In 2015, the employment landscape for new nurses is challenging, to say the least. New graduates face tough competition for limited positions. For those who feel compelled to get a year of med/surg experience under their belts, the going may be even tougher.
Dying med/surg tradition
When nurses leave school and enter the workforce, most are advised to land their first job in med/surg, a setting where they can sharpen previously acquired skills while amassing new skills and knowledge. Med/surg is a fantastic place to cut your teeth, but the simple reality is that there are more new grads than coveted med/surg positions.
Frustrated by their inability to find employment in med/surg, many new nurses may feel their nascent career is already ruined, especially because of the persistent myth that any other position won’t prepare them for a long and satisfying career the way the golden years of med/surg could have.
Perhaps the era of every nurse experiencing even one year of med/surg is dead, and a new method of welcoming novice nurses to the fray must be born.
Alternatives to med/surg crucible
We nurses must acknowledge that new graduates may just not have the opportunity to undergo the crucible of med/surg training that many of us feel they should experience. While it’s a lovely thought that every new nurse would be so welcomed into the profession, the times have changed, and new nurses need novel avenues through which to begin their careers.
Nurse leaders in practice areas where new nurses can safely function must be open to welcoming novice nurses among them, while providing mentoring and oversight that will help the new nurse practice safely and successfully. In this regard, staff nurses need to be educated and guided to be skillful mentors and preceptors. Openness to novice nurses begins at the top, and rank-and-file nurses can follow their leaders’ examples of grooming new nurses for success.
Profession must innovate
New nurses face a difficult healthcare ecosystem. They are encouraged to enter the profession, indoctrinated that they can only begin a viable career via med/surg, then have door after door slammed in their faces when they lack the coveted year of med/surg experience to gain entry into our exclusive nursing club.
It’s time to create innovative programs for the training and orientation of new nurses, programs where the novice nurse is expertly guided toward the attainment of relative nursing mastery.
If we want new nurses to succeed as our valued peers, we must allow them to find meaningful work, even without experience. Our blindness to this very real nursing conundrum is unfortunate; we must remove our rose-colored glasses and see what’s in front of our collective nose.
It’s time for the nursing profession to create more entry-level opportunities for the new nurses who are, of course, the very future of our profession.