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Newly Hired RNs Offer Job-Hunting Strategies

The U.S. healthcare system continues to face a predicted shortfall of up to 260,000 full-time nurses by 2025, and the Department of Labor’s statistics forecast there will be 587,000 new jobs for RNs by 2016. Despite the economic downturn, a shrinking job market, and hiring freezes, new graduates and experienced RNs have found positions. In the magazine and in a photo gallery on home page, they share how they found their positions and offer constructive advice and messages of hope for RNs still hunting for jobs.

Raymond Desrochers, RN, Sacred Heart 5, Med/Acute, Saint Mary’s Hospital, Waterbury, Conn.

Raymond Desrochers, RN

I found my current position primarily through word of mouth, as friends and family spoke highly of Saint Mary’s Hospital. In addition, my experiences during clinicals at the hospital allowed me to witness the “esprit de corps” and camaraderie between employees firsthand, feelings that lacked in other hospitals at which I went to clinicals. Another big plus for me was that everyone smiled in the halls and said “hello” to one another, even to the student nurses. These simple acts spoke volumes about the working environment. As a result, I looked at the hospital’s Web site to see whether they were hiring, spoke to nursing supervisors to find out which positions and shifts were available, and let them know I was interested in applying.

Getting into your first-choice hospital isn’t something that is going to be handed to you. You need to stand out, otherwise your resume is just another paper in a pile. Some attention grabbers for employers are scholastic awards, volunteer experience, and different or unique former careers. In my case, my Marine Corps background helped me stand out.

Even with a great resume, it is even more important to put a face to your name. I took advantage of Saint Mary’s Hospital’s shadowing program, which allowed me to show how seriously I wanted the job. I not only learned more about my potential place of employment, but also allowed them to get to know me. Eventually, while looking through the stack of resumes before them, my employers specifically looked for my name among the pile since they already had a sense of who I was as an individual and a nurse. 

Nurses, more so than individuals in other sectors, tend to have many obstacles to overcome. A major obstacle I faced was graduating during a poor economic state, one that adversely affected employment in all sectors, even in a high-demand field such as nursing. Like many of my fellow graduates, I faced the uncertainty of gaining employment since hospitals were unsure of their future budgets, and held off on hiring new grads. I also saw many new graduates discouraged by talk about the lack of jobs.
Not only did these sentiments affect my own confidence in my ability to find a position, but my lack of hospital experience outside of clinical instruction also made me anxious.

I worried I’d be less desirable than individuals already employed in a hospital, people I believed would be guaranteed jobs upon graduation. However, obstacles shouldn’t lead you to give up, but rather lead you to push harder and show potential employers your dedication. You need to be assertive, and doing so when looking for a job proves to an employer you have what it takes to be a nurse.

Sarah Visker, RN, STAR Program, Med/Surg, Hartford (Conn.) Hospital

Sarah Visker, RN

My friend works for the STAR team at Hartford Hospital and had been telling me how much she likes her job for a long time. I was working at a job I loved, so I didn’t give it much thought. When my hours started to get cut and my paycheck was getting smaller, I had to start thinking about making a change. The thought of working on multiple floors in such a big hospital was intimidating to me, but I went to the interview, got the job, and found out it was something I enjoy.

Be open to new opportunities and you might find something you enjoy. Make sure you have plenty of support from educators, supervisors, and peers, as it makes for a much easier transition.

My biggest obstacle was my fear of working in med/surg again. I was working in labor and delivery for several years and I was looking only for positions in women’s health, which rarely are available. When I started opening up my search to positions such as the STAR program, I found more openings with more flexibility. When I started on med/surg floors again, I felt like I picked up right where I left off.

Jaclyn Kish, RN, Nurse Residency Program, Intensive Care Nursery, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, N.H.

Jaclyn Kish, RN

I attended career fairs in college and tried to talk to every hospital at the events. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center stood out the most as having a supportive and well-developed program for new graduate nurses. The fall of my senior year I spoke with nurse recruiters on how to apply and kept checking the hospital Web site to see if the Nurse Residency Program positions for the summer were available after I graduated. I applied as soon as I saw the job posted on the Web.

As a new graduate, look for a job that will provide you with the assistance you may need in the transition from student nurse to professional nurse. The Nurse Residency Program at DHMC did this for me in multiple ways. The hospital held monthly classes on how to take an active role on our floor, in the hospital, and in planning our future. In addition to the classes, the hospital had monthly small-group meetings during which I was able to sit down with about seven of my peers and discuss anything on our minds. I specifically enjoyed utilizing the help of these small-group meetings.

Although I love working in the Intensive Care Nursery, I have faced many difficult situations, ethically and emotionally, and being able to meet with my peers helped me to better analyze my feelings about these situations and understand where my values lie. It also gave me a look into the lives of new graduate nurses on other floors and I saw that while we might see different patient populations, we all face similar joys and dilemmas.

I didn’t face any obstacles during the application process. The biggest challenge for me was waiting to hear whether I got the job. I applied in November and did not hear until February that I was accepted into the Nurse Residency Program and would be starting as a nurse in the Intensive Care Nursery in July. My nurse recruiter kept me informed of the status of the hiring process and answered all my questions.

Laura Wesley Russell, RN, Hemetology/Oncology/BMT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston

Laura Wesley Russell, RN

I have worked at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for the past three years in various administrative roles for the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology. My manager there allowed me to continue my employment on a per diem basis throughout my accelerated RN-to-BSN program, so I began networking with people in nursing and human resources last fall since I was on track to take the NCLEX in January. I applied for, and received, a scholarship through the Workforce Development program at the hospital; the money was to help with tuition and was given in exchange for my commitment to work at BWH as a nurse upon the completion of my schooling.

I vigilantly checked Peoplesoft postings daily since January and e-mailed various contacts I had in nursing via my previous position in ObGyn. Fortunately, the nursing director from women’s health put me in touch with the hemetology/oncology nursing director who connected me with an oncology nurse manager in March. I’ve kept in touch with her since then in anticipation of jobs that would be created with the new hemetology/oncology/BMT pod opening.

I’d advise other nurses to be relentless in following up with people, especially in human resources — phone calls, e-mails, etc. — to keep yourself on the top of their list. Don’t take no for an answer, and don’t listen when they say there’s nothing else you can do. Be creative and persistent. It definitely helps to get a job — any job, nursing assistant or other — at a hospital where you’d like to work as a nurse before applying for nursing jobs since you’ll be at an advantage if you already have your foot in the door.

It was extremely difficult to get a position even though I was an internal candidate and a Workforce Development scholarship recipient. Many people I went to school with are still searching for jobs. The process was frustrating since my expectations upon returning to grad school to become a nurse were that nurses were in high demand and that finding a job after graduation would be relatively straightforward. Even though I passed the boards in January, it still took until August to get a job as a staff nurse. I’m excited to begin my career and am grateful I was given the opportunity to stay at BWH and join the amazing staff.

Lauren Galusha, RN, Med-surg/Oncology, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, Torrington, Conn.

Lauren Galusha, RN

I grew up in the small community where this unique and friendly hospital is located. Knowing in advance I would seek a full-time RN position at this facility upon graduating from nursing school, I took an opportunity to work there as a student nurse intern while in school. I was hoping the position would make me familiar with the facility, staff, and clients so that when I did become an RN I would be more prepared for an interview and position within the hospital. Thankfully, I interviewed early in the year and was offered the exact position I was seeking.

Unfortunately, many of my classmates are having a difficult time finding RN positions in critical care facilities. I would recommend applying for an intern position or something similar. I believe it is important to be flexible in what you are looking to do and be prepared to take a shift or floor that isn’t exactly what you wanted to make yourself more marketable.

Always go into an interview upbeat and professional and have questions and extra copies of your resume prepared. Ask pertinent questions regarding their preceptor/orientation period and opportunities to transfer floors and positions. Follow up after any interview with a thank you note, even if you are not interested. I think it also is important to have letters of recommendation from teachers/professionals who know you well and would be able to write personal strengths of yours without hesitation.

The obstacles I had to overcome started with being a new grad. I was directly out of nursing school with no credentials or experiences unique to any other recent graduate nurse. I knew there would be multiple applicants to any position I wanted. I took a third shift, 36-hour position, which most people do not want. The sleep factor alone is a challenge. Again, I had worked as an intern at Charlotte for a few months, and the nurse recruiter and nurse manager knew me personally. Once I interviewed, I was persistent but patient, returning phone calls promptly and remaining positive throughout the hiring process.

Kathryn Smietana, RN, Telemetry Unit, Danbury (Conn.) Hospital

Kathryn Smietana, RN

I found my position on the telemetry unit by participating in two of Danbury Hospital’s programs: Hot Jobs and Nurse Externship. While participating in Hot Jobs, I worked as a nurse’s aide for two years on the inpatient oncology unit. While doing so, Danbury Hospital reimbursed me 100% for my tuition at Western Connecticut State University. I also participated in the hospital’s Nurse Externship program where I spent 10 weeks shadowing nurses in the intensive care unit. It was a wonderful experience and a way to jump-start my career. Through my experience at Danbury Hospital, I learned it would be a great place to work as a new nurse.

I would recommend making your name and/or face known. If possible, I recommend e-mailing the hospital’s hiring representatives and the manager on the unit to which you are applying. In the e-mail, talk a little about yourself and why you’re interested in the position, and remember to attach your resume.

One obstacle I had to overcome was the number of applicants also applying for new grad nursing positions. It took several weeks to hear back from human resources while all the applications were considered. I think I called human resources at least once a week to check for updates. Another challenge I still face is working the night shift. Unfortunately, there were no open positions for the day or evening shifts; However, it’s a great learning opportunity, and I can change shifts once an opening is available.

Meaghan Bryan, RN, Critical Care, Lahey Clinic Medical Center, Burlington, Mass.

Meaghan Bryan, RN

I had been working at Lahey in the float pool as a nursing assistant when the nursing education department and critical care nursing department developed a new Critical Care Internship Program. I applied for the program and was chosen. It was a 10-week program the summer between my junior and senior year at Saint Anselm College that bridged into my first year as an RN. This program assured that there would be a position for me.

Working at a hospital or clinic through school gives you more options because you’re gaining experience and meeting people in the profession. Even volunteering gives you a start. As for those who already have graduated and have not worked in a hospital before, I would recommend networking (contacts from home or school) to find a position because many healthcare facilities are not hiring, as you know. If you can find a part-time position, take it. Get some experience and it will take you far. Anything you learn from any nursing position, whether it be in a hospital, nursing home, or dialysis center, will be of great value to you and your career.

I had to go through the application process for the Critical Care Internship Program early before I knew I definitely wanted to work in critical care. Then I fell in love. The application process consisted of my resume, filling out Lahey’s application, and interviewing for the position. There’s always going to be competition. Put your best face forward and share what you can bring to enhance the program to which you’re applying.

Melissa Danaher, RN, Children’s Psychiatric Emergency Services, Hospital of Saint Raphael, New Haven, Conn.

Melissa Danaher, RN

I researched about 12 hospitals online within an hour of my residence. I outlined my needs and values and applied to those positions that matched, and Saint Raphael’s was the best match for me.

In this economic turmoil, being “selective” is a luxury, especially for new graduates. It is important to have standards, but it is of great value to the employer if you can be flexible. Outline where you can be flexible, and be direct with your needs. Know what you plan to bring to the position that is unique, and show an interest in being a part of the hospital’s organizations and volunteer opportunities.

I was fortunate to have experience in the department I applied for and had a healthy resume of volunteering and being active with the National Student Nurses Association and wanted to advocate for psychiatric nursing. My biggest obstacles were taking a shift that was not my first choice, trying to juggle my family life without sacrificing time with them, and having an hour-long commute. The bottom line was I needed a job and it was in a field I loved in a hospital with values and missions that matched mine. I also was blessed enough to get a job during a time when fellow graduate nurses are struggling to find one.

Jessi Sabean, RN, Float Pool, Boston Medical Center

Being from Washington state, I researched and visited the hospitals I thought would be good places to begin my nursing career. In March during my spring break, I thought it would be a great time to fly to Massachusetts and talk to nurse recruiters. Fortunately, I was able to schedule an appointment at Boston Medical Center. At the meeting, I learned there might not be any new graduate positions. From March to June, I consistently communicated with the human resources department to display my commitment and interest in Boston Medical Center. Fortunately, a position for the float pool was posted in June.

The job market is competitive. New graduates who are searching for positions need to take initiative. Call local hospitals. If you are unable to speak to anyone on the phone, walk into human resources with your resume and recommendations in-hand and ask to speak with a nurse recruiter. Also, do not be afraid to ask for a personal recommendation from a friend or family member who is familiar with the quality of your work. Professional connections should be leveraged highly in a competitive market.

I also would recommend working as a nursing assistant or a nurse technician at a local hospital. This will get your foot in the door and increase the probability of receiving a new graduate position at the hospital. Finally, stay positive. The economy and nursing job market is frustrating, which is why it is imperative to take an initiative and keep a positive mind-set during your job search.  

To be honest, I thought my odds of getting this position were slim because I was from out of state. This was by far the biggest obstacle I had to overcome for a few reasons. BMC is familiar with the clinical sites and programs in Massachusetts and probably has never had an applicant from WSU’s College of Nursing. To conquer this issue, I discussed in detail the stand-out aspects of my program as well as my clinical rotations and instructors. The other problem I encountered was making travel arrangements for my interview. I did everything I could in order to get hired and begin my nursing career at BMC, and it worked.

Melinda Burt, RN, Geropsych, Elliot Hospital, Manchester, N.H.

I had done a clinical rotation on the geropsych unit and came back to inquire about open positions after graduating from Manchester Community College. Nurses looking for jobs should focus on networking and taking initiative. The biggest obstacle I faced was lack of experience as a new graduate.

Maria Fernanda Agudelo, RN, Telemetry, St. Mary’s Hospital, Waterbury, Conn.

The journey to my position on a telemetry unit was all but direct. In fact, the position was originally offered to a friend from school, but since she already was committed to another hospital, she recommended me for the opening. I was originally intimidated by the thought of a high-acuity unit, particularly a cardiac-focused one, since my program did not concentrate on cardiac care.

The first interview with the clinical coordinator for the critical care units was a phone interview. It went horribly since I was on a family trip with my niece and nephew singing and screaming beside me in the car as I strained to listen and respond appropriately. The second interview was in person with the clinical nurse manager for the critical care units. After an hour-long interview and tour of the units, I did not feel I had made the best impression, so I requested to shadow for a shift that week. To my luck, there was a snowstorm that morning, so I allowed ample time to get to work and the manager was actually late because she was snowed into her driveway. It was an opportunity for me to show how serious and interested I was in the position. It was after I shadowed and was able to site exact reasons why I would be a good fit for the unit and why I was so interested in learning more about cardiac care that I was able to demonstrate my enthusiasm and make an impression. I was offered the position on the spot and have had no regrets.

For those looking for positions, my advice is to hang in there. I didn’t get an offer on my first interview, and I turned down the first offer I received because my gut told me it wasn’t the right fit. It was the most intimidating and comical interview process that led me to my current position, where I am excited to work and learn daily. Also, don’t be too picky. I was set on starting and finishing my nursing career in maternity, and for a while I was applying only to those positions. Cardiac care opens more doors for me, and I am loving the wealth of experience and knowledge I am gaining. I love the choice I made, and appreciate the journey it took to get here. Lastly, don’t be afraid to apply early and go on as many interviews as you can. I waited until I passed my boards to apply, which unfortunately excluded me from several deadlines for applications. As far as interviews go, if you don’t get an offer, at least you’ve gained valuable skills for the next one.

One obstacle I faced in getting my new position is there were a lot of decisions to make with the application process. For example, my decision to wait until I had taken the boards proved to be a major obstacle when applying to hospitals because many already had hired for the season or were close to deadline and I was a last-minute candidate. Other pitfalls included keeping my spirits up after several offers came and went and I was starting to doubt I would get a job before the summer (my graduation date was in December). The process was long, and grueling — one interview in particular was downright brutal — but in the end it was worth it.

Kris Quercia, RN, Float Pool, Boston Medical Center

I found my new graduate RN float position while searching for a job on Boston Medical Center’s employment Web site. Every week I would visit all of the Web sites of Boston’s major medical centers for new job postings; specifically new graduate RN positions. Be persistent. Don’t give up hope that you can get a job in the hospital or setting in which you are most interested. Also, be open-minded when you see positions you hadn’t considered in the past. I never thought I would want to be a float nurse. However, as a new graduate, it will be a great way for me to obtain a wide variety of nursing experience.

Stay true to who you are. Remember why you went to nursing school in the first place. Don’t think there’s a mold you have to fit to be a good applicant for an RN position. Things that are unique about you as a nursing student may be what catches a recruiter’s eye.

I spent six months looking for a position as an RN. I would have to say the hardest part was staying in Boston during this economy, especially since many of my classmates took jobs out of state. I looked out of state for a short period of time and received offers from a couple of places. However, I believe Boston hospitals, specifically Boston Medical Center, care for especially diverse populations economically, culturally, and medically.

Charly Darius, RN, Geropsych, Elliot Hospital, Manchester, N.H.

I found my position through an employee referral; someone who works for the organization recommended I apply after graduating from University of Massachusetts Lowell. For nurses looking for jobs, I would advise them to find out from employees within the organization about openings and potential positions. I did not have any problems adjusting to the position because I previously had worked with patients with similar conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.

By | 2020-04-15T15:21:48-04:00 September 7th, 2009|Categories: National|0 Comments

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