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Mastering Clinical Skills: A New Nurse's Guide to Learning Bedside Procedures

New nurse inserts an IV.
New nurse inserts an IV.

Welcome, new nurses, to the exhilarating world of clinical practice! Your journey from the classroom to the bedside marks the beginning of an exciting chapter filled with challenges, triumphs, and endless opportunities for growth. Whew, so exciting I might have to sit down... As you step into your role as a practicing nurse, you're tasked with mastering a wide array of clinical skills – from the routine tasks to the more complex procedures that define our profession.

I remember vividly the mix of excitement and nervousness I felt as a new nurse, fresh out of school and eager to make a difference in the lives of my patients. Like many of you, I embarked on my nursing journey with enthusiasm and determination, ready to tackle whatever challenges came my way. Little did I know, one of the most daunting challenges I would face early in my career would involve something as seemingly routine as obtaining IV access.

It was toward the end of a very busy shift and I was assigned to care for a patient who required IV antibiotics. As I approached the patient's room, I felt a surge of confidence knowing that I had practiced phlebotomy a million times during my time working as an ER tech. Even though my nursing school would not allow us to practice IV insertion, I figured I had this in the bag. Even when I began setting up and performed that first stick, my confidence was high. I immediately found a great vein and, before long, I inserted and got an instant flash of blood. However, as I prepared to advance the IV catheter, I encountered unexpected resistance – try as I might, I couldn't seem to push  the angiocath into the vein. My patient squirmed and I eventually backed off, allowing my preceptor to finish the job with a new insertion.

Despite my initial setback, I refused to let self-doubt get the best of me. With the guidance and encouragement of my preceptor, I persevered, honing my technique and refining my approach to IV insertion. I sought out additional training opportunities, practiced on simulation models, and absorbed every piece of feedback with an open mind and a determination to improve. I asked to be called any time a patient required an IV so I could have the first attempt at practicing. I even got permission from my unit manager to spend half a shift down in our pre-op area where dozens of patients were being registered and prepped for same-day surgeries. By the conclusion of my orientation, my confidence was back and I had successfully placed countless IVs.

Today, as I reflect on that pivotal moment in my nursing journey, I am reminded of the invaluable lessons it taught me. I learned that setbacks are not failures but opportunities for growth. I learned that true mastery comes not from innate talent but from dedication, practice, and a willingness to learn from both successes and failures. I took ownership over my own education and training and sought out every opportunity to practice. I didn’t want to make any of my patients endure discomfort because my skills were not up to par. And most importantly, I learned that with determination and perseverance, even the most daunting challenges can be overcome.

So, to all the new nurses embarking on this journey, I offer you these words of encouragement: Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and never lose sight of the incredible impact you have the power to make as nurses. Your journey may be filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, but remember – with each challenge you face, you grow stronger, wiser, and more resilient. And in the end, it is these challenges that shape us into the skilled and compassionate nurses we are destined to become.


Understanding the Importance of Learning Bedside Procedures with a Preceptor

Learning to perform bedside procedures under the supervision of an experienced preceptor nurse is a crucial step in your journey as a new nurse. Whether it's inserting a Foley catheter, obtaining IV access, or performing sterile dressing changes, having a preceptor by your side provides invaluable guidance, support, and feedback. By working closely with a preceptor, you can gain hands-on experience, refine your techniques, and build confidence in your skills, all while ensuring the safety and well-being of your patients.

Developing a Learning Plan: Setting Yourself Up for Success

As you begin your orientation with your preceptor, it's essential to develop a comprehensive learning plan to maximize your time and opportunities for growth. Start by discussing your learning goals and objectives with your preceptor, identifying the bedside procedures you'll be focusing on during your orientation. Set realistic goals for mastering each procedure, breaking them down into manageable steps. Work with your preceptor to create a detailed schedule that allows for ample hands-on practice, observation, and opportunities for feedback and reflection.

Hands-On Practice: The Key to Mastery

When it comes to mastering bedside procedures, hands-on practice is essential. During your orientation, take advantage of every opportunity to practice under the guidance of your preceptor. Whether it's assisting with procedures, observing your preceptor's techniques, or performing procedures under supervision, actively participate in every aspect of patient care. Practice inserting Foley catheters, NG tubes, and performing sterile dressing changes on simulation mannequins or practice models before progressing to live patient care. Don't be afraid to ask questions, seek clarification, and solicit feedback from your preceptor. Remember, practice makes perfect, and each experience brings you one step closer to mastery.

Staying Open to Feedback: Embracing a Growth Mindset

As you navigate your orientation and practice bedside procedures with your preceptor, it's essential to stay open to feedback and embrace a growth mindset. Your preceptor is there to support you, guide you, and help you grow as a nurse. Listen attentively to their feedback, reflect on your experiences, and use constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Remember that every mistake is a learning opportunity, and every success is a testament to your dedication and hard work. Take advantage of opportunities for debriefing sessions with your preceptor to discuss your progress, identify areas for improvement, and set goals for future learning and development.

Building Confidence and Competence: Celebrating Progress Along the Way

As you progress through your orientation and gain confidence in your clinical skills, don't forget to celebrate your achievements along the way. Each successful procedure, each positive patient interaction, and each moment of growth is a cause for celebration. Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small, and acknowledge the progress you've made since the beginning of your orientation. Remember that building confidence and competence as a nurse is a journey, not a destination, and every step you take brings you closer to becoming the skilled and compassionate nurse you aspire to be.


Stay confident and embrace that you are NEW and don't have to know everything on the first day. By learning under the guidance of an experienced preceptor nurse, you're laying the foundation for a successful and fulfilling career in nursing. Remember to approach each day of your orientation with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a willingness to learn. Take advantage of every opportunity to practice, observe, and engage with your preceptor, and don't hesitate to ask questions or seek guidance when needed.

Now, I want to hear from you! What's one bedside procedure that you're looking forward to mastering during your orientation? Share your thoughts, questions, or experiences in the comments below. Together, let's continue to learn, grow, and excel in our nursing practice. Best of luck on your journey ahead!


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