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How can my daughter, a new RN, get experience if hospitals are only hiring experienced nurses?

Wednesday December 18, 2013
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Dear Donna,

My daughter graduated with a master’s degree in counseling and became an RN. She has many years experience as the clinical supervisor for a hospital methadone program and has been a surgical navigator. She works in a bariatric surgeon’s office where she does a lot of patient education and some phlebotomy.

My question is how does a new nurse get clinical hospital experience? All of the local hospitals hire only experienced nurses. How can she get experience if no one will hire her? I realize the face of hospitals and of nursing is changing, but nurses will always be needed. I welcome any feedback or suggestions you have.

New Nurse’s Mom

Dear Donna replies:

Dear New Nurse's Mom,

Your daughter has a great background and brings a lot to the nursing profession. There is definitely a place for her, but it may not be in a hospital, at least not right now. The reason most hospitals are hiring only experienced nurses at this time is that hospital staff positions are diminishing as care shifts into alternative settings.

Also, there is an abundance of nurses with hospital experience to fill those positions. That being said, there are still quite a few hospitals hiring a limited number of new nurses. Those new nurses have to be very proactive in their job search and not rely solely on submitting online applications. Read “New nurse, new job strategies” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies).

Networking is a very effective way to find a job under any circumstances. So your daughter should use all of the contacts she already has in healthcare to get introductions, leads, referrals and recommendations. She should be contacting someone in her network every day. She should attend local meetings of associations such as the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org), the Association of Nurse Executives (www.aone.org) and the National Association of Health Care Recruiters (www.nachr.com). She can attend any of these as a guest. Advise her to bring business cards and copies of her resume and to make sure to work the room.

Also, your daughter can look for nurse residency programs to enter. They usually cost something to enter and do not guarantee employment afterward. However, they are a good way to gain valuable experience and make important contacts.

Consider that new nurses no longer need to get the previously requisite hospital experience to launch their nursing careers. Many nurses go directly into public health, home care, outpatient hemodialysis and other specialties without ever having worked in a hospital.

However, because the current nursing workforce is 50-plus years of age, they will eventually be retiring from hospital care and/or move into non-direct care positions opening up a need for more hospital nurses over the next five years. We had a similar situation in the 1990s — for different reasons — when new nurses couldn’t find hospital work and they were suddenly in great demand.

To further understand where healthcare is headed read “Nursing – A new paradigm” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Nursing-A-New-Paradigm).

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.