How to boost your confidence as a new nurse

Having confidence is crucial for your career development. Employers want confident employees because they’re usually positive contributors, more productive and great role models. Moreover, confident employees are often client-centred and able to take initiative when required.

However, the speed and process of building confidence is unique to each person. Especially since graduates have varying clinical competency levels, skill sets and lived experiences. In a broad sense, confidence is about knowing what you’re good at, recognising the value you provide and conveying that through your daily actions in the workplace.

Confidence in your scope of practice

As APNA member and practice nurse Suzanne Blackeby explains, there are two levels of confidence at play for nurses in primary health care—confidence in your scope of practice and confidence in your job.

‘Scope of practice is not a neat skill box tied up with a bow. It’s a continuum of learning, practice and application that is different for everyone,’ says Suzanne. “Nurses have a legal and moral responsibility to know their own scope of practice and operate within that scope. And to respond immediately if asked to do something outside of their scope. This bit is black and white.”

‘However, it doesn’t mean your scope will stay the same, that it can’t change and be developed over time. But it does mean that today you know what you can and can’t do and you have an obligation to work within that scope.’  

To better understand your scope of practice, you can use APNA’s My Nursing Future online tool. It’ll help you identify where you might need to expand your skills and knowledge to achieve your career goals.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) released an advanced copy of the updated Decision-making framework summary for nurses, which come into effect on 3 February 2020. It’s a useful tool, taking you step by step through your scope of practice decision-making process.

Confidence in your job

Confidence isn’t something we're born with and can be a bit shaky when you’re only at the start of your career. Our confidence grows from learning and from making mistakes. The difference in confidence levels among our peers comes down to how we react to criticism. Do we learn from it and improve, or do we beat ourselves up and allow our confidence to nosedive?

You can boost your confidence by cultivating these new habits and practicing them each day:

  1. Celebrate your achievements

When you do something well, don’t downplay it. Pat yourself on the back, even if it’s just a small achievement. Tell your employer, colleagues and clients about it, but not in a way that’s arrogant. Put the focus on communicating the value or impact due to the result of your achievement.

  1. Ask questions

It’s ok not to know all the things you think you should know. Don’t be afraid to ask. You can only do better by arming yourself with the information you need to do a good job.

  1. Be curious

Curiosity sends the message that you’re ambitious and eager to learn. It empowers you to work with more people and take on new projects.

  1. Be accountable

Tell people when you’ll finish a task. And make sure you do what you say you’re going to do. Voicing your goals builds confidence. It helps you earn credibility and respect.

  1. Go above and beyond

Think of ways you can excel. Can you suggest new ideas? Make a process easier? Or just work faster?

  1. Ask for feedback

Don’t wait six or 12 months to have your performance review. Ask for regular feedback from your manager or supervisor. It demonstrates that you care about your work and want to succeed in your job.

  1. Create a support system

Seek out positive co-workers and mentors who can provide encouragement and help you succeed in your job.

  1. Communicate effectively

Speak up. Convey important issues concisely and with clarity. Effective communication is critical for career advancement.

  1. Increase your knowledge

When you know your stuff, you’ll speak and work more confidently. Expand your knowledge on what’s new and changing in your sector. Take regular training and development courses.

  1. Smile

People with confidence tend to smile more. The positive energy creates a happy work environment and is highly contagious.

Suzanne’s story

When Suzanne started her career as a nurse in a private hospital, primary health care nursing was not on her radar. One day, a colleague told her about a short-term general practice job opportunity to cover for a nurse who was going on holiday, which she pretty much turned down flat. She didn’t know anything about the role and wasn’t really interested. But when she was finally persuaded to just go for the interview, what started as a six-week stint, grew into a long-term career. She’s now in her eleventh year at the practice and loving it—she simply never left.  

How Suzanne grew her confidence

#1 Watching, listening, asking a tonne of questions

As primary health care was completely new to her, Suzanne spent one-on-one time with staff to learn everything that goes on in the background of the practice. For example, the quality system analyst who got her up to speed with all the IT.

‘Ask for mentorship—someone with experience who can guide you, whom you can bounce ideas off and debrief. It doesn’t have to be complex, however you should allocate regular designated times to meet. Because successful mentoring relationships rely on a level of commitment from both parties.’

APNA runs a Transition to Practice Program (TPP), which provides an evidence-based framework of support over 12 months to nurses who have transitioned to primary health care and feel they would benefit from additional support. When we say support over 12 months, this means a workshop, online education, clinical and professional mentoring, a self-assessment tool and more. The program opens up once a year and you can find the application dates here.

#2 Connecting with others

Networking is something that Suzanne is still working on herself. As primary care nurses are generally clustered in pretty small organisations and geographical locations, it’s important to network as much as possible so you’re able to leverage the wisdom of others. Exchange contact details and keep in touch.

APNA provides many networking opportunities across Australia which you can join. You can find your local APNA network here. And if there’s no network in your neighbourhood, then APNA members can join the APNA Member-only Facebook group. Every day, members post and answer questions, creating one heart-warming community of supportive nurses.

#3 Practice meets education

‘Think global, act local’ is a brilliant mantra that Suzanne applies to patient care. While professional development courses help increase skills, primary health care is also about working with people where they’re at.

‘Your patients belong to a whole community. Primary care is the one part of the health system where patient healing, support and treatment must be flexible enough to fit the lives of your patients, not the other way around. Find the balance and you’ll be confident in your clinical decision making.’

If you want to chat to someone about how to boost your confidence, give APNA’s Nurse Support Line a call on 1300 303 184. It’s a member-only service delivered by expert primary health care nurses and operates Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm (AEDT). Nurses considering joining APNA are given one complimentary call—consider it a taster for one of the many perks of being an APNA member. 

Be part of your professional flock and watch your career soar. Join online as a member today for as little as $24.50 a month!

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