To complete my Masters in Nursing Education, I recently finished a clinical instruction with soon-to-be graduated BSN nurses. The students I instructed were very talented, smart, energetic, and ready to face the reality of caring for patients.
But they all had one common concern...
How do they get a job in the first place?
The current state of the economy has not been conducive for many new nurses searching for jobs. Hospitals are not posting new jobs, nor are they rehiring for some positions left vacant.
And if they are hiring, they want experienced personnel. Established nurses currently in jobs are not leaving as readily due to economic factors. They may be the single bread winner in a family right now, so they have to accept whatever circumstances are presented to them in their hospital environment.
So what is a graduate to do?
To assist my graduating students, I spoke with some nursing recruiters from two hospitals to get a feel for what organizations might be looking for in a new hire. Here is what they said:
1. Forget sign-on bonuses; they do not exist anymore.
2. Have multiple options for consideration. Everyone has their favorite places they like during school, be it OB, Peds, Critical Care, ER, but these areas may not be hiring. New grads need to consider Med-Surg first, on top of that they need to be open to part-time and PRN positions because this may be all they can get.
3. Knock them dead with a great cover letter! This is one of the most important things they suggested. One of the recruiters said that for a RN position on one particular unit in their organization they had 55 applicants to sift through!! So you have to set yourself apart from the rest, and the cover letter gets that done.
4. Put down all work experience. It doesn't matter if you spent three years flipping burgers at Burger King, put it on paper! The reason? Hospitals want stability and good work ethic. Turnover costs a fortune, and they want to see that someone can stay in a position for a long period of time, so that they don't have to keep rehiring every six months.
5. Search your soul. Ask yourself this question, "Why do I want to be a nurse?" Brainstorm and find what motivated you to consider this profession in the first place. Was it the patients? Was it a calling? Was it all about the money?
6. Do externships. One of the recruiters said that doing a summer externship helped 25 potential graduates find a position after graduation. They actually used this phrase, "They are virtually guaranteed a job." So if you haven't considered one or didn't want to, consider it.
7. Don't use "references on request" in your resume. Have them ready! Find yourself as many references as you can who are willing to let you put their names on paper. The recruiters will call! That is a virtual certainty, especially when they have to go through 100 potential applications for a handful of positions.
8. Start now! If you're graduating in December or even May 2012, go ahead and start applying for jobs. Try and find a position as a nursing assistant or patient care technician (PCT), in the hopes a position will become available for you later. Word to the wise, even landing a position as an NA may not guarantee a position as a nurse immediately following you passing your licensure exam, but it can't hurt either.
9. "Be excellent to each other." Stole this one from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Hospitals are shooting for excellence. So as a graduate, study up on the organization you are looking into. Know their mission, vision, and values. These can be found on any hospital's website. Then show up in person. Let them know who you are and that you are interested. Showing up in person with a resume, cover letter, and a smile goes a long way. Ask for tours, if possible. Let them know you care and want to be a part of that organization.
10. Take a deep breath, as mama always said, "This too shall pass." One of these days the economy will get better, the shortage of nurses will recommence, and graduates of nursing schools will have more positions available to them than the Israelites had manna. Be patient, don't give up, have other options, and be willing to do what needs to be done.
Jason R. Thrift, RN, BSN