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How can I get a job working as an ICU nurse if my only experience has been in med/surg, telemetry and the ED?

Thursday August 15, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I entered nursing at the age of 48. I completed a one-year accelerated BSN program. My experience has been one and a half years in med/surg and telemetry and the rest in the ED. I have been trying to change to a different specialty, but have been turned down repeatedly for critical care positions. I have been told that ED experience is not considered the same as critical care. The only positions being offered to me are in the ED. Do you have any suggestions?

Wants to Work in ICU

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Wants to Work in ICU,

Nurses are hired all the time into ICU with no prior ICU/critical care experience, but there is an abundance of experienced nurses in the marketplace, many with current ICU experience. Some hospitals may prefer to hire those ICU-experienced nurses, perceiving a shorter assimilation time for them. Either way, when what you’re doing isn’t working, it's time to try a new approach.

Start attending local chapter meetings of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (www.AACN.org) as a guest. Also, read the article, “How to Change Specialties,” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Change-Specialties).

Do some informational interviewing, (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Interviewing), with nurses, managers and supervisors who work in the ICU at any facility. You can find these nurses through word of mouth and through your state chapter of AACN. Start by speaking with your state and local chapter officers. Informational interviewing, as the article explains, is a way to make contacts, gather valuable information and get advice. It is not intended as a direct job-finding strategy because you should not ask for a job while conducting this type of interview, even though obtaining a position is often a byproduct of this interview.

How you present and market yourself also is important. If you’re not getting job offers for known job openings, other than the ED positions you mention, then there may be other issues. Read “Job-hunting challenges take some trouble shooting” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Job-Hunting-Challenges).

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://www. Nurse.com/Events.