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16 MUST-DO Things on Your First Day as a Nurse Practitioner


Written By: Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC

Your first day as a nurse practitioner is likely to be a day you remember for the rest of your life, so let’s make sure it’s memorable for the right reasons. You have been dreaming of this day for years, and whether it’s your first leap into the nursing world or you have years of experience as a registered nurse, you are bound to have some first-day nerves. So what things should you do on your first day as a nurse practitioner? Building working relationships with your colleagues starts on day one and will help you immensely in the weeks to come. Showing that you care about these relationships from the start and making an effort to understand how the clinical environment at your new job works will make a good impression. Here we will review 16 must-do things on your first day as a nurse practitioner.


WHAT THINGS SHOULD YOU DO ON YOUR FIRST DAY AS A NURSE PRACTITIONER?

(Learn about the 16 things you must do on your First Day as a Nurse Practitioner to create a great first impression.)

1. Don’t drink too much coffee

Nurses need coffee. It’s a survival mechanism and we all know this. However, on your first day as a nurse practitioner, there is no doubt that your adrenaline will be pumping, so overdoing it on the caffeine could result in some unpleasant side effects. I am not saying don’t have your morning cup of Joe, just don’t stress drink coffee all day and give yourself the jitters. It can make you feel more anxious and appear shakey, uncertain, and stressed. Stick to water throughout the day or another caffeine-free and low-sugar drink of choice.

2. Ask to shadow your co-workers

Odds are you are not the only clinician wherever you are working and there are loads you can learn about people, the clinical environment where you work, and the patient population by watching your veteran colleagues interact with their patients. Some workplaces will already offer to have you shadow other clinicians for the day, but if they haven’t, ask if it’s possible. On your first day as a nurse practitioner it’s a great idea to shadow not just other nurse practitioners, but doctors and physician assistants as well. This way you can observe and learn what your coworkers' clinical styles are. This will only help you get to know them better and maintain healthy working relationships down the road. It will also clue you in on your colleagues' unique skills which can help you refer patients to them appropriately and know who to go to for help with certain situations. Taking the initiative to shadow your colleagues on the first day also shows that you are an eager learner, respect their experience, and will be a collaborative colleague.

3. Start building relationships with the staff

If you work with medical assistants, nurses, receptionists, or a clinic manager, remember that they are the backbone that keeps clinical settings running smoothly. Forming a partnership with them from the start will be mutually beneficial. As a new nurse practitioner, you have so much to learn from other health professionals. They not only come with their own experiences and wealth of knowledge on the clinic, but they have likely seen new employees like you go through the adjustment phase. They also are the first faces patients see and likely know the patient population well. When you are looking for medication or instruments, they will be your go-to. Your colleagues can have the power to make or break your work environment. Showing that you value their expertise is the first step to forming healthy working relationships with the staff.

4. Write down your passwords

It doesn’t matter what profession you are in, we all have felt the frustration of forgetting a password and spending time trying to hack into your accounts at work. Do not let this happen to you on your first day as a nurse practitioner. It is not the end of the world if it does, but it will cause you a lot of unnecessary stress. Write down your passwords for your computer and electronic medical record system as well as any codes to get into medication storage or other areas you need regular access to. Keep this in a secure drawer at your desk or the medical assistant's desk so you can easily look at it until they are memorized. Just be sure to not risk losing the paper to the public and make sure to shred it when you no longer need it.

5. Examine the exam room

You’re seeing your first gynecologic patient and while you’re doing the speculum exam she decides she wants to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)…but where are the correct swabs? Are they in the drawers under the exam table? In the cabinet above the sink? In the drawers next to the sink? Does the room need to be restocked? While your patient is naked during an exam is not the time for you to be learning where things are. Before you see your first patient, make sure you spend some time getting to know your exam rooms so you can find things quickly without making your patients too uncomfortable.

6. Check the medicine cabinet

Just like the exam room, you should know what is stocked in your medicine cabinet. This will enable you to better manage your time and know when things need to be reordered. While it may not be your job to maintain the inventory, it helps to have more than one person aware of what is stocked. On your first day as a nurse practitioner familiarizing yourself with your surroundings will help you keep stress low and quickly learn how the clinical environment functions. Taking this initiative will reflect positively on you.

7. Show up early

To do all of this and give yourself space to breathe on your first day, it is in your best interest to show up a bit early. Ask your manager what’s appropriate so you are not surprising everyone by getting there too early, but 15 minutes should do. This gives you time to locate and use the bathroom, orient yourself, meet people, and allows for any other incidentals like getting a bit lost or spilling coffee on yourself in the car. Showing up early also demonstrates to your colleagues that you are excited about the position and dependable.

8. Find your ally

New nurse practitioners need allies in the workplace. This can be a more experienced nurse practitioner, a nurse, medical assistant, administrator, or doctor. The role doesn’t matter so much as their personality and willingness to support you in your transition. Your ally can not only clue you in on how things are done but can also offer insight into interpersonal relationships among staff and people's individual preferences. This person will be a trusted colleague who is vested in helping you make a smooth transition. If possible it would be helpful to identify this person on your first day as you may need ample support as you adjust to your role as a new nurse practitioner.

9. Trust your gut

Whether you are a new nurse practitioner with or without nursing experience, you have intuition. Trust it. Your first day will be like drinking water from a fire hose. When in doubt, trust your gut. This goes for your inklings about patients and coworkers, and when you should be asking for help or referring a patient. As you get overloaded with information and new people on your first day, don’t forget to pay attention to the person you know best, yourself. This can help you avoid mistakes and stay calm under pressure. Additionally, people trust people who trust themselves. Demonstrating that you can safely trust your intuition will help you make a good impression on your first day.

10. Ask for help

Trusting your gut also means knowing when you need to ask for help. It is completely unrealistic to expect that you will know everything and have it all down on your first day as a nurse practitioner. To pretend that you do would be foolish. You have an entire team at your disposal with their own expertise and experience and you should ask them for help when you need it. Of course, you should try to figure things out on your own where appropriate (this is how you learn after all), but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone you work with has been new at some point and they will respect you for knowing when to ask for help. This will also enable you to provide the best possible care for your patients.

11. Ask for a list of staff birthdays

This is a kind gesture that will set you apart from others. In work settings, people notice when someone goes above and beyond and is thoughtful. Asking for a list of birthdays of your coworkers will show that you are dedicated to bonding with them and being a part of the team. It also shows more of your compassionate character. It doesn’t mean you have to give everyone a gift on their birthday, but it does mean you won’t be blindsided by accidentally forgetting to congratulate someone on their birthday.

12. Meet the other departments

Departments in clinical settings interact with one another and you will likely need to refer a patient to or ask advice from someone in another department at some point. On your first day as a nurse practitioner, making these introductions now will save you some awkward “uh, who are you?” conversations later on when you need to leverage the expertise of another department. This is yet another way to show your colleagues that you care about the position, your patients, and your work culture.

13. Ask your colleagues for their favorite resources

Ask your colleagues what their favorite clinical resources are. Everyone has different preferences whether it’s UpToDate, a patient education website, or a book. Knowing what other clinicians use and trust will help you quickly be able to find needed clinical information. This will also show your colleagues that you respect their clinical judgment and experience and are eager to get things right and provide evidence-based care.

14. Be you

Sometimes when we are nervous or intimidated we can overcompensate a bit. While this is a normal response to a new and high-stress situation, on your first day as a nurse practitioner, try to be yourself. You will be with your coworkers every day for a long time and you don’t want to give them a false impression of who you are on day one. Also, they hired YOU. Your personality probably came through in your interview and they liked who you are and felt that you would be a good fit for the team, so don’t be afraid to let it show. This will demonstrate to your team that you are genuine and will be able to form solid working relationships with the people around you.

15. Write Down Names

Our short-term memories tend to take a back seat when we are anxious or excited. If you are like me, names go in one ear and out the other. However, names are super personal and important to people. Remembering the names of your colleagues shows that you care. It is understandable when you are taking in loads of information on your first day as a nurse practitioner if you can’t remember everyone’s names (particularly if you have a large team). Writing down people’s names and roles can help you feel more at ease and make a good impression in the coming days when you remember who everyone is.

16. Record patients’ hobbies and the names of their loved ones

Some of the best advice I received as a new nurse practitioner was to write down key personal details about my patients in their clinical notes. What key personal details am I talking about? This just means the name of someone’s partner or their children. Did they mention a particular hobby? Intertwine this into your note somehow. Next time you see them you can ask how their dog Charlie is doing, or if the soccer tournament went well. These details will help you form bonds with your patients. It shows that you care about them and their life, not just the clinical situation in front of you. It also is a great ice breaker to talk about lighter subjects when patients come in nervous for their visit.


My Final Thoughts


The swell of emotions you will feel on your first day can be overwhelming. You are not expected to do it all on day one, so what things should you do on your first day as a nurse practitioner? Making a good first impression should be at the top of your list. The way to do this is to trust yourself, show you care, work hard, and be yourself. Remember that your colleagues hired you for a reason. You are meant to be there. Also, don’t forget that everyone there has been in your position before. Go to them for help and questions when you need to. These 16 must-do things on your first day as a nurse practitioner are designed to help you make a good first impression and keep your first day running smoothly.


Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC
Lauren Jacobson is a registered nurse and women’s health nurse practitioner who is passionate about global health and gender-based violence prevention. She is Editor and an Advisory Board Member for the Global Nursing Caucus and volunteers with Physicians for Human Rights as a medical evaluator for asylum seekers.