In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.
Question: What is it like trying to find a job after nursing school? Can I expect to get job offers or get placed at my last clinical site?
Answer: Congratulations! After years of hard work, studying, and sacrifice, you finally finished nursing school, passed the NCLEX exam, and are ready to find your first nursing job. After hearing about a looming shortage of registered nurses, it can be surprising when that first offer doesn't arrive as quickly or as easily as expected.
You're not alone. A lot of new nurses imagined that they'd have their choice of positions only to learn that the job market isn't quite what they thought it would be. There are a few reasons for this:
- The nursing shortage is happening on a national, not local, level. This means that while some small towns are desperate for new nurses, other larger cities may have an abundance of graduates.
- The nursing shortage isn't just happening in acute medical centers; it also includes the increased need for staff at nursing homes, physician offices, and other settings.
- Many nurses approaching retirement age have decided to postpone their retirement or even re-enter the field due to the state of the economy.
So, what can you do? Does this mean you're doomed to stay unemployed?
Don't worry, there are still many options for finding a job after nursing school, though it will probably mean that you have to adjust your expectations.
Your clinical site is a great place to start, if you think it'll be a good fit. If you want to go this route, make sure to use your time there effectively. Get to know the nurses on your unit and make a good impression every single time you are at your site. When you're ready to apply, ask if they know of any openings or apply through the company website.
Here are some other tips for getting your first nursing job:
- Be flexible about your shifts. It’ll be easier to get a job on a less desirable shift, like the night shift.
- Don't expect to get your dream job right away. If you prefer to work in a hospital, try to get into your desired organization and apply for a transfer later on.
- Consider other healthcare settings, like home health care, private practice or outpatient settings.
- Are you open to moving? It may be easier to find a position in an area hit harder by the nursing shortage.
While these options may not be ideal, you can always apply for a transfer if and when a job opens up – and you'll have the insider's advantage and more experience!
A final option is to look into the new graduate nursing residency programs offered by some hospitals. These programs are listed separately on their website and are geared specifically towards new graduates. You often get to pick the specialty that you are interested in and will receive additional and more specialized training before beginning work.
Good luck on your hunt and welcome to nursing!
Nicole Galan, RN, MSN
Nicole Galan is a registered nurse who started on a general medical/surgical care unit and then moved into infertility care where she worked for almost 10 years. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students. Galan currently works as a full-time freelancer and recently earned her master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University.
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