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Help for New Nurses

Landing Your First Nursing Job

January 8, 2013

I was approached by a friend who recently graduated a nursing program. She told me that she applied everywhere but she couldn’t get in. I asked her if she applied to my nursing home. “A nursing home!? I want to work in a hospital!” was her automatic response. Apparently she had made up her mind that she wants a full-time hospital position and nothing less.

Hospitals are a great place to work. They provide diverse experience and develop critical thinking skills. However, not everyone can land their dream job right out of school. In an article entitled “Interviews and Statistics for the Healthcare Executive”, Deloras Jones, RN, MS Executive Director of California Institute for Nursing & Health Care projects that when the economy recovers there will be a mass exodus of old nurses retiring and new nurses will be soaked up both by hospitals as well as clinics. This is especially true as healthcare reform pushes nurses into the primary care positions. The problem is that the economy as of yet has not recovered and nurses who would otherwise retire are actually taking extra work to make ends meet competing with newly graduated and inexperienced nurses.

One suggestion I would make is not to limit your options. While nursing homes and clinics don’t provide as much experience as hospitals, they do offer some experience, and anything looks better than gaps of employment on your resume. You will also have the added advantage of not having to refer to yourself as a new nurse. I can tell you from firsthand experience that I have learned many new skills from my nursing home jobs which have helped me tremendously in my more critical care jobs. In fact, while all of the new nurses in my most recent acute care job took a month to train in, I learned the ropes in the first few shifts. I was able to perform alone, and was out of training after my fourth shift on the job.

Another option to consider are jobs per-diem offers. Many facilities offer per-diem employment even when saturated with employees to avoid having to rely on staffing agencies. Staffing agencies find out what staff nurses are making, pay those nurses 25% more, and then charge facilities 150-200% of that. A per-diem employee will only cost the labor amount with no benefits or other added on charges. View it as getting your foot in the door.

Another idea is to consider doing some volunteer nursing work to enlarge your circle of contacts and to beef up your resume. Find out if you can participate in job shadowing, where you can really show your interest and knowledge. It’s an excellent way to make contacts and make yourself known. When the need comes you’ll be up to bat.

One final point I want to bring out, is that no matter how disappointing it is to work hard finding openings and applying only to be rejected, don’t give up. Even if you have to take a different line of work, keep applying because eventually the gates will open. Keep following up with applications, continue applying both directly in person and through internet sites, and most importantly pray.


California Healthcare News, Solution to the New Nursing Graduate Hiring Dilemma, VOLUME 2, ISSUE 6 JUNE 2010, Retrieved from

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