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Should I just be patient or should I try a different approach to find my first nursing job?

Dear Donna,

I graduated from an ADN program and became an RN. While I was thrilled to find out that I had passed the NCLEX, I am now faced with the reality of finding someone to hire me without experience.

I work as a PCT in an outpatient oncology center at a hospital. I love the job and the patients, but they do not hire new graduate nurses. I need to get one year of experience working on an inpatient unit. I have applied to several hospitals in all different specialties, but so far I haven’t had any calls.

I have tried contacting the nurse manager on the inpatient oncology unit of my hospital, but she does not return emails or phone calls. I spoke with her at a career fair in April and at the time, she told me to look out for new grad positions in June because she usually had a few available each year. I have not seen any jobs posted and am becoming very discouraged. A classmate suggested I go see her in person, but I don’t know if that would seem pushy or annoying. I have a BA in psychology but haven’t had any replies for a psychiatric RN position either.

Should I just be patient or should I try a different approach to find my first nursing job?

Frustrated New Nurse


Dear Frustrated New Nurse,

When a prospective employer says you must have one or two years of RN experience, what they are saying is that they are not hiring new nurses. When you say you are a new nurse trying to find a job without RN experience, you need to realize no new nursing grads have RN experience. Read “New nurse, new job strategies” to understand the current job market and what you need to do to market yourself and where to look for positions.

It is not advisable or appropriate to visit nurse managers at their workplaces. However, you should connect with them on LinkedIn and continue to attend career fairs. You also should attend local chapter meetings of organizations such as the Oncology Nurses Association and the American Nurses Association . You should join ANA (many chapters have reduced dues for new nurses) and attend ONS meetings as a guest for now. When there’s something you want to do, it makes sense to rub elbows with those already doing it. Networking is known to be the most effective way to find opportunities and get hired.

You need to take a more proactive approach to finding a job. Refer to the above-referenced article for tips on how to do so. You’ll find very detailed job finding, networking and self-marketing information in my book, “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses.”

Keep applying for RN positions if you want. You may have to take a non-hospital position in a subacute, rehab or outpatient hemodialysis center to gain experience, which would be better than a prolonged stint as a PCA.

Make plans to get into a BSN program as many hospitals only are hiring nurses with BSN degrees. Having a BSN also is an important step for any future nursing role. Since you already have a bachelor’s degree in another major, you easily should be able to get that done.

Start doing some informational interviewing with nurses who work in both psychology and oncology since those seem like good specialties for you. Informational interviewing is a great way to make valuable professional contacts, learn more each specialty and build your support team. Learn more, by reading: ”The scoop on informational interviewing.”

Even though you are working as a PCT, try to find a volunteer position as an RN, even for a few hours a week. Volunteer work gives you recent experience to put on your resume, expands your professional network and helps to build confidence. It often can turn into paid employment as it is a way to get your foot in the door somewhere. For volunteer opportunities, check with your local public health department, a cancer care center (other than the one where you are working), senior center or free clinic.

Best wishes,


By | 2021-05-07T16:31:41-04:00 July 29th, 2015|Categories: Nursing Careers and Jobs|1 Comment

About the Author:

Donna Cardillo
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, is president of Known as The Inspiration Nurse, she is a keynote speaker, retreat and seminar leader, and author of "Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional" and "The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career." She brings more than 25 years of clinical, management and business experience to her role as career guru.

One Comment

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    Sarah July 31, 2015 at 1:51 am - Reply

    You need to get some real world nursing experience. Even if that experience comes a few months at a time from a temporary or seasonal position. Once you get the experience that adds up to the amount that full-time employers are looking for, you’ll get the call for the job you really want.

    New nurses aren’t getting awesome jobs right out of school. It takes work to find a good job.

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