10 Ways to Get in and Gain Experience in Nursing

by NurseJournal Staff
• 2 min read

Surely you’re familiar with this career checkmate: you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. It may not be especially reassuring to know that you’re far from alone, but there are a few things you can do to escape this vicious circle. While it’s best to get an early start on mining for career opportunities, there are plenty of strategies for recent and not-so-recent graduates as well as current and prospective nursing students.

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#1 Take advantage of internships
Explore the opportunities your school offers for internships. You may not be jazzed about the idea of working for free, but you may stumble upon a career while you’re there. Often interns are on the short list for hire, since they know the ins and outs of the facility already. Also, you could discover a specialization you’re passionate about.
#2 Pick a program with career placement
Plenty of nursing programs offer entry-level job placement. Find out what your school offers, and talk to other students and nurses about their experiences with placement programs. Sign up for classes that feature clinical training, even if they are outside your concentration. You might uncover an interest you didn’t know you had.
#3 Get a mentor
Mentorship programs are a great way to foster your professional career. There’s a good chance you already know someone who could help you realize your career goals. Perhaps one of your instructors, or even the pediatrician you went to as a kid, could be a helpful resource. This person will share advice, and may put in a good word for you down the line.
#4 Work your way through school
If you can manage your time wisely, jockey for a position as a student nurse at a hospital or clinic. You may be able to secure a position at a magnet hospital as an assistant or in patient care. If you like the work you’re doing, there could be advancement opportunities if you decide to stay on post-grad.
#5 Volunteer
Like an internship, volunteer work doesn’t pay. Unlike internships, there isn’t a great deal of competition for volunteer positions. Nevertheless, working for an organization like the Red Cross is a good-looking résumé item, and many volunteer positions can develop into paid positions over time.
#6 Don’t be picky
Work a PRN (pro re nata) position, and you’ll enjoy a rather flexible schedule as well as pretty good pay. You might not work in your desired discipline, but you’ll build experience. One major mistake students and recent graduates make is turning down work outside of their specialization. Experience is experience, and can always lead to something better.
#7 Make friends in the field
Networking is crucial to any career, and the medical field is no exception. Whether you keep in touch with your best friend’s mom, join organizations, or hang out in the lounge with well-connected upperclassmen, do what you can to make a good impression and ask lots of questions. You never know where a casual Know anywhere that’s hiring? might lead.
#8 Step away from the examination room
If you’re not having much luck finding work as a nurse, consider applying to be a clinic clerk, or work in research, records keeping, or data-entry. It is wise to view all experience as relevant. After all, you will still have the chance to get to know the administrative and managerial side of the workplace, and you will likely be building your people skills to boot.
#9 Defy convention
Maybe it is tough to get in at the new state-of-the art clinic, but consider garnering experience by working somewhere like a group home, hospice, an elder care facility, or a correctional facility.
#10 Be a nag
If your resume and cover letter stand out, and you’ve tried everything else, consider calling HR shortly after you submit your resume. Polish you LinkedIn profile and reach out to every professional you can find. Schedule informational interviews so you can meet face-to-face with recruiters, and let your personality, dedication, and work ethic show. Sometimes getting in their heads will do the trick.

Search Entry Level Nursing Programs

An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) will give you a solid career foundation in the health care field. Popular among registered nurses (RNs), the ADN provides opportunities to work in entry-level nursing positions.

An ADN can be earned over the course of two- to-three years and the curriculum will include not only nursing, but also liberal arts. After you earn your ADN, you’ll need to pass a national licensing examination, NCLEX-RN, in order to begin working as a registered nurse.

If you’re not quite ready to jump into college coursework but want to enter the nursing field quickly, you can earn a certificate as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). In California and Texas, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is the job title used. To earn your LPN/LVN certificate, you’ll need to complete between one and two years of training at a trade school, community college or technical school.

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