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I am a new graduate having difficulty finding employment. Would it be professional suicide to take a job in a skilled nursing facility for one to two years?

Thursday April 4, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I am a new graduate and having difficulty finding employment. Formal new graduate residency programs in my area hospitals seem to be getting fewer and far between, with the application and selection processes increasingly obtuse and complex.

Would it be professional suicide to take a job in a skilled nursing facility for one to two years if I think I might want to transfer to hospital-based nursing in the future?

Unemployed New Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Unemployed New Nurse,

With the job market as it is right now, especially for new nurses, you would be wise to take any decent patient-care job you can get rather than staying unemployed for an extended period of time. You can get significant clinical and leadership experience in the long-term care setting. Although you may not see this as ideal, it is worse to stay unemployed in nursing for any length of time as a new nurse.

If you go that route, put your whole heart into it by joining and participating in the National Association Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care (www.nadona.org) and the National Gerontological Nursing Association (www.ngna.org, although not all LTC is related to gerontology). Long-term care is a hot and growing specialty, and many nurses are finding excellent long-term career opportunities there — both as staff nurses, outcomes and regulatory nurses, Minimum Data Set coordinators, case managers and managers or administrators. Many associations have reduced dues for new graduate nurses.

It's advisable to join your state and national chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org). As a new nurse, you must immerse yourself in the community of nursing. Networking is known to be a great way to find a job. You'll want to stay connected to nurses working in acute care too, if that is your ultimate goal.

For your information, new nurses in the mid-1990s also had trouble finding hospital work. Many new nurses took jobs in long-term care and other nonacute care settings. When the job market shifted about 2000, as it will again in the future, and hospitals were desperate to find nurses to work for them, they instituted re-entry programs for nurses like you. It is likely the same thing will happen over the next several years.

You also should know that because care is permanently shifting out of the hospital and into alternative inpatient and outpatient settings, so too are jobs for nurses. So you just never know, you may decide over the next several years to stay in LTC or move in a different direction entirely. The old "must have two years of hospital experience" advice does not apply to today’s and tomorrow's nurses.

Please read “New nurse, new job strategy” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies) for additional tips and advice.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” 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.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.