Looking through a variety of nursing blogs and websites, I am noticing a growing concern from new graduate Registered Nurses (RN) looking for their first nursing position. Very frustrating, but hang in there. Let me share my perspective as a hiring manager, and hopefully you will be taking vital signs and assessing patients in no time!
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing indicates that there is a continuing shortage and growing need for Registered Nurses. The trend is anticipated to continue, as baby boomers require additional healthcare. Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 27,000 jobs were added per month in the healthcare industry in 2011. There is hope!
Reasons for not finding a job
Lack of experience: Of course a new nurse will have very limited real-life experience. Lack of experience may be a true reason in some instances, however a well-rounded nursing unit should have a mix of seasoned and new nurses. If the unit you are applying for has too many new nurses, or only highly experienced nurses, it is probably not an ideal environment to consider.
Under-educated: New graduates with an Associate Degree are often concerned that they are under-educated. Perhaps a Bachelors degree will be more attractive to a perspective employer. Again, this may be true, an employer may select the BSN prepared nurse over the ADN. However, I am seeing many of the same difficulties from new graduate BSN nurses as well. Education may be able to help your particular situation, but only if you know how to properly leverage its benefits. If you think you can emphasize education to get a job, you can certainly emphasize other qualifications as well. Education should not be the sole reason between job or no job.
Location: Depending on where you live may also dictate your opportunities. In Los Angeles you can find major medical centers within blocks of each other. In more rural areas, there may be only a small community hospital every 30-50 miles. As with any profession, the more flexible you can be in expanding your search outside of your city or state, the better your chances will be.
Medical/Surgical setting: The gold standard for nursing experience seems to be one year of medical/surgical inpatient care. This was true 20 years ago as well. Of course a new graduate will not go wrong with this type of experience, however be open to different opportunities. Look for emerging needs within your locale. One of the great things about nursing is the plethora of opportunities. So many RN’s work and enjoy environments outside of the hospital, outside of direct patient care. Your career can take on an entirely different path than you had anticipated!
What you can do
No doubt if you are reading this, you have likely read other tips for finding jobs: be willing to relocate, clean up your resume, get more education, attend a job fair, smile, and so on. These are all ideas with merit, however my hope is that the following suggestions will give you an extra edge.
Remember, you are interviewing the employer as well. Don’t be shy about advocating for yourself. You want a good fit as much as the employer does, and this desire for “fit” will come across in the interview. Ask them how many new graduates they already have, find out the turn over rate, the background of their leadership, and will there be opportunities for your advancement? Let them know that you are interested in a robust training experience because you will dedicate what you learn to give excellent care to their patients.
Consider nursing internships or residencies. This is a relatively new option (perhaps within the last decade or so). Some medical centers have these programs and you can move through the variety of settings within the hospital to broaden your experience base. Residencies may only recruit at certain times in the year, but will be valuable if you are able to secure a position.
Don’t let your valuable education sit idle while you are job hunting. Find opportunities to volunteer. Of course the preference will be to volunteer in a healthcare setting, however any opportunity to show that you are still active and part of a team will benefit you. Some examples may include taking vital signs or intaking patients at a free-clinic, greet patients and orient them at a large medical center. Not only will you have continuous activity on your resume, but you will also position yourself to improve your network and demonstrate your winning personality!
Stretch yourself and think outside the box to keep your mind active and build your resume. Look for out of the ordinary opportunities to create synergies for yourself. Submit articles for review and publication to a healthcare website/newsletter (www.rxeconsult.com is a good example). Consider leading a healthcare related book/journal club and invite your former classmates or the nursing staff at the local hospitals you would like to work. With a creative mind, anything is possible.
Do your research. It is quite impressive when a potential applicant arrives with well-articulated questions and comments about the facility. Believe it or not, the people you are competing with (even seasoned nurses) have not done research about the facility. You should know what type of patients they care for, if they have a Center of Excellence, if any of the nursing staff or physicians are opinion leaders in their field, etc. Show that you are thinking critically and are thoughtful about the position you are preparing to take. You will demonstrate genuine and extraordinary interest in the position when you ask detailed questions and make comments that show you did your homework.
VIGILANCE VIGILANCE VIGILANCE. Check job boards on line and in person regularly. Often times the recruiting period for a particular position may be very brief. In today’s world there are so many ways to check job postings. For example, RxEconsult job board aggregates jobs from over 20,000 websites and has many entry level nursing jobs. Set up your favorite search criteria and check them often.
Remember, strike a balance in all cover letters and interviews. Employers don’t want to hear about how great you are, nor do they want to hear about how great they are. They want to hear about how your greatness will help their greatness be even better!
There are so many helpful hints, tips, and suggestions from professional recruiters, hiring managers, and nursing websites. I am certain that as a dedicated job-hunting nurse, you are probably employing many of them already. I hope that you have found these suggestions a little off the beaten track.There is every reason to implement all six tips, and some more than once!
If you have any additional tips as a new graduate nurse, hiring manager, or as someone who has had particular skill in interviewing and securing the job offer, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.