. Tell them what you’d like to focus on if given another day of training.

I have to admit, being a new nurse is both exciting and terrifying. I really feel the weight of my responsibility as a nurse. I have heard from countless other nurses that this feeling is completely normal (even though it sucks). So hang in there with me and remember the impact that you’re making in your patients’ lives.

5 Comments, RSS

  1. Rocio August 11, 2015 @ 11:30 am

    I am terrified and I haven’t started to work yet. Your advice its much appreciate it!
    Thank you Amy!

    • becominganurse August 12, 2015 @ 7:47 pm

      Thanks, Rocio! It can be kind of terrifying when you don’t know what you’re getting into yet. But I can promise you that it starts to get better as time goes on. 🙂

  2. Dave August 12, 2015 @ 7:42 pm

    Yes the color coding is helping me, I wish i would have looked at this before my first day on the floor. I am starting to see the big picture of how things work but there are so many little things to remember.

    • becominganurse August 12, 2015 @ 7:48 pm

      Yes, so many little things to remember! I’m pretty sure I miss things every day, but hopefully that keeps improving! lol!

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