There were some things in college that we didn’t get to do much or didn’t get to do at all. In other words, these were things that we pretty much knew only in theory. So, in the beginning, I took most, if not every opportunity to do them.

I CAN still remember the time just before I started my first day at work. I thought my college education and a number of post-graduate trainings were enough to make me perform well, after all, these things allowed me to acquire the minimum set of knowledge and skills of an entry-level nurse. After the first few days on the job, I realized that I thought wrong. Even with everything that I knew, I didn’t perform as well as I hoped I would. There were even moments when I cringed at how poorly I performed especially when I had nurse trainees under my supervision. I was quite disappointed by my seemingly lackluster start.

Family, friends, and colleagues tried to console me. They told me that I was still learning the ropes. They said that I’d only get better.

I felt bad but I was unfazed. I grabbed every opportunity to become better. I didn’t shy away from responsibilities. I took everything I could.

Just like other newbies, I dreaded being the charge nurse, a role with a ton of responsibility. But I didn’t avoid functioning as one. In fact, I frequently volunteered to be the charge nurse even if I was quite inexperienced.

There were quite a few things that were unique not only to the institution where I was employed but also to the department where I was assigned. I didn’t content myself with simply observing what my co-workers did. I asked what, how, and when things were done in my area.

I also figured out how I could be more efficient. I learned my priorities. I organized my work. I determined which parts of preparing medications can be done ahead of time. An example would be crushing tablets that needed to be given through a nasogastric tube, a thing used for patients who cannot take anything by mouth. I determined how I could expedite certain processes without putting the patients at risk. For instance, I took the vital signs in a certain order.

There were some things in college that we didn’t get to do much or didn’t get to do at all. In other words, these were things that we pretty much knew only in theory. So, in the beginning, I took most, if not every opportunity to do them.

In my area, we took care of clients that suffered from cerebrovascular accidents, more popularly known as “stroke”. Assessment of a client’s level of consciousness (LOC) is an essential part of their care. Changes in the LOC indicated an improvement or a deterioration of the patient’s condition. Unfortunately, assessing the LOC was one of those things we didn’t get to do much in college. It was only the scale used to help determine the LOC that we knew well. I took my time to really learn the proper assessment so I can come up with the accurate data that can be interpreted using the scale.

I’m a certified IV (intravenous) therapist. This just means that I had my basic IV therapy training. I, however, was not really good at establishing IV access (inserting an IV cannula to a peripheral vein where fluids and medications can be administered), one of the skills in IV therapy. I felt clumsy and inept whenever I tried (and failed at) doing this during my first few days at work. But I was determined to become better at it. Every time a patient’s IV access was no longer patent, I would volunteer to re-establish it. When I didn’t get it right on my first attempt, I would keep myself from calling my co-workers to do it for me. After several weeks, I became better at it. Now, I can proudly say that I’ve become quite good at it.

I learned many things. Self-awareness is one essential aspect of improvement. I needed to determine what I can learn and what I can work on. Awareness of my environment and the nature of my work are also important; these things pointed me to how I can be more efficient.

It’s okay if we don’t start out to be proficient in our job; hardly everyone does. Theoretical foundations are essential but not enough. We really need experience. It is that which makes us better at our job. Practice cannot really make us perfect; it can make us better. Moreover, it can make us exceptional at certain things.

Lastly, take on responsibilities. This is how we can grow.