Maxims for New Graduates

Courtesy of Will Hardy

Will Hardy over at Drawing on Experience wanted advice for new grads.  My two cents.

Learning never ends.

Learn by doing.

See one, do one, teach one.

Pay attention when a patient complains of imminent death.

Go to codes.

Never pass up the opportunity to see a procedure.

Not everything can be fixed.




Patients die unexpectedly for reasons unrelated to the quality of your care.

Don’t think you know more than you do. You don’t.

Ask for help.

Ask questions.

More importantly, know when you must ask questions.

If you still don’t understand, ask more questions.

Advocate. For your patients. For your profession. For yourself.

Be skeptical.

Critical thinking is not optional.

Bedbaths are an essential skill, even for RNs.

Chart. Then chart some more.

Read Notes on Nursing.

Walk before running. Basic nursing before Swan-Ganz catheters.

Listen. Carefully. When someone offers you a piece of chewing gum, you’re not thinking your breath stinks, right?


Wash your hands.

Foley catheters are not a substitute for good nursing.

Housekeepers and ward clerks are your best friends. Treat them as such.

Bring chocolate.

Your most recent assessment is the most important one.

Find a mentor.

Sixth sense counts. Ignore it at your peril.

Five rights. Three checks. Always and forever. No exceptions. Ever. Amen.

If you’re giving more than two of anything — tablets, capsules, vials — you’re giving too much.

If your colleague is drowning, throw her a life ring.

Specialize in a skill. Be the go-to guy for hard IV starts.

Make it your rule: take no shit from anyone.

Feel free to add your own: I’ll make a page for them.

[Update: Will’s cartoon added]

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  1. #1 by Robert Fraser RN on Wednesday 08 December 2010 - 1548

    I must say I love this post, and it makes me excited to get back in to the thick of things. I miss clinical work like crazy, I miss the highs and lows of it. Can’t wait to get back at it, and this post will definitely be part of my mantra.

    Great list!

  2. #2 by wilomis on Wednesday 08 December 2010 - 1730

    YEAH!!!!!! This is going to be printed and carried with me for awhile!!!!

    PS… Toronto… will you adopt me?

    PSS… link you as well…

  3. #3 by Vernon Dutton on Wednesday 08 December 2010 - 1956

    Two more cents.

    You will make errors. learn from them.

    When watching a patient for a colleague. watch them.

    If the Nursing Assistant says something doesn’t look right. go look – something is not right.

    When the patient says I have never seen that pill before. go check the MAR again. you have the wrong medication.

    Know what you are doing before you force anything.

    When a colleague asks for your opinion. give it.

    The clinician will not always order the dose intended. check it.

    Do not guess.

    When you tell the patient you will be back. go back.

    When a colleague says come see this. be prepared

    When you know a patient needs to be turned. go turn them..

    If Pharmacy questions an order. go check it.

    If you think the clinician needs to be notified. notify them.

    When the day comes that you realize you are the most knowledgeable person in an emergency situation and decisions need to be made NOW. make them

  4. #4 by Jenn Jilks on Friday 10 December 2010 - 0955

    I like this. Nicely done. It is a common mantra for many of the professions in the humanities. I can see many that would apply to teaching! Eat, pee, breathe!
    I like ‘take no shit from anyone’, except with the politics of administration, it meant I burned out and quit. Bullying from anyone is criminal. I am happier ‘retired’!

    This is a priceless post. I love your take on people.

  5. #5 by leigh on Saturday 11 December 2010 - 1436

    I like your list very much- apart from ‘See one, do one, teach one’ which I dislike very much,
    It should be ‘See several, do several supervised, and only once you are competent do several unsupervised, Teach several.’

    There are too many ‘See one, do one, kill one’ errors from people who never check their competency before doing procedures new to them

  6. #6 by Wendell Wisnoski on Tuesday 13 March 2012 - 0204

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