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New Graduate Nursing Jobs - A Word of Encouragement and a Bit of Advice

By Lori Havens

"There are no jobs out there for us!" "I thought nursing was supposed to be such a sure thing for job-security, but I can't get a job anywhere!" "All the positions are for experienced nurses am I supposed to get any experience if no one will hire me?" "Nursing shortage? What nursing shortage? If there's such a shortage, why aren't there any jobs?"

This is a typical lament of the newly-graduated nurse, looking for his or her very first job out of school, at least in some parts of the country, and in some situations. I believe that some encouragement is needed, as well as some "sage advice."

The job market, in some places, is very tight. While it is disheartening, we need to realize that this isn't completely new. Nursing, as a profession, has been here before, to a degree. When I first began my career, nurses were being laid off, allied professions were being cut...this was over two decades ago now. New grads and both current and future nursing students: You're caught in the middle of a really weird situation right now. Trust me...there is a nursing shortage! And it is going to get worse.

The problem seems to be that, like every other business around, hospitals are having to make the same gut-wrenching budget cuts as everyone else. It's hitting so many areas of nursing right now...students, faculty, schools, hospitals...everyone is affected by the current economic situation. Hospitals, whether they're short on nurses or not at the moment, are dealing with a cash-crisis. A brand new nurse, fresh out of school--no matter how many "A's" you got in nursing school, no matter how many articles you've written above and beyond, no matter how many volunteer/student-work/extra-credit hours you've logged--a brand new nurse will take close to a full year to mentor and precept into an independent RN. They will spend tens of thousands of dollars on you, above and beyond the salary they pay you, just to get you to the place where you actually "earn" that salary. Don't be offended...the hospital typically knows that you are a great investment! These just aren't typical times right now.

You may not believe it right now, but most of the skills of nursing are learned after you get out of school! In school, you are learning the "science" of nursing, the "theory" of nursing. Upon graduation, you will learn how to apply that science and theory in the real world of nursing. Your clinical rotations were not the real world. Nursing requires judgment skills; judgment skills are the result of experience backed by the theory and science you learned in school. It just takes time.

OK, so...what can you do? First, recognize that you DO have options:

Realize that your first job is just's your first job. Few new grads, whether they're nurses, lawyers, engineers, or architects, land their dream job right out of school. When you say that there are "no jobs anywhere" in your area, is it really NO jobs? Or have you limited yourself in any way by not considering jobs in, shall we call them, "less than desirable" specialties? I really disliked my first year of nursing! But you know what? It was only my first year. Once it was over, I was the "experienced RN" that hospitals were crying out for. I named all my future positions, where and when I wanted them. But that first year, in what amounted to a "glorified nursing home" was not what I had EVER imagined for myself. So...have you really looked everywhere?

I have read more than one nursing student posting comments online about how upset they were that there were "NO JOBS" out there, only to then read that she is a senior in nursing school or a brand new graduate nurse who wants to go on to become a nurse anesthetist, and to get into that program she has to have at least a year of ER or ICU experience...and "no one will hire me." To such students and grads, may I tell you in the kindest way that if any hospital does hire you into their ER or ICU as a new grad, they are setting themselves...and very possibly you..up for a possible lawsuit because of the dire consequences your lack of experience and immature professional judgments may cause someone?

I worked 10 years of my career in critical care...ALL areas of critical care...and new grads simply do not have the knowledge, skill, or judgment abilities to work in these areas. Period. Want to become a Nurse Anesthetist? Then graduate nursing school, take whatever job you need to get working as a nurse, so you can actually begin to function as a "real" nurse (not just a student nurse!) at the bedside, fulltime. Learn. Learn all you can in that first job. Be the best new nurse you can be.

Get the best peer reviews. Get the best reviews from your Unit Manager. Be the nurse the patients and their families write letters to the hospital directors about (good letters, of course)! Then, at the end of that year, go apply for a job in the ER. Go get a spot in the ICU. Believe me, when you're in there, you'll be starting all over again with the learning curve! But when you're in, you're, remember what you did that first year in that first position? Do it again. At the end of that year, go apply for that slot in the Nurse Anesthetist program.'ll have earned it, because you worked for it. Well worth it!

Again, few new graduates, whatever their profession, land their "dream job" fresh out of college. Most new grads expect to start, oh, somewhere near the bottom, and work their way up, gaining experience, wisdom, and leadership skills along the way that will be used in their futures. In nursing, we are fortunate...the bottom isn't that far from the top. It doesn't typically take more than a year of doing what you'd rather not be doing in order to shoot straight to where you do want to be. So just get started.

Let's say you really have looked at every hospital, every nursing home, every assisted living center in your area, and there are NO jobs. You have a decision to make. I tell my own kids this all the time: you can either choose where you want to live, and then work at whatever you like best that is available there, or you can choose what you'd love to do, and then go wherever you have to in order to do it. It's just that simple. With a career in nursing, If you wait long enough and are willing to do what it takes at first (probably not too long, but be ready for a year or so), you'll probably be able to have BOTH.

Jobs ARE out there. Go where they are, get your feet wet and become the experienced, independent RN everyone's looking for! Do what it takes! It's WORTH IT!

Lori Havens R.N., B.S.N., is the author of "7 Essential Questions Every Future Nurse Must Ask," a free "mini eCourse" which helps answer the biggest questions that people looking into nursing as a career option have; she has also authored "Should I Be A Nurse? A Journey of Self-Exploration for Those Considering A Career in Nursing," a 102 page e-book which takes the reader through a series of carefully-crafted "conversations" and thought-provoking exercises designed to help answer that all-important question: "Should I Be A Nurse?"

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