New Grad RN Orientation: My Experience and Helpful Tips

So far orientation has been a great experience! Not only have I learned so much, the skills lab that the hospital put together really helped relieve some of the anxiety I had about using equipment and performing certain skills. I feel really fortunate that the hospital has taken the time to put together such a program for new graduates. Though the new hire process can be somewhat overwhelming, there are some recommendations I would make to those newcomers.

1.Buy a Dedicated Notebook

The orientation process is really like an extenuation of your schooling experience. There is information presented that you are expected to retain, and will even be tested on; and yes, you can fail these tests and you will have to repeat the course if you do! So, don’t be afraid to write things down.

To be honest I was a little surprised that so few people were taking notes. I thought to myself, either all these people are geniuses, and retain every verbal instruction they’re given, or they’re very foolish.  During the orientation process you will be bombarded with information.  Some of this information will be general and pertain to the organization as a whole and  its mission statement, while other information will pertain to policy and procedures that are your responsibility to know and follow.

Getting yourself a dedicated note book will help you stay organized, and serve as a log you can reference later down the road.  Throughout this two week orientation process I’ve already needed it several times.

Personally, I prefer notebooks of medium size that have hard covers, are bound, and can fasten shut. Typically I’m pretty hard on my journals. I like to carry them around with me every where I go because I never know when I might need to write something down for later reference, or when I’ll need to reference previously noted information. So I like a book that can handle my handling.

For my workbook I decided to go with a slightly smaller journal size than I normally would, and I decided to try doted instead of lined pages.  So glad I did! The next personal journal I get I will definitely be going with this format! The reason I’m so pleased with the dots instead of lines, is that it really cam in handy when I started taking notes on ECG interpretation.

Side note: I’m a super cheap person! You don’t have to spend a lot to get a decent journal. I found mine at wall mart for around 7.00$. This is the one I went with (click here). It’s cheaper in store, but if you don’t have time or if your wall mart doesn’t carry it, I think its worth it to spend a little extra.  The pages do really well with not bleeding through; which is good because I only used G2 ink pens (click here).

2.Write Down People’s Names

I think there’s probably a good reason for the saying “kicking ass and taking names”; because people who are being really awesome and staying on top of things, know the names of the people they’re dealing with.  No one knows who that one girl is that did that one thing. Or maybe they do but they also forgot to write down her name.

I’ll be the first to admit it, when it comes to names I’m horrible. For some reason the names of people and cars oddly enough are not my strong suit.  The good news, since I know this is a weakness of mine, I’ve worked really hard to overcome it by writing peoples names down, and making an effort to use people’s names in conversation.

During the orientation process I met with many presenters, educators, managers, etc. All of whom are resources that can be used when you need information. Every presenter we had I made sure to write down their name, and depending on their role, request contact information.

So, when I began having trouble with my login, I knew exactly who to contact.  I’ve also been able to help other new grads in the program by giving them the names of people they can meet with to solve their particular problems.  They would have had this information, if they had written it down!

I think part of the problem is when we enter employment at a huge corporation many assume that the business has worked out all the kinks when it comes to onboarding, but that’s far from true.  Things can and will go wrong, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time looking for the person who can help fix your problem, if you just write down people’s names and titles to begin with.

3. Print Out Important Papers and Keep a 3 ring Binder

I don’t think I could tell you all emails I’ve gotten over the past few weeks pertaining to orientation. It seemed like each email came with a lengthy set of instructions and a series of attachments; which also contained to-do lists, with instructions.

The first thing I did was print everything out. This might seem like a wast of paper. I’m sure environmentalists are screaming “why print it if you can just reference it in your email”.  I get it. We have email access on our smart phones, we take our smart phones everywhere, there should be no reason to print it all out.

For me personally, I found that I best retain information that is on a physical paper.  I like to annotate and underline key points.  Doing this made it easier for me to put together a schedule and prioritize what appointments I had, what online learning modules I needed to complete by when, classes I needed to sign up for (ACLS, BLS, CPR, etc.). Once I had a time line in place, I felt way less overwhelmed.

Another reason for the binder, is to protect your check off lists. I’m not sure how other hospitals work, but the one that I am starting at seems to have a check off list for everything. We have check off lists for the online modules we have to complete, skills we’ve performed, where key items are on the unit, journal entries, weekly goal worksheets… I think the list about ends there, but it feels overwhelming when you first receive all this paperwork.

After printing off everything I bought paper protectors and put all the  important check off lists that I knew I’d be referencing over the duration of my orientation in them. If your facility has you do these check off lists, I would recommend scanning them into your computer as you do them.  It was strongly emphasized that if we lost these papers and could not provide proof of the skills we had performed, we would have to start over. I plan to scan mine in weekly.  Just in case.

4. Pay Attention During Your Orientation

I know that people’s eyes tend to glaze over during some of these orientations, but you should do your best to focus on what is being presented. These presentations aren’t random.  A large group of people, who got to where they are for a reason, all decided that the information presented was vital. Considerate as such! This goes for the online learning modules as well. Read through everything!

I’ll admit, the process of sifting through all the benefit options made me stop and consider whether or not stabbing myself in the eye with a fork would be more fun; but then I thought, well if I did that I’d want to make sure I had good coverage, so… I persevered. I’m glad I did because, as previously mentioned I’m cheap, and I was able to find conditions where this employer would contribute to your health savings account if you had a physical. Since the amount was almost a 1000$ contribution, I was sure to write down, in my dedicated notebook, who to contact when I was ready to do this.

I was also careful to pay extra attention during the computer training portion.  I think a lot of people blew this off, thinking “well, I’ll learn it as I go”.  For the most part this is true.  Its difficult to retain that kind of stuff unless your doing it frequently, but I did notice one bit of information I was particularly pleased with myself for noticing. During the computer training, on one of the screens at the very bottom, I saw a link that provided information on how to get continuing education credits for using the hospital approved information search engine “uptodate”. Jackpot!!!

In Arizona, where I live, CE (continuing education) credits are not required for nurses as long as they work a set amount of hours per year. However, they are required in other states. The reason I was so pleased to learn about this though, was because during one of our other orientation days, when we were going over our companies mission statements, we were told that for this company uses a leveling system to determine pay increases.

Basically, when you graduate you are a level 1, then after orienting you become a level 2.  Levels 3, 4, and 5, are based off several factors including continuing education. Boom! Why not sign up to get credit for using a program to look up information, which I know I’ll be doing anyways. When I saw this as an option I immediately wrote it in my book, marked with a little square next to it, indicating it was a task that needed to be checked off. I checked it off yesterday, and have already earned several credits using the uptodate program to do research for my schoolwork. Can you say “multiple birds, one stone”.

5. Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Although I have to say, I don’t agree with the idea that there are no dumb questions. People do ask a lot of really bad questions, but how I see it is, I’d rather ask a dumb question and suffer that embarrassment, then not know the answer to a dumb question during an emergency! I’m willing to let my ego take a punch to the face, if it means I’ll provide better care or be able to do my job better.

6. Manage Your Time Wisely

for my orientation process we have a lot of online modules to complete by set due dates. If these are not completed on time, we can be written up and deemed ineligible to work.  Yikes! Don’t want that. So stay on top of things.

Also, when it comes to certification classes, like ACLS, classroom space is limited, and these courses do run on a first come first serve basis. I signed up immediately, and was surprised to learn during the process, how few classes were offered in the area, and how few seats were available.

Other than certification courses, there are also monthly new grad forums that you are required to attend. For us, we had to make sure we scheduled these days off.  This is something that was our responsibility to take care of. If the hospital you plan to work at has something similar, make sure you talk to your manager a head of time. Remember, even big hospitals make mistakes.  Double check your schedule as soon as it comes out to make sure everything is copesthetic.



I hope these tips were helpful.  I’m really excited to have my first day on the floor in the medical ICU. I look forward to sharing this experience.

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I’m interested in hearing how other people’s orientation process went. Please share in the comment section, or you can email me personally at



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