9 Tips for Surviving Your First Year as a Nurse Practitioner

Congratulations – you’re a qualified nurse practitioner! An exciting world of challenges and opportunities awaits.

From your first day to the months ahead, there’s much to look forward to. At the same time, leaving the familiarity of school and facing new hurdles can be a daunting premise.

Your education has equipped you with the necessary knowledge and skills, but there are many more things that you’ll need to learn to get through the first year successfully. Every aspiring nurse’s experience is different, depending on the leadership and people they work with, which is to say that there’s no one way of correctly moving forward.

However, there are a few guidelines that can help you go from surviving to thriving as you lay the foundation for your career. These strategies will accelerate your learning process and make life at work more interesting and less stressful. On the flip side, we will also explore several common pitfalls that are best avoided to keep any resistance at bay.

So, without further ado, here are nine tips for surviving your first year as a nurse practitioner.


When you were studying, you were mostly taught the “perfect” way of doing things. It’s important to know that, but it’s also not an effective way to judge the real world – especially in an often chaotic medical environment.

Instead of expecting everything to go just right, pay attention to your team members and remember that they are part of a group of established professionals. You are responsible for fitting in effectively, and it’s not up to the team to change for you. Always strive to have an open mind and seek advice from experienced nurses.

This will help you avoid the costly mistakes some of them had to make to acquire the knowledge they can now pass on to you. With an attentive and enthusiastic spirit, you can move far ahead of your fellow graduates.

Know Your Team

The most successful nursing units and physician offices are built on cooperative and effective teams.

Be sure to take the time to get to know your colleagues, even if it’s simply their names and background. This will aid in building rapport and eliminating tension, making it easier for you to get along with your new group. Plus, we all like hearing the sound of our own name.

During downtime, try to engage in friendly conversation to establish trust and strengthen your relationships. You will be working with these people every day, and it’s great to know that they’re willing to answer your questions, provide support, and involve you in celebrations.

Also, try to assist with tasks that lie outside of your responsibilities whenever you have spare time. Not everyone will ask, so be proactive about it. Nursing can be an overwhelming job, so your help will be appreciated and has the added bonus of making people more likely to pitch in when you’re busy.

Ask Questions

This might seem simple, but it’s crucial to keep in mind that you don’t know everything. We often become anxious or feel uncomfortable admitting that we’re unsure about something, making it difficult to ask questions. Remember that nobody expects you to have all the answers, and your coworkers will actually be happy to tend to your inquiries.

Pay Attention

Just as the quality of your attention can determine the quality of your experience, it can also affect the outcome of the care you provide your patients. Of course, you need to put them first at all times. You are their advocate and it’s up to you to assist them in any manner possible, even if it might require learning something new.

Listen to your patients and observe them carefully. You know them best, and the more you pay attention, the better you will become at picking up subtle clues about their mental and physical health – ones that others might miss.

Keep Learning

On the topic of learning something new, the best approach is to not assume that your education has come to an end. Instead, take on the mentality of lifelong learning, which involves staying open to new sources of knowledge and ways of thinking. You might even want to continue your formal education and reach new heights in your career.

As a nurse practitioner, the natural way forward from here is to take an FNP Master’s course to get your post master’s certificate. What’s great here is that you can do this while maintaining your current responsibilities by studying online. Check out this post masters FNP online at Texas Woman’s University to find out more about what it involves.

Stay Positive

One thing that will never change in your nursing career is that you’ll always have good days and bad days. As anyone in medicine can tell you, it’s wise to expect the unexpected. In other words, you should try your best to maintain a positive attitude and stay prepared instead of feeling hindered by sudden changes.

If anything, change and uncertainty are often where the greatest opportunities for growth are hidden. When you can roll out the punches, you will stay happier and healthier, performing better in your work and contributing to more positive outcomes for patients. Find your sources of inspiration and keep them on top of mind during difficult times.


As each day comes to a close, try to spend some time reflecting on your decisions and the outcomes they led to. You might want to keep a journal for this purpose. It will help you stay on top of the changes you’re experiencing and your growth as a practitioner.

Thinking about your mistakes and their solutions is the only way to learn from and avoid repeating them. It’s good to remember this as a nurse since not all patients’ problems can be solved as prescribed by textbooks. Sometimes you need to think beyond the literature and devise more appropriate and effective solutions.

What to Avoid

Let’s touch a little more on mistakes by listing a few “must nots” for new nurse practitioners. Steering clear of these common and potentially harmful ideas or habits will lay a smoother path for you to move forward.

  • Adopting too many responsibilities from the start
  • Attempting to be perfect
  • Limiting your learning to textbooks
  • Letting bad days or mistakes discourage you from continuing
  • Setting unrealistic or unattainable goals
  • Taking your work home and not allowing yourself enough downtime
  • Telling more experienced coworkers how something should be done instead of listening

Finally, don’t gossip – even if it appears to be a trend among others in your team. You might not get along with everyone, but that doesn’t warrant making enemies of them. Your fellow practitioners are always observing your behavior and using it to determine whether you’re reliable, so it’s best to not pick favorites or throw anyone under the bus.

If you have any grievances or want to vent about something or someone you’re unhappy with, consult a manager, mentor, or another superior outside of the unit. It’s best to keep these conversations short and not have them too often if they’re with a busy manager. Try devising a solution to pitch to them before approaching them with the problem.

Take Care of Yourself

This section extends to topics that lie beyond the work environment but are equally crucial to your success there. It’s undoubtedly going to be a busy year for you, and you might not have much time left at the end of the coming days and weeks. While it’s important to work hard, it shouldn’t come at the cost of your own health.

To carry out your duties effectively and provide the best care, you need to put yourself in the right position first by taking care of your body and mind. Nurse burnout is a very real issue and one you may realize too late that you’re suffering. Be aware of the symptoms so that you know when to slow down and take time to disconnect.

As a nurse, you probably have a good grasp of the tenets of healthy living. Ample exercise, coupled with regular stretching to keep your muscles in proper shape after long periods of being on your feet, is a must. This should come in the form of an activity you enjoy, be it aerobics, yoga, running or a team sport.

It’s best to spend more time outside in a green space when you can. So too is it wise to avoid quick and convenient snacks, favoring healthy home-cooked meals that aren’t processed and loaded with refined sugar. As nursing can be very stressful, practices such as meditation and journaling can have an immensely calming effect.

Last but not least, don’t forget about your social life. Having a strong support system of family and friends is absolutely vital to all aspects of your well-being.

It’s no secret that nursing is a challenging job, but it’s also extremely rewarding. As long as you take care of yourself, you will get back just as much as it takes out of you.

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