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Debi Fischer is a nurse at the University of Miami surgical oncology step down unit. Prior to that she worked in orthopedics and neurology for many years. In addition to her nursing experience, she has earned a master’s degree in social work. Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker was a lon-sought-after goal which she finally attained. She is a caregiver for her family and her dogs as well.

Three Things I Wish I Was Told Starting My Nurse Career

Three things I wish I had been told when I started my career as a nurse would have been to become computer literate, that great footwear is essential, and that communication is key.   
Three things I wish I had been told when I started my career as a nurse would have been to become computer literate, that great footwear is essential, and that communication is key.   

Before Computers

When I started my career as a nurse in the late ‘70s, there were no computers in the nurses’ station. The medication cart was not on a workstation on wheels.  You were the workstation on wheels. You carried the meds on a tray and everyone had a small card with their instructions. You wrote your notes by hand. There was no computer with checklists in a grid that you checked off. There was a Kardex that contained the patient’s care plan that you kept up to date with a pencil. I wish I had been told to start learning computer skills early on.

Take Care of Your Feet

The second thing I wish I had been told is that great footwear is essential. Your feet are the key to staying in this business for decades. Nursing shoes have gone from lace ups to high-end designer sneakers. Now, I wear black leather walking shoes with non-slip bottoms because there always seems to be a puddle on the floor. Spills occur often in patients’ rooms, with urine or emesis, or in the hallways, with ice water or coffee from food trays. When nurses are rushing from one proverbial fire to the next, the dangers of slipping and falling are real.   

Many of my coworkers wear thrombo-embolic deterrent (TED) stockings, which are elastic graduated compression hose that help with venous return. Personally, I can’t stand the elastic, but others find them useful.

Communication Is Key

The third thing I wish I had been told is to work on my communication skills. Since I began working in oncology nursing, the demographics of my coworkers have changed. I am not always working with fellow baby boomer nurses. Nowadays, my coworker might be a 20- or 30-something RN. They may not get my references to not wearing gloves when I was a young nurse or to Carly Simon, and I may not get their references to an app they used to learn EKG rhythms or to Cardi B. Well, I used the app my colleagues told me about and aced my EKG exam, and I found out who Cardi B is. As a tradeoff, they listened to my no-gloves story and learned who Carly Simon is. Communication is key to working well with others and to developing a more efficient working environment.

I think these 3 things would have come in handy, but it’s never too late to try new ways of thinking and living.    

Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
More from Debi Fischer, MSW, BSN, BA, LCSW, RN
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Here are some things nurses can do to prepare patients to adhere to their treatment regimens once they leave the hospital.
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