April 24, 2006, 11:00 am

To the Nurses of the Class of 2006


I love all of my ads, but this is one of my very favorites.

The funny thing is, when I first saw it, I thought she was giving an obscene gesture!

Then I realized it was a Bulova Watch ad.

I rate the cap an 8/10, losing points for the pointy top which, while unique, must have presented a challenge when it came time to place the stripe upon it.

But the recipient felt like she had the world at her feet and wore that cap with pride.

I remember.

f5_12.JPG.jpgI had a severe case of writer’s block this week.

Oh, I had a lot of ideas in my “To Blog” folder, but nothing was coming together in my head.

Inspiration comes when you least expect it.

As I sat in my car waiting those last few minutes before going into my department (hey, Journey was on the radio, okay?), one word came into my mind.


What would I say to the new graduate nurses if I was a guest of honor at the pinning ceremonies instead of a worker bee blogger in the Hive of Health Care?

The thoughts began to flow.

And a blog post was born, right there in the car.

To my new colleagues in the graduating classes of 2006.

All the time, sacrifices, stresses, anxieties and insecurities of school are now behind you.

Or are they?


You’re scared? Still?

Afraid you didn’t learn enough? Wondering how you’ll cope with a full assignment, while having the ultimate responsibility? Will you even pass what we used to call “the boards”?

Relax. Those feelings are normal. You will pass the exam for your license. You have learned what you need to know to start your career.

Remember that 90% of what you need to know you will learn on the job. School has taught you how to learn. As a professional, you will learn.

Give yourself at least a year to feel comfortable in your new role. At first, everyday will bring new experiences. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll learn from them. We all will. We all have. Work as much as you can that first year. The more experience you accumulate the more confidence you will have.

Gradually, you will find that you have advanced from running to put out fires as they occur to recognizing the beginnings of a problem before the embers have a chance to heat up. (How’s that for a metaphor?)

Just wait until you act on your first “gut feeling” and save a life.


You are beginning your career in an age of technology unheard of when I graduated in the late ’70s.

You will join your older colleagues in addressing ethical issues unthinkable when we “dinosaurs” graduated.

You will share a collegial relationship with doctors that never used to exist between the professions.

You will work harder with sicker patients than any new graduating class before you; patients that 20 years ago would have been in an ICU.

You are walking into a market that is literally crying out for your skills. Your skills.

And when you look at the older nurses that you work with, remember that they have blazed a path for you in terms of better pay, better benefits and better working conditions. They have fought and are still fighting the good fight for the best working conditions and the safest patient care. Join them.

Ladies, wear that invisible cap with pride. You may not have one, but you earned it.

Gentlemen, you have so much to contribute to the nursing profession. You’ve earned your “cap”, too, but I bet you are glad you don’t have to wear it!

I am proud to consider myself your colleague.

So, as you finish your studies, go celebrate, party like it’s 1999 (not-so-obscure Prince reference) and bask in your accomplishments.

Then get to work.

We need you.



  • lynn

    April 24, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Thanks so much for that post. I haven’t even started nursing school yet, but what you wrote made me for excited for it (& for being a nurse) than I’ve ever been.

  • pixelrn

    April 24, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    Well said, Kim. As I read this I have this strong urge to throw my invisible cap in the air and start cheering!!

  • marj

    April 24, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    kim, i will be sure to share this with my friends who are graduating this year. and i’ll be sure to keep this in my back pocket for myself. 🙂 cheers!

  • michelle

    April 24, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    Thank you so much! I graduate in May and value everything you’ve said. I am scared and at the same time can’t wait to get out there!! Thanks again you are an inspiration.

  • healthcare.wurk.net

    April 25, 2006 at 2:25 am

    Grand Rounds Vol 2 (31) at Health Business Blog

  • Wendy, S.N.

    April 25, 2006 at 5:51 am

    My graduation is in 1 year from this weekend. Would you like to come speak? It would mean a trip to Miami…..

    That was just wonderful. I know that you visit my blog and always leave messages of encouragement for me, and I thank you.

    Can you come work in my hospital and be my preceptor?

    W. 🙂

  • Jodi

    April 25, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    Awww.(Tears in my eyes) You would so be our guest speaker if you lived in TX.
    If there was a nursing salute…..I would be saluting you as an ensign would an admiral!

  • pammiecakes

    April 25, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    Kim, I second what W said. Can you come work in my hospital and be my preceptor? You’re awesome! Thank you (again) for your encouraging words to us new grads. I can’t believe that in 1 week and 2 days I’ll be done with nursing school! I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready.

  • Dream Mom

    April 26, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    Great post, Kim!

  • weezy

    April 26, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    Why don’t you also warn them that in 20 years they will be totally burned out – and wondering why they even ever considered nursing as a “career” that will label them forever- and prevent them from ever finding any other kind of meaningful work? Once a nurse, always a nurse – and no other employers will wanna be bothered with you.Also, please remind them that it is backbreaking, thankless,frustrating and can suck you dry of any compassion you ever had. And let’s not forget the politics of nursing management no matter what type of situation you are in. THESE are the realities I know after 30 years of nursing – and most nurses I know will admit – they would never do it again.

  • Kim

    April 26, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    Whoa, Weezy!

    I made it through two periods of the burnout of which you speak and both times it had to do with not keeping a balance in my life. Too much working, not enough time with my family/hobbies.

    And yes, I thought about other careers and could have easily chosen, as many of these students have, TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL and learn another profession.

    I never once expected that my nursing education and experience would get me other “meaningful” (high paying?)jobs.

    Backbreaking? Hell yeah! The way I work my butt off I should be Kate Moss.

    Thankless? I am thanked a dozen or more times a day by my patients.

    Frustrating? Can be. My hubby tells me law is the same way. My daughter tells me public relations is the same way. My other one tells me high school is like that.
    Find me a job that isn’t and I’ll post it!

    Suck you dry of compassion? If you don’t keep a balance. Like I said, happened to me twice. I recovered my compassion and was a stronger nurse afterwards.

    How? By switching to a different type of nursing.

    When it got bad, I changed what type of nursing I did.
    Somehow, it always led back to ER or Critical Care.

    I let nursing management do what they want and I focus on taking care of patients. If I wanted to be a manager, I would have gotten an advanced degree. Definitely not for me.

    Weezy, you sound burnt to a crisp. What you describe does not have to happen, I know because it nearly happened to me. But I knew that nursing was what I was meant to do even though there were times I would have killed to do anything else.

    But, after 30 years, I am one nurse who would do it again.

  • Deb

    June 2, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    Weezy…..I couldn’t have said it better myself. Burnt to a crisp? Absolutely. The mostly wasted years I spent as a nurse are only redeemed by recalling specific instances when I know that I helped someone make a difference in their own life. I can still see the faces. But nursing took everything I had physically, emotionally and spiritually. I am left to ask myself was I a fool to let it take what it did from me. I am a better person since I left it behind. I have significantly reduced the stress in my life, my relationships with friends and family have improved and I have more energy in both body and soul to live life, and have learned not to allow my profession to consume me. Nursing has a way of doing that. It happens even when you don’t want it to. How long do you wait before you stop fighting it? I respect your choice to stay in it. Now respect mine for getting out. I did my time.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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