It can be tough to land your first nursing job. According to the National League for Nursing,“the economic recession has flooded the RN market with experienced nurses who were retired, planning to retire, or went from part-time to full-time employment. The need for RNs has declined due to low hospital census (resulting from lower elective surgeries/procedures; high unemployment; and high rate of those without health insurance.” What’s a nursing student to do?
You can spend hours scouring job sites and sending out resumes, but your first nursing job might be closer than you think. Consider your clinical rotation site as a potential employment opportunity. Why not? The unit culture is familiar, you’ve already met (and hopefully like) the treatment team, and you have some idea of the nursing role.
If you’re in a clinical rotation you would like to turn into a job, consider these tips:
Treat it like a job. Think of your clinical like one extended job interview. Show up on time – every time, regardless of the weather, traffic, or your alarm clock malfunctions. Whatever you do, don’t be late! Follow the dress code to the letter. This is not the time to showcase your individuality. Your cell phone stays hidden – do you want a job, or do you want to reach the next level in Candy Crush? Show up early, smile, and keep focused every minute of your shift.
Seize the opportunity. Look for ways to be useful. Make yourself valuable. If you aren’t sure how to help, ask. Keep moving. If you are just taking up space at the nurse’s station or studying for your next test, then you are missing the boat. Preceptors appreciate working with students who seek out opportunities. Contented patients and families make your preceptor happy. Make yourself valuable.
Accept feedback gracefully. When you get feedback on your performance, say thank you and learn from it, even if it isn’t a glowing review. See it for what it is – a learning opportunity. Whatever you do, don’t argue. Your preceptor likely has years of experience under his or her belt, and a bad interaction with a nurse on the unit will be hard to move beyond.
Say thank you. You may have had several preceptors over your clinical rotation. Hopefully, you have clicked with one or two. Write a personal thank you note to each person with whom you worked, and if you feel comfortable, ask if you can use him or her as a reference. A plate of cookies doesn’t hurt either.
Meet the Boss. Make it a point to meet the manager of the unit. After you have worked on the unit for several weeks, introduce yourself to the administrator. Thank him or her for the opportunity to learn on the unit, point out by name how helpful your preceptor has been, and leave behind a polished resume (and maybe more cookies). Be upfront and clearly communicate, “I would love to talk with you about any openings you might have.”
Play your cards right, and as soon as you’ve aced the N-Clex, you, too, can be one of the lucky grads with a new job to match your shiny new degree!