Anyone who has ever started a new job can appreciate how difficult it is to get “settled in.” So much information to absorb; so many new rules, systems, and workarounds to learn. And so little time to get up to speed.

Adjusting to a new work environment is downright stressful.

While you may feel disoriented at first, there are a few things you can do to shorten the adjustment period and glide through the learning curve:


1. Don’t get overwhelmed

There’s just no way you’re going to retain every bit of information hurled your way in the first few days. That’s normal! Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Expect your adjustment to take a while. Typically, it takes anywhere from three to six months to get past that “dazed” feeling— and, in complex jobs like yours, it could take even longer. Don’t panic if you don’t feel on top of your game for a while. You will in time, so go easy on yourself.


2. Find a mentor

Some facilities actually have mentorship programs in place. But if yours doesn’t, no problem: create one of your own!

Find a seasoned neonatal nurse who is willing to take you under his or her wing. Observe other top-notch NNPs in action and learn which skills and practices will best help you hit the ground running. Working beside the right mentor can help you advance your skills and understand how to best care for patients in your new environment.


3. Ask questions

Don’t be shy—ask questions. Your colleagues understand that you don’t have all the answers and are expecting you to be curious and speak up. They’d much rather you ask questions than do something wrong.


4. Take care of your brain and body

Running on caffeine and sugar is not going to help you function at the highest level.
It’s very common for NNPs to miss regular food breaks, but feeding your brain and body is essential. You won’t always have the luxury of enjoying a sit-down lunch, but at the very least, pack healthy snacks and meals that will get you through the day.

Don’t neglect the basics while settling into your new job. Eat healthily, get enough sleep and exercise daily. This will recharge your batteries and keep you on your toes throughout the day.


5. Be a team player

Even if you’re secretly an introvert, make an effort in your first few weeks to get to know your teammates.

Great nursing takes collaboration. Show your peers that you’re approachable, cooperative, and willing to help out in a pinch. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor. As a new member of the unit, you will definitely have your moments of need, so get ready to pay it forward!


6. Learn the culture.

Observe the members of your team and the way they interact with each other; the way they dialogue, handle difficult patients and interact with physicians. See what works and what doesn’t.

Be friendly, but don’t get drawn into a clique. Instead, step back and assess each situation objectively. Stay neutral until you understand the lay of the land and whom you can ultimately trust. Needless to say, this process takes time.


7. Don’t compare and contrast

Your last job was a great experience and, most likely, helped get you where you are today. But the last thing you want to do is alienate your new colleagues with annoying comparisons, e.g., “this is how we did it at my old job.”

Be humble. You might genuinely have a better way of doing things, but there are ways to approach the matter without sounding arrogant or superior. Plus, it’s always wise to wait and see before speaking out— perhaps there are good reasons why things are done differently at your new facility.


8. Smile!

Okay, this is more of a suggestion than a strategy. Nevertheless, I encourage you to wear a smile whenever possible. It will make you feel better and will also lift the spirits of everyone around you.

What strategies have you used when acclimating to a new work environment? Feel free to leave your comments below.