It’s a catch 22. As new nursing grads we are try to get jobs but are being told that we need experience. But to get experience we need jobs. The issue is how to create a portfolio which will show that you are not still wet behind the ears.
One practical tip is to volunteer in the emergency medical field. Volunteering at the local ambulance station can provide much of the same critical care experience that one would find in an emergency room. In addition to becoming comfortable with diagnosing and first aid, the emergency medical field is an experience which exposes you to higher stress than you’d find in the controlled environment of a hospital. I can tell you from firsthand experience that there is a noticeable difference between the new grads just starting on the floor and the nurses who’ve been in the field.
The second major advantage is that you’ll have something on your resume that distinguishes you from everyone else. All nurses should already have CPR certification which is usually all you need to be part of an EMS crew. Many of the people who volunteer in these places work in the healthcare field as well which makes the volunteer squad a great place to make contacts. Most volunteer squads will even pay for you to become an EMT which means free valuable training and another certification to put on your resume.
Another idea is to accept a job as a medical assistant or an LPN. You would be paid considerably less but you would get practical experience. It would speed up your learning curve on your first real nursing job. It would also allow you to say that you are somewhat experienced on interviews. Many medical assistants are taught skills such as blood drawing and basic diagnosis in order to save on the cost of nurses. Of course the intent is to search for a job while working and gaining these skills. But at least you’ll be making something in the meantime. The best time to get a job is while you already have one.
The bottom line is that the best way to get a job as a new graduate is not to be a new graduate. Anything you can learn before or while hitting the job market will aid in removing you from that category. And when your interviewer asks you, do you have experience? You will be able to look him confidently in the eye and answer yes.