Tips for Anxious and Socially Awkward New Nurses

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Starting a new job is always nerve-wracking, and it’s even more challenging in a field like nursing, where there’s so much at stake. If you’re a new nurse who’s anxious or socially awkward, you’re definitely not alone. This guide aims to provide practical advice that can help you navigate your way around this challenging yet rewarding profession.

Embracing the Learning Curve: A Closer Look for New Nurses

Entering the nursing field is an exciting yet daunting experience. You’re not just learning to perform tasks, but you’re also becoming part of a team dedicated to patient care. Embracing the learning curve is essential to thrive in this environment. Let’s delve deeper into two key aspects of this: asking questions and taking one step at a time.

Understand it’s Okay to Ask Questions

Why Asking Questions Matters

As a new nurse, you may feel the pressure to know everything right away. But guess what? That’s not realistic or expected. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of a curious and committed mind. When you ask questions, you show that you care about doing your job correctly, and you open the door to valuable learning opportunities.

Types of Questions to Ask

  1. Procedural Questions: These are questions about how to do things. Maybe you’re not sure about the steps to administer medication properly or how to update patient records. These are crucial questions that ensure you’re doing your job right.
  2. Clarification Questions: If something isn’t clear to you, ask about it. Whether it’s a term you’re not familiar with or an instruction you didn’t catch, asking for clarification avoids misunderstandings.
  3. Feedback Questions: After completing a task, it’s helpful to ask for feedback. Simple queries like “Is there a better way to do this?” or “Did I handle that situation correctly?” can offer valuable insights.
Tips for Anxious and Socially Awkward New Nurses

Who to Ask

You can ask questions to a variety of people:

  • Experienced Nurses
  • Your Nursing Supervisor
  • Medical Staff
  • Even the Patients, when appropriate

The point is, don’t be shy. People are usually happy to help, and each question you ask is a step towards becoming a better nurse.

Tips for Anxious and Socially Awkward New Nurses: Take One Step at a Time

Why It’s Important

The healthcare environment is fast-paced and often stressful. If you try to learn everything all at once, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and even more anxious. Breaking tasks down into smaller, more manageable parts makes the whole process less intimidating.

How to Break Down Tasks

  1. Prioritize: Not all tasks are equally urgent or important. Figure out what needs to be done first and focus on that.
  2. Chunking: This involves taking a big task and breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces. For example, if you’re learning to administer IV fluids, first master how to set up the IV line, then move on to understanding the different types of fluids, and so on.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: The more you do something, the more comfortable you’ll become. Each small task you master adds to your confidence and skill set, making the bigger picture much less daunting.

Keep Track of Your Progress

It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come when you’re focused on what you have yet to learn. Make it a habit to jot down your accomplishments, no matter how small. Reviewing this list can be a great confidence booster and a reminder that you’re making progress.

Communication is Key

Practice Active Listening

The Importance of Active Listening

Listening might seem like a passive activity, but active listening is a skill that can benefit you enormously in your nursing career. Active listening involves not just hearing the words but understanding the complete message being conveyed. By being a good listener, you’re less likely to make mistakes, more likely to understand your patients’ needs, and even better positioned to catch details that others may miss.

Tips for Anxious and Socially Awkward New Nurses

How to Practice Active Listening

  1. Pay Full Attention: When someone is speaking to you, whether it’s a patient, a family member, or a colleague, give them your undivided attention. Make eye contact and nod your head to show you’re engaged.
  2. Don’t Interrupt: Let the speaker finish what they’re saying before you respond. Interrupting can lead to misunderstandings and may cause you to miss important details.
  3. Paraphrase: After the speaker is done, paraphrase what you’ve heard to ensure you’ve understood correctly. For example, you might say, “So you’re saying that the patient needs to take this medication before meals, correct?”
  4. Ask Questions: If something isn’t clear, ask for clarification. Questions can provide you with additional information that may not have been offered initially.

Benefits of Active Listening

  • Reduced errors in patient care
  • Better rapport with patients and colleagues
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills

Use Simple Language

Why Simple Language is Essential

Being socially awkward might make you overthink what you have to say, but the key to effective communication is often simplicity. Using simple language ensures that your message is understood clearly and quickly, reducing the chance for misunderstandings.

How to Use Simple Language

  1. Be Direct: Use straightforward sentences. Instead of saying, “Would it be alright if I were to possibly administer your medication now?” simply ask, “Can I give you your medication now?”
  2. Avoid Jargon: Medical terms can be confusing for patients and even some staff members. Use plain language whenever possible. Instead of saying “hypertension,” you could say “high blood pressure.”
  3. Use Short Sentences: Long, convoluted sentences can lose the listener. Short sentences are easier to understand and less prone to misunderstanding.

Benefits of Using Simple Language

  • Improved patient comprehension of their care plan
  • More efficient communication with team members
  • Less time spent clarifying or correcting misunderstandings

Build Your Confidence

Start with Small Talk

You don’t have to dive into deep conversations right away. Sometimes, a simple “Hello” or “How’s your day going?” is enough to break the ice.

Observe and Learn

Pay attention to how experienced nurses interact with patients and colleagues. This can provide valuable insights on how to handle various social situations.

Coping with Anxiety

Take Short Breaks

When you feel overwhelmed, taking short breaks can help. Just a few minutes away from a stressful environment can recharge your mind.

Practice Deep Breathing

Simple deep breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale fully through your mouth.


Being a new nurse with anxiety or social awkwardness is tough, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

Many have walked this path before you and have come out stronger on the other side. Use these tips to build your confidence and skills.

With time and experience, you’ll find that the job gets easier.

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Phyllis Robinson MSN, RN is a Registered Nurse of 27 years. Phyllis is passionate about the prevention and healing of heart disease using traditional and alternative methods. She has experience in emergency room, telemetry, infusion, and critical care. Phyllis currently practices in an intensive care unit.

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