A letter to the new DOCTORS from a new NURSE.

The following is a guest post by Sarah Moore. Sarah is a displaced Londoner working the night shift in an Australian hospital as an Enrolled Nurse whilst studying Registered Nursing during the day. Likes include sleeping, tattoos, twitter, onesies, reading post-apocalypse sci-fi, day-dreaming and more sleeping.

The most wonderful time of the year (ish) aka a letter to the brand new doctors from a fairly new nurse.

The start of the year in hospital in Australia is the equivalent of the beginning of August in the UK. For those reading who know what that means, I think you can appreciate the current mood in our hospital.

Hospitals might look like they run in a permanent state of organised chaos, but they are actually a finely tuned, well-oiled machine made up of many parts. Currently as the hospital fills up with doctors and nurses fresh out of university, and senior staff transferring in from other hospitals, we are going through what could be described as a major overhaul, and a lot of our many parts are brand spanking new.

Being new is exciting and terrifying in equal measure. Being new doesn’t mean that you don’t know anything, but it does mean that you don’t know everything. Being new can absolutely suck and make you cry every day and wonder what the hell you were thinking when you decided upon healthcare as a career; but it can also be the best time you’ll ever have in your life.

I could write about advice for new grad nurses but that’s been done to death and the advice is always conflicting. Be confident, but not over-confident. Ask questions, but not too many questions.

Get involved but don’t get too involved. Everyone is different. Each ward is different. What goes down well on one ward might be the equivalent of Rolf Harris busking outside a school on another.

The only advice I can give now (which quite frankly works equally well outside the hospital) is be yourself and don’t be a dick.

What I’d like to write about is how we as nurses can support the brand spanking new doctors and how the brand spanking new doctors can help themselves so that we the nurses don’t want to throttle them. I’m not trying to be patronising or saintlike.

Looking out for the junior doctors (as well as the newer nurses) is not in my job description but I consider it part of the job, as do other nurses I know. I do it not only because I think that it’s the right thing to do, but because a well-supported doctor is a doctor that can provide the best care for our patients. So if you can’t do it out of the goodness of your heart, do it for the good of your patients.

I have been a nurse for about 2.5 years. In that time I have put the doctors on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the cupboard to get their shit together. I’ve brought in food. I’ve made sure that they eat and drink. I’ve asked if there’s anything I can do to help. I’ve listened to them at 4am when they’re having the worst shift of their life and are wondering why the hell they chose to be a doctor in the first place. I’ve made them laugh, and had some of them cry on my shoulder.

I’m not the only nurse who does this, and in turn they, the doctors, have supported me and my patients when I’ve needed them to.

I have a huge amount of empathy for the new doctors. Not only was I a new grad, I was an Enrolled Nurse new grad. I’ve been at the bottom of the nursing food chain, and whilst it wasn’t always great

I’m a 100% sure it wasn’t as awful as being an intern can be, which is why I think as nurses we should try to support them where we can. And for those of you who deny there’s a hierarchy in healthcare I am willing to bet quite a bit of money on you being near the top of the ladder.


  1. You are supposed to make mistakes. It’s ok to make mistakes, but you have to learn from them. If you can’t learn from them, then you’re in the wrong profession, because your mistakes could kill someone. I don’t say that to be overly dramatic, I say it because it’s true.
  2. Listen to the nurses. Most nurses want to help you but if you ignore us because you think you know more than us simply by being a doctor, you will a. royally piss us off, and a pissed off nurse will be no use to you and b. possibly lead to you making a mistake – I refer you to #1.
  3. Never borrow our pens. I know you think you’ll give it straight back but you won’t because Mrs Jones in bed 22 will aspirate on her Werther’s Original caramel chew and you’ll be too busy trying to remember what a yankauer sucker is when the nurse asks for it to remember to give back a pen.
  4. Learn what a yankauer sucker is and how to use one.  I’m not kidding.
  5. Take breaks. When we’re tired we make mistakes, again I refer you back to #1
  6. Don’t ask a nurse to do something that you have the time to do yourself.
  7. If you’re going to lose your shit entirely do it in a cupboard, not in the middle of a grand round.
  8. Learn how to write a med chart so we don’t have to spend our time chasing you around the ward to fix it.
  9. PRINT your name so we can read it. I know you know what it says, chances are we don’t have a clue.
  10. Write notes so that we can read them. Believe it or not playing guess what the doctor has written, is not one of our favourite pastimes.
  11. If you write something down that you need doing, please tell us you’ve written it down or it won’t get done.
  12. Bring in food to share. A well fed ward is a happy ward.
  13. Patients have names. They aren’t the #NOF in Bed 1 or the trache in Bed 15.
  14. Find an ally/ friend. You won’t get through the year without one.
  15. Remember to eat and drink. A hungry, dehydrated doctor is often a grumpy doctor and they’re no use to me or my patients.
  16. Leave on time when you can.
  17. Healthcare is a 24 hour business. You’re part of a team, not a one man show, you don’t have to do everything yourself. You’re not alone.
  18. The slightly senior doctor you’re shadowing might be intimidating and terrifying but I can assure you that last year they were just as intimidated, terrified and slightly clueless as you are right now.

The last two pieces of advice I have come from two people who were interns at the time but are now Registrars. That’s the best part of this time of the year, watching people who have worked so hard finally get to where they want to be.

  1. You don’t have to like someone to work with them, but you do have to be able to trust them to keep your patients alive until you come back.
  2. No one is ‘just’ anything. You’re not ‘just’ the student or the intern or the new grad. You’re a person, and your opinion and what you do still counts.

2 thoughts on “A letter to the new DOCTORS from a new NURSE.

  1. I have just retired after 48 yrs of nursing and have had the previlige of learning from and of teaching many Doctors over my time such a rewarding time.


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