5 Learning Goals That Help New Nurses Build Confidence

5 Learning Goals That Help New Nurses Build Confidence

You’ve spent seemingly endless days, weeks, and months pursuing your nursing degree — so when you start your first nursing job, it can be surprising how much your confidence can dwindle. The truth is, nursing school gives you a comprehensive overview of the different nursing types. When you settle into your new nursing specialty, the experience and knowledge of your new co-workers and being on a new team can shake your confidence.

Experts call this feeling “imposter syndrome”. It’s a domino effect that begins with feelings of inadequacy and progresses through fears of failure, self-doubt, and excessive concern over others’ opinions of your work and you. When it comes to imposter syndrome, you have two options: take steps to overcome it or let it create burnout and anxiety. Keep reading, and we’ll help you choose the first option.

Find a Mentor

The feelings you feel — someone else has felt them too. This person overcame them and can help you do the same by becoming your mentor. A mentor could be a former teacher, nurse on your unit, nurse manager, nursing educator, or other nursing role model in your life. If you aren’t sure where to start, talk to your manager or a former teacher. They can likely suggest a person who is willing to serve as your mentor.

Aim to meet in-person, virtually, or over the phone with your mentor at least once a month. Call them if you’ve had a particularly hard shift or day of self-doubt. This mentor can help you gain confidence. And one day you can do the same for another nurse.

Focus on Enhancing Communication

As a new nurse, you communicate with a lot of individuals: patients, their families, other nurses, doctors, and various other staff. If you focus on strengthening your communication, you’ll enhance your confidence in interacting with all these different people. One way you can do this is by recognizing the ways people make errors in communication. These “dont’s” include:

  • Non-communication

    Whether through fear or anxiety, failing to communicate can lead to errors, frustration, and anger. Addressing concerns on the front end and making an effort to speak to others when you aren’t sure of something or clarifying if you don’t understand will help you build stronger bonds with others.

  • Failing to “close the loop”

    Closed-loop communication is a technique where you repeat back an order to ensure you understand it or to verify you are going to execute it. An example could be “John, go get the crash cart!” Closed-loop communication would mean you say “Okay, I’m going to get the crash cart.” If you don’t close the loop, a person may be uncertain of your actions or you could miss a medication order. Make an effort to repeat important orders back, and you’ll build confidence you aren’t making mistakes.

  • Errors of commission

    According to an article in the journal Medical Education, most medical errors are errors of omission (see above) or commission. Errors of commission are when you choose to do something, but you’re wrong. When you’re new to the nursing profession, sometimes you are afraid to admit you don’t know something (imposter syndrome again) and your lack of knowledge can lead to a mistake. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know or that you need clarification. This will make you a safer nurse.

Embrace New Ways to Learn

Now that you’re out of school, you don’t have to read what your teachers assign you anymore. You can read or listen to whatever you like to learn about your profession. Ask those on your unit or in the office you work about some of the resources people love using to learn more. This could be YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, podcasts, journals, you name it.

You don’t have to have your nose in the latest journal all the time. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour a week for learning purposes. This small time investment can reap great rewards in your knowledge and confidence.

Focus on What You Do Well

You may be a new nurse, but it’s important to remember that you have a lot to offer your profession. You have fresh eyes and the latest education that will help you approach your job. Keeping this in mind, make a list of your strengths when it comes to knowledge or your job performance. Here’s some examples:
  • Good communicator.
  • Quick with math-related medications.
  • Strong working knowledge of medications.
  • Able to relate well to patients and their families.
  • Positive attitude.
  • Team player.
  • Excellent at a nursing skill, such as dressing changes, trach care, IV insertion, or Foley catheter insertion.

List three to four strengths, and seek opportunities to put these into action at your new job. Your strengths will only become stronger, and people will start to see the things you do really well. They’ll likely start asking for your help related to these skills, which will further enhance your confidence.

Seek Out Experiences

As a new nurse, chances are you may not initially get the most complicated assignments or be sought out to aid in certain procedures. That’s okay — but you CAN let others know you’d love to assist or observe these procedures as a way to expand your knowledge.

Not trying to give you flashbacks to nursing school, but recall Benner’s “from novice to expert” model. This model describes how a nurse transitions in their practice to ultimately become an expert in their specialty. One of the ways nurses become experts is through experience, specifically experiential (hands-on) learning. By seeking out opportunities, you can gain hands-on learning that will allow you to enhance your knowledge and practice, even if the patients or tasks aren’t specifically assigned to you.

Going above and beyond is an investment in your career — by seeing things you wouldn’t otherwise, you will be ready when those types of assignment are yours.


An estimated 70 percent of people (not just nurses, but people in all professions), experience imposter syndrome. While you’re not alone, there are ways you can build your confidence, which will enhance your patient care and help you enjoy your job more.

The other key factor to remember is patience. Developing into that expert nurse takes time. Taking these extra steps will help, but so will continuing in your profession.

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