The independence of finally becoming a full-fledged registered nurse is exciting, but essentially also means that you now on your own. The transition from nursing school to actual nursing work is a drastic change, where studies and exams are replaced with the real-life responsibilities of caring for patients and new obstacles to overcome. This sea change is likely to cause anxiety for the newly- or non-initiated, and this guide is intended to help address this. As you enter the real world of nursing, how can you deal with the oncoming anxiety?

Identify signs of anxiety

First, make sure that what you are suffering from is indeed anxiety. Look out for tell-tale signs such as having difficulty sleeping the night before a shift, or sweating profusely on the way to your shift. In extreme cases, your hands may even tremble uncontrollably when you are thinking about the tasks at work. Be honest with yourself and do not be embarrassed to admit your feelings.

It is important to assess yourself for these signs of anxiety accurately, as you can only start taking the necessary steps to deal with your anxiety then.

Develop anti-anxiety regimes

The next step, after admitting that you have anxiety issues on the nursing job, is to trump those anxious feelings. To prepare yourself for the shift ahead or ease your mind after a long one, develop a pre-shift and post-shift anti-anxiety regime to calm your nerves.

Pre-shift regime

The best way to go about this is to ensure that you can go in with confidence about all things you have to handle. If you know you will need to perform tasks that you were not confident about back in nursing school, go over the procedure step-by-step and ensure that you know exactly what needs to be done. Be armed with the knowledge of what to do in each new situation and how to best handle each of them. Knowing exactly what to do can greatly increase your confidence, and you will be less anxious when the time finally comes for you to perform the task that you were previously unsure of.

Also, take the time to breathe deeply on your way to work and before your shift. Take deep breaths for five minutes, and with each breath, hold it and count to 10 before exhaling —remember to focus on your breathing as you do so. Taking deep breaths can slow down your heart rate and allow you to focus better. This helps you to break away from those panicky thoughts, which tends to snowball if you do not keep them in check.

Post-shift regime

After a long, hard shift, emotions can be less under control than usual, and stress levels can be extremely high. Detaching yourself from the day's events is an important step. Make sure you take deep breaths once again, following the same steps outlined above, but also try to clear your mind simultaneously.

However, simply detaching yourself from work completely and not preparing yourself properly for the next shift will only increase those anxious feelings once the time for your next shift draws near. As such, plan your post-shift time appropriately, and ensure that there is time for exercise, a healthy meal and enough hours of sleep in order to ensure you are well-prepared for your next shift. A plan can also help you feel less anxious, as it is more predictable and controllable. Knowing that can help make you feel more in control and empowered during your shift, thereby reducing your anxiety on the job.

Anxiety is a feeling familiar to many new nurses. Creating a healthy pre-shift and post-shift regime will greatly reduce your stress levels, and in turn, reduce your anxiety tremendously. The key is being aware of your feelings and tackle them in the best possible way. Remember, the number one patient that you have to take care of should be yourself — if you are not functioning at your very best, it is hard to expect the delivery of the best care to your patients. MIMS

Read more:
The Imposter Syndrome: What it is and how it can be treated
Why does being a doctor require you to be a good organizer?
Nursing tip: Take care of yourself