Maxims for New Graduates

Courtesy of Will Hardy

Will Hardy over at Drawing on Experience wanted advice for new grads.  Here it is.

Learning never ends.

Learn by doing.

See one, do one, teach one.

[as amended by Leigh: “See several, do several supervised, and only once you are competent do several unsupervised, teach several.”]

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 and mindfully. 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.

Vern Dutton’s Addenda:

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, do go look — something is not right.

When the patient says,”I have never seen that pill before,” go check the MAR again. You almost certainly 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. Know.

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.

The day will come when you realize you are the most knowledgeable person in an emergency situation and decisions need to be made. Make them!

Feel free to add your own in the comments!

[Adapted from a post originally published 8/12/2010]

  1. #1 by nsopinions on Sunday 30 January 2011 - 1409


    I’m from Nursing Students’ Opinions
    I wanted to let you know I cited this blog post because it was so useful and I know nursing students would love to learn more from nurses!!! Check out the post and if you thing it needs to be changed, let me know.

    Nursing Students’ Opinions

  2. #2 by The Nerdy Nurse on Wednesday 16 February 2011 - 1630

    once again, another reminder of why you are one of my favorites!

    Wonderful tips and advice for new grads.
    We should never forget we were all there once and one day that new grad may be taking care of you!

  3. #3 by DOEcomic on Wednesday 20 April 2011 - 0956

    Why am I just noticing this now? Shameful on my part. Thanks for the continued support *(professionally and blog stats).

  4. #4 by Mary on Sunday 07 August 2011 - 2340

    When checking a patient for bleeding, remember that blood travels south…a patient can look fine until you turn them over….!!

  5. #5 by torontoemerg on Monday 08 August 2011 - 1043

    Thanks! Good one.

  6. #6 by Lisa Giblin (@magic_bindy) on Monday 02 January 2012 - 0426

    Luv this!!! As a new graduate myself (well 9mths in) i really value this information. Wouldve loved this info when i first started but hey, whats 9 mths really?!?! Thank you!!

  7. #7 by Ali on Tuesday 10 January 2012 - 2133

    There is always time to take a deep breath.

  8. #8 by Anonymous on Tuesday 18 June 2013 - 0945

    Wear the right shoe!

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