Gaining experience and confidence as a new graduate nurse

Nursing Our people
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Bailey Flora chose to begin her nursing career in inpatient rehabilitation to gain valuable experience while connecting with patients.

When Bailey Flora was seeking her first nursing job after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in nursing, many factors were weighing into her decision. A 2018 graduate, Bailey knew she needed to gain skills quickly to set a foundation for her career, but she had reservations about beginning her career in an acute care hospital.

“In all honesty, I was a little intimidated by an acute care hospital,” Bailey said. “But, I was looking for somewhere I could gain similar experience.”

Flora was introduced to MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital at a job fair. One of Encompass Health’s more than 130 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals nationwide, MidAmerica provides inpatient rehabilitation services for patients who have experienced stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, hip fracture and other diagnoses. Typical patients need close medical supervision, but are able to participate in therapy at least three hours a day, five days a week.

Impressed by the recruiters and intrigued by the potential for hospital-based experience, Flora joined the nursing team at MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital, and quickly realized that she had found her home.

A traditional acute-care setting is geared more toward stabilization, while inpatient rehabilitation sees patients potentially make their greatest gains during recovery. That, Flora said, is her favorite part of working in post-acute care as a new graduate.

“I love working in inpatient rehabilitation because it’s a very fast paced environment, and you get to see patients improve drastically,” she said. “Many come in unable to walk and talk, and are able to leave walking like they did before the life-changing experience they had.”

While she was learning the ropes, seasoned nurses have been with her every step of the way, Flora said, and have made her feel comfortable and welcome since day one.

“Anytime I needed someone, there was a more experienced nurse there to answer questions, always on hand and at my disposal to help me succeed,” she said.

To other new graduates, Flora’s advice is to gain as much experience as you can and seek an environment you feel comfortable with—one that is supportive and collaborative but challenges you to grow as an RN. And, if there’s an opportunity available at an Encompass Health rehabilitation hospital, take it.

“As a new grad nurse, I would definitely say take in as much experience as possible. Working at MidAmerica has honestly been the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’ve gotten more experience than I ever imagined,” Flora said. “We are similar to an acute care, in that there’s so many things happening at the same time, and you get the rehabilitation aspect as well. Overall, you get such a broad spectrum of experience across the board.”

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