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I am an adviser at a community college. Do you have any advice for my nursing grads who cannot find employment?

Thursday November 29, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I am a career adviser at a community college. I work with nursing students in our associate degree program. The majority of our nursing graduates cannot find employment in the field. Most hospitals, nursing homes and home-care agencies want at least one year of experience and/or a BSN. While many of our students are pursuing their BSN, most of them have to work while they are attending class. Do you have any advice for these new RNs?

Career Adviser

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Career Adviser,

Start by reading this article: “New nurse, new job strategies” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies). Consider distributing it to your new grads. The core message is that new nurses, actually all nurses, need to look in new directions for employment and must utilize new methods and develop new skills to find those jobs.

While it is true that many patient care settings are not hiring new nurses, some are. Therefore, every new nurse has to be much more proactive in the process of seeking employment. Simply sending out resumes, or filling out online applications, is the toughest and least effective way.

Also, the job market is completely changing, so new nurses must look to nontraditional work settings to launch their careers. They may not have anticipated this or want to do this, but they have to broaden their search and open their minds to all the possibilities. Encourage them to attend a Career Alternatives for Nurses seminar to fully explore these options. See where I'll hold these at www.Nurse.com/Events/CE-seminars/.

As the article suggests, volunteering in a healthcare setting — ideally as a nurse — is important while job seeking. I understand they need paid employment, but what many do not realize is that volunteering often leads to paid employment. It is a good way to gain experience, expand one's professional network, hone current skills and learn new ones, and get a foot in the door somewhere. They should consider a local public health department, a hospice, a free clinic, a senior citizen center that provides health services, a pediatric long-term care facility, the American Red Cross or any other facility/agency that interests them or where opportunities exist. Note: If volunteering in a hands-on capacity, it is advisable to have nursing liability insurance.

If they can get into a nursing internship program (one they may need to pay to participate in with no guarantee of a job afterward), they should try that. They should beef up their credentials in any way possible, including pursuing ACLS and IV certification.

Additionally, networking is absolutely vital for new nurses (all nurses), and yet most nurses don't understand the value of this or know how to do it properly. For starters, every new nurse should join and participate in their state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org). Read “Getting the most from professional associations” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/professionalAssns). Networking is well known to be an effective way to find a job. When there's something you want to do, it makes sense to rub elbows with those already doing it.

There is considerably much more detailed information about all of this in my books, “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses” (www.nurse.com/ce/7250) and “Your First Year as a Nurse.” Many colleges are using these books as required reading and many hospitals are using them for new nurse (new hire) orientation and ongoing professional development.

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.