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I graduated three years ago and I have yet to find an RN position. Should I go back to school or take a refresher course?

Thursday June 6, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I graduated three years ago with my ADN and I have yet to find an RN position. I have applied for over 2,000 positions and only had two interviews. I am 37 and I have a BA in marketing. I have applied to many new graduate programs but have not been accepted. I feel as if I am not a new graduate anymore, and the longer it takes for me to get a job, the less marketable I become. Should I go back to school for another bachelor’s degree or enter a master’s program? Will that help my marketability? Should I take a refresher course? I am very frustrated and don't know what to do.

Can't Find a Job

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Can't Find a Job,

When what you're doing isn't working, especially after three years and 2,000 applications, it's time to try a new approach. You need to formulate and execute a very proactive plan of action. Here's what I recommend:

• Plan to go back to school for a BSN or, even better, a BSN/MSN combo. A minimum of a BSN is needed in today's healthcare environment and job market. Even though you have a BA in another major, nurses — just like physical therapists, pharmacists, dieticians, etc. — now need a higher degree in their field. Read “Master the Scholarship Game” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Scholarship-Game).

• Enroll in an RN refresher course, complete with precepted clinical experience. This will get you up-to-date on practice issues. It also will make you more marketable and boost your confidence.

• Look for volunteer work, as a nurse if possible, in a healthcare setting. You cannot stay idle. Contact your local public health department, a free clinic, a hospice, or the American Red Cross for these opportunities. Volunteering will give you recent experience to put on your resume, will expand your professional network, build confidence, hone old skills and learn new ones. Volunteering often leads to paid employment and is a way to get a foot in the door.

• You actively must network with other nurses. Attend local chapter meetings of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org), as a guest for now. Most associations have reduced dues for unemployed members. When there's something you want to do, you have to rub elbows with those already doing it. As a new nurse, you must immerse yourself in the nursing community. You cannot stay isolated and expect to be successful. Networking is a great way to find a job.

• Check with some nursing agencies about temporary work. Although you wouldn't qualify for hospital work through an agency, sometimes they offer temporary jobs giving vaccinations, flu shots, working at health fairs or first-aid stations. It's an interim solution.

• Keep your CPR certification up-to-date. Take an infusion/phlebotomy class. Keep your skills and certifications current.

You are no longer considered a new nurse by hospitals. So it’s likely you won't be considered for any new nurse programs. That being said, you can still get your career started, but you have to do more than you have been doing and must look in new directions for employment. Read “New nurse, new job strategies” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies).

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.