Surviving the Novice Nurse

There is this chart that they love to drag out early in our nursing education. It was published by a nursing theorist named Patricia Benner who wrote an entire book on this concept of “novice to expert.” It is plenty interesting if you are into nursing theory. You can take a look at it here.The abbreviated chart looks something like this:


It is supposed to kind of outline your competency over your nusing career, starting as a student nurse. For some reason it really intimidated me and sticks with me still. I remember thinking “I’ll be taking care of patients for years before I’m even considered a competent nurse?!?” before taking a big hit of Dr Pepper. This is basically what I read:


I think I’ll publish my version as “The Christmas Tree of Nursing Insecurity. ”

You’ll notice where I put myself.  That is five years after I started nursing school. That is three legal, liscenced years of trying not to kill anybody.
As far as I know, I’ve been successful. But I have to credit the bulk of that success to the more experienced nurses that I’ve leeched onto during my short time in this field. I’d encourage any new grad to seek these nurses out as soon as you can and bond with them. My personal favorite strategy to to find the ones that are a little more tart than the rest. I love an acquired taste. I’ve found if you are willing to work a little to get through the shell of ice, you’ll often find that they are the most authentic, loyal, and wise nurses with the biggest hearts. Do the work, make friends, watch them, and soak in everything.  Listen to their stories, they’ll try to save you from making their mistakes. Laugh with them, they will have a dark sense of humor that you will need to aquire. Thank them when they teach you how to slip on compression stockings without breaking a sweat, or how to keep brittle veins from blowing. They have the tricks to the trade. I’ve often felt like they were the brains and I was the running legs, so we work well together. Nursing is special because even if you do it for 50 years, there will be more to learn. You never stop growing and improving. First, we gain knowledge, then, with experience, judgement. The more we learn the more there is to learn. In fact, I would I would like to respectfully respond to Dr. Benner’s theory with a chart of my own. I present to you,
“Reeves’ Infinite Cone of Nursing Wisdom”


This leads me to share with you another article of my nurse law. I KNOW LESS THAN I DON’T KNOW.


4 responses to “Surviving the Novice Nurse

  1. Great post! Not all of us old heads need thawing! You’ll one day be that nurse with all the experience! Remember the lessons you’re learning today become someone’s pot of gold in the future! Stay strong, keep the faith and nurse on!


  2. Love this!! All I wanted was 2 years of experience. That was our goal, because back on my day you had to have 2 years med/surg experience to work in ICU. After 30 years of nursing and a Master’s degree, I still know less than I do know. Like to think what I know has increased over the years, but Things change and the more they change the more I have to learn! Love reading your blog!!


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