You did it! You finally graduated from nursing school.
Now it is time to put all of your clinical and critical thinking skills to work so you can start helping patients. But first, you need to land your first nursing job.
Unfortunately, though, even when you have all of the skills needed to be a great nurse, finding your first RN position doesn’t always come easily. This may come as a shock to many new nurse graduates, especially since the US Bureau Of Labor Statistics states job openings in healthcare are supposed to increase by 14% from 2018-2028.
The good news is that once you get your feet wet as a novice nurse, subsequent nurse jobs won’t be as challenging to find because you will already have the experience on your resume.
In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to land your first nursing job successfully. Good luck!
Research the different types of nursing specialties
Pediatric nursing is one of the many specialties that nurses can go into.
Focus your job search in specialties that interest you.
Do you want to be involved in a fast-paced hospital setting? Or, would you prefer working with older individuals in a senior center? Perhaps you have your heart set on working in pediatrics or on a postpartum unit?
Alternatively, you may want to consider working in the ICU, emergency room, operating room, or on a med-surg floor unit. There are so many directions that your nursing career can take.
Some specialties require that you have additional certifications. For example, you must have your PALS, ACLS, and EKG training to work in most emergency rooms. It may be worth your time to invest in getting them before you interview for the position. Achieving certifications beforehand show that the interviewer that you are both qualified for and serious about getting the job.
Do an internship through your nursing program (and consider it an interview for a job!)
All of your clinical experiences in the hospital as a student nurse are potential job opportunities after you graduate.
One of the best places to get more information on how to gain experience is through your school or nursing program. Often, they’ll have internships with area hospitals or clinics, where you can get hands-on experience working around other nurses.
Some schools even have programs that allow their nursing students to work there during nursing school. It can give you a leg up if an opening for a new graduate becomes available.
Additional recommended reading: Why I Quit My Corporate Sales Career To Become A Nurse
Find a nurse graduate program that is hiring
Apply to the nurse graduate or nurse residency programs in your area
If you’re fresh out of nursing school, you might find it frustrating when every job post you see suggests that they require experience. After all, how are you supposed to gain experience if no one will hire you?
Many hospitals have nurse graduate programs or nurse residency programs that will hire a handful of new nurses once or twice a year. These programs are tailored to the novice nurse who needs training about and beyond what a more experienced nurse would need. These programs are anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months and are an excellent way for new nurses to get better experience and training then they would otherwise.
Brush up on your interviewing skills
Brush up on your interview skills so and impress the employer with what you have to say!
You need to shine during your interviews. Having a successful series of interviews is key to getting your first nursing job.
The University of Southern California suggests that employers need to use more psychological tools in their hiring process. They focus on things like revealing strengths, encouraging self-awareness, and cognitive ability tests. It is essential to have a clear understanding of what employers are looking for in the interview process so you can show your strengths and skills with more clarity.
Most importantly, practice as many interview questions as you possibly can before your interviews. There are many books online that are full of potential interview questions for nurses. Grab a nursing school friend and interview each other. Practice answering the questions out loud.
Let everyone know you are looking for a nursing job
Put yourself out there and let everyone know you are looking for a new nursing job
Nowadays, it’s not always enough to apply for a job online or in-person and expect a phone call in return the next day. Over 165,000 people graduate from nursing school each year, and they are all trying to land their first job that same way you are.
Sometimes, it’s not what you do but who you know. Reach out to family and friends for any job leads. Contact your nursing school or alumni association to see if they know of any positions to hospitals that are hiring. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there wherever and whenever you can to talk about potential leads for your career. You never know who might have the right connections that can help you to get your foot in the door.
Write a professional thank you note the day of your interview and then follow up with them a week later
After you crush your interview, don’t forget to follow up.
You must write a thank you note to the people you interviewed with after the interview. Thank them for taking the time to speak with you and write a sentence or two reminding them about why you are the right person for the job.
It may take them a while to get back to you. The hiring process at many institutions can take several weeks or even months. Many institutions interview hundreds or thousands of nurses every year, and the process can take a lot of time.
One thing you can do to be more proactive is to write a follow-up email about a week after your interview. Be professional, tell your interviewer that you are still really excited about the position, and ask when you might receive any follow up about the next steps in the hiring process.
Take pride in your career choice, and understand that the job hunt is not going to be easy. But if you can successfully make it through nursing school, then you can do just about anything! No matter where you end up working, you will find a unique opportunity to help people who need your help.
The right nursing job for you is out there. Stay motivated and keep working hard. Good luck!
Additional recommended reading:
Hello Mother Nurse Love friends!
I was recently interviewed on ‘Your Next Shift’, the most innovative internet show that helps nurses thrive in their careers. I have equally part excited and nervous to finally get to listen to the episode. And I am happy to say that it was a pretty great show. What an amazing experience! Collaborating with other nurse entrepreneurs is such a treat.
My podcast interview can be found here.
In the podcast, I discussed the following:
- How continuing to learn can keep you from becoming stagnant;
- What routine practices can help you stay grounded in chaotic times;
- And why you should never let fear hold you back from what your want!
I’d love for you to listen in – and even better – let me know what you think by leaving a review on the show http://bit.ly/YNSiTunes.
Take care, Sarah
Many nurses struggle with finding a work-life balance. With increasingly demanding 12-hour shifts, its tough to stay healthy and sane when you are continually going a mile a minute. In time you may become overwhelmed and unsatisfied with your nursing career and your personal life.
Nurse burnout is real. The journey towards a satisfying work-life balance as a nurse is within your control and will only be attainable if you make it a priority.
Consider doing a little soul-searching. Take a moment to sit quietly with yourself and pinpoint precisely what you need to simplify your life. Here are a few things to consider on your journey to creating a better work-life balance as a nurse:
* This post contains affiliate links.
1. What are your priorities?
Take inventory of both your nursing life and personal life. Is it possible you may be juggling too many balls in the air? What do you envision your life to be like in 5 years?
Sit down and write a 1, 3, and 5-year plan. Make specific goals. You simply cannot create a satisfying work-life balance without fine-tuning your personal and work goals. Be brutally honest. Are you making major life decisions based on what you want to do or what you feel like you should do?
Many people (ahem, nurses!) are inherent caregivers who often give more to others before themselves. Now is an excellent time to think about how you will care for yourself first. Your happiness and success is your responsibility. Start by prioritizing what is most important to you!
2. Manage your stress
You have to manage your stress to achieve a work/life balance. This is a non-negotiable!
Here are two helpful ways to manage stress: #1) get moving with some type of physical activity (may I suggest yoga?) or #2) meditate (or just take a little time to chill out by yourself).
The benefits of exercise and mediation on physical and mental health are well documented in literature. For example, The Mayo Clinic has stated that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate,” among many other benefits (my yoga practice has been a lifesaver for me!).
Also, a study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only eight weeks of yoga, the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a significant reduction in perceived mental pressure. Just imagine how much better YOU could feel as a nurse who commits to a regular yoga practice.
Note: It doesn’t have to be yoga (although yoga has remarkably changed my life for the better over the past ten years). Exercise can come in any form you want it to: running, hiking, swimming, pole jumping, dancing in your living room. The best kind of exercise is the kind that you actually do!
3. Create more flexibility
In addition to the (literal) flexibility I get from yoga, I have also found flexibility within my workplace and at home.
12-hour shift schedules are already rigid enough. To find a work-life balance that works for you, consider other alternative scheduling options available in your workplace.
As a nurse and a new mom, I found that becoming a per diem nurse allowed me to create a better work/life balance for myself.
As a per diem nurse, I am employed “by the day.” Hospitals need the flexibility of per diem nurses so they can manage daily staffing needs in the hospital. There are many pros and cons to being a per diem nurse, and it is the only way I can effectively be a working mom at this time. Here is another way to create flexibility in your life: Try squeezing your workouts early in the morning before your family is awake. Sure, you will be tired, but you will also feel incredible for the rest of the day! (I have been practicing hot yoga at 5:30 AM twice a week before my tribe wakes up, and it is helping me function so much better).
4. Think outside of the box
Working 12-hour hospital shifts at the beginning of your career is an excellent way to gain clinical expertise and build a solid career base. But it is not the only career path within the nursing universe. There are many unique and alternative avenues a nurse can take!
If you are a nurse suffering from burnout and looking for alternative career paths, you are in luck. Finding a new way to practice nursing may help you find the work-life balance you have been looking for.
Here are a few ideas, just to get your brain thinking outside the box!:
Are you a nurse who is struggling with how to achieve a work-life balance? I enjoy hearing thoughts and ideas from other fellow nurses. Please leave a comment below!
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter- receive a free gift when you sign up below!
Additional recommended reading: