You got a new nursing job and you’re getting ready for your first day of work. Congratulations! But before you can fully step into your new position, you’ll need to complete hospital orientation — and for many new nurses, this process can be a daunting one.
As much as you might like to skip orientation altogether and magically know how the unit works, unfortunately there’s no way to get around nursing orientation. However, there are several things you can do to set yourself up for success on orientation day.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What is hospital orientation?
- Benefits of hospital orientation
- What to expect at hospital orientation
- Checklist: What to bring to hospital orientation
- Hospital orientation tips
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What is hospital orientation?
HIPAA compliance, fire safety, the color of codes — can all seem obvious until you need them. When you sIf you get a job at a new hospital or you’re a nurse who is changing specialties, you will need to go through hospital orientation. Nursing orientation programs provide the information you need to work as a nurse in a new environment. You will learn about things such as how to use electronic medical records (EMRs), and the policies followed at this hospital.
Each hospital structures their nursing orientation period a little differently. However, most of the time you will spend time listening to lectures in a classroom before moving to work on the unit floor. A nurse educator will oversee the education-based part of your orientation. For more hands-on work, you’ll likely be matched up with an experienced nurse, called a preceptor.
The classroom portion of nursing orientation can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Once you are working on the unit floor, you might work under your preceptor for up to six months.
Benefits of hospital orientation
Nurses are creatures of habit; this is how you save lives. Unfortunately, when working in a new location, For many nurses, orientation can seem overwhelming. It’s true that hospital orientation can be challenging. You’re learning a lot of new information in a short time period, and this can be both physically and mentally exhausting.
But orientation is extremely important. The information you’re receiving is designed to help you succeed as a nurse at this hospital. Orientation programs allow you to develop:
- Clinical judgment
- Application skills
Your orientation equips you to perform your job as well as possible. Throughout the process, you should also feel less anxious about your new nursing role as you get to know your new coworkers and how they do things.
Remember, the nurses you’re working with are there to help you succeed. They want to see you thrive in this position! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved everywhere you can.
What to expect at hospital orientation
You might receive a schedule for hospital orientation prior to arriving on the first day. If not, you should be given or told the schedule for orientation when you get there.
Most hospitals will start you out in a classroom or conference room with other new nurses. There, you will watch videos and/or listen to lectures from nursing staff. The information covered will include everything you need to know to work at that facility, such as how to use the type of equipment that hospital uses and how to enter information using the electronic medical record (EMR) system. You will also spend time filling out paperwork for your new position.
When the classroom portion of orientation is over (this could be a few days or a few weeks), you will be assigned a preceptor so you can start working on the unit floor. You will shadow your preceptor and help out where asked.
Checklist: What to bring to nursing orientation
Your new hospital might give you a list of items to bring to nursing training. The things you need may vary from hospital to hospital; they could also depend on the floor where you’re assigned. Most likely, though, you will need to bring:
- Lunch, water, and snacks
- Orientation book or packet
- Copies of your nursing license and certifications (and your ID)
- Any other relevant paperwork
- Nursing watch
- Dressing scissors
- Lanyard or badge holder
- Notebook and pens
What should you wear to hospital orientation? This is another question where the answer will vary based on the hospital. Some hospitals might ask you to wear your scrubs. Others prefer business casual. It’s completely appropriate to ask ahead of time what you should wear to the first day of nursing orientation. There, you will likely receive instructions on what kind of scrubs and nursing shoes to wear in the future.
Hospital orientation tips
Feeling nervous about the big day? Take a look at these hospital orientation tips to help yourself feel more prepared.
Expect the mundane
HIPAA compliance, fire safety, the color of codes — these things can all seem obvious until you need them. When you start working at a new hospital, there can be a lot of redundancy in the training. Even in times of short staffing, some hospitals may require you to watch training videos and take tests on fire safety just like new employees do.
Don’t tune out these lectures or brush them off as unimportant! The knowledge you’re gaining could make a crucial difference down the road. Make a game out of trying to figure out how this hospital or unit is different from what you’re used to.
Nurses are creatures of habit; this is how you save lives. Unfortunately, when working in a new location, your usual habits and working style may need to change to match the new location.
Try to resist the urge to insinuate that your old way was better. This can create some friction between you and the other nurses. Remember, different doesn’t mean wrong — it’s just different! Be willing to adapt to a new way of doing things.
The first few days of meeting new people can be awkward. If you’re trying to make a good first impression, it can be easy to overdo it by being too sweet or too polite.
The more that you act like the real you, the easier it is for people to get to know who you really are. If you aren’t sure about something, just ask. A quick explanation of “this is how I’m used to doing a task, is this right?” will show others that you are willing to be trained in the right way.
If you’re like many nurses, you may have trouble saying no. It’s a good thing to be a team player and help your new coworkers out. But it’s a good thing to set boundaries, too.
Define the times when you’re available to work and the times when you are not. If you set and communicate these boundaries up front as you step into a role at a new workplace, this will set you up for success moving forward.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions during hospital orientation. This will help you learn — and learning is why you’re here. There truly is no such thing as a stupid question.
In addition to asking about anything that isn’t covered or isn’t clear, some questions to ask during nursing orientation might include:
- Where do I find policies and procedures?
- Who do I ask if I have a question that policies and procedures don’t answer, and how do I contact them?
- What procedures are nurses allowed to perform/what is the scope of practice? What requires a doctor’s order?
- How do I call a code?
- Where are supplies kept?
- What codes or passwords do I need?
You can also ask questions about the hospital’s orientation process when you are initially interviewing for the job. This can give you an idea of expectations, procedures, and how long orientation usually takes.
Do a test run
There’s nothing worse than showing up late to the first day of nursing orientation because you weren’t anticipating traffic or you didn’t know where to park. If you’re unfamiliar with the hospital where you’ll be working, take some time before orientation begins to drive the route.
See how much traffic is on the road at certain times of day. Make sure you know where you’ll need to park, how it works, and how close you’ll be able to park to the area of the hospital where you’re assigned.
Once you’re in the hospital for orientation, stay late to explore the facility if needed. You’ll want to know where places like the cafeteria and different units are located. Your manager may give you a tour, but it’s still helpful to figure things out for yourself.
Hospital orientation FAQs
What should I wear to hospital orientation?
You will most likely need to wear business casual clothes to hospital orientation (not scrubs). If you’re unsure of the dress code, reach out and double check ahead of time.
How long is hospital orientation?
The classroom portion of nursing orientation might last a few days, or a few weeks. Once you are working on the unit floor, you might work under your preceptor for up to six months.
What should I bring to hospital orientation?
While your needs might vary, a few things to bring to hospital orientation include your stethoscope; lunch; copies of your nursing license and certifications; a penlight; notebook and pens; and a lanyard or badge holder.
Why is hospital orientation important?
Hospital orientation is important because it prepares you to do your job as effectively as possible. The information you receive at orientation is designed to help you succeed as a nurse at this hospital. Orientation programs allow you to develop knowledge, competency, experience, and application skills.
Succeed at hospital orientation
Hospital orientation day can seem like a scary prospect. But once you get to your new workplace, you’ll feel much more comfortable as you get the lay of the land and begin meeting all of your new coworkers.
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“What Are Electronic Medical Records?” usfhealthonline.com. Accessed June 15, 2022.
“Using action research to evaluate a nursing orientation program in a multicultural acute healthcare setting.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed June 15, 2022.
“Understanding The Role of The Nurse Preceptor.” onlinenursing.duq.edu. Accessed June 15, 2022.