You Survived Nursing School- Now What?

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So you managed to survive nursing school, eh?

This wasn’t your first choice for a career but after you had to take a job that rendered your first bachelors degree useless, you decided to play it safe and enter a field that experts say is recession proof- nursing.

You took out even more student loans and endured the rites of passage of future nurses, you know, studying pharmacology and managing to endure the 12 hour shifts for your internship and still make it to class on time the next day. You even managed not to smack that one student who constantly walked around asking everyone their exam scores so that she could compare. It was rough but you did it!

You finally passed the NCLEX, bought your first pair of scrubs and now you’re ready to put all that knowledge into practice.

But wait- you have to find a job now. Easy enough, with all of your book knowledge, your high GPA and your acceptance into the Sigma Theta Tau honor society, you should be a shoe-in. You did your part yet, where’s your sultry hospital setting where you’ll meet a prominent surgeon who will fall madly in love with you at first sight and romance you until you are carrying his baby?

More than 4 months after feeling like a super goddess, you still haven’t heard back from a single hospital yet. What are you doing wrong?

You’re not alone. Although there have been reports in the media that have sold you the idea that nursing is a fool proof career choice, many brand new RN’s are finding that they may have made a foolish decision.

24-year-old Florida native Shannon** passed the NCLEX back in June and spent more than a month applying to hospitals in her area. After not receiving a single call back she expanded her search to other cities and even went through the process of obtaining her license to practice as an RN in Michigan only to stare at her cell phone day after day, hoping that it would ring.

Shannon’s story is not uncommon. A recent report states that new nursing graduates face extended unemployment due to their inexperience. Most job posting for RN positions require at least 1 year of experience in a hospital setting. Students loans are due and the glow of victory is ever diminishing as parents and family members grow tired of supporting the not so new graduate.

What do you do now? Do you take the position at a nurse registry just to keep your feet wet? Do you decide to become a home health aide even though your fantasy is to hold cute babies in the NICU? Do you drop your dream of using your degree altogether and head back to the service industry?

Don’t give up.


Apply for overnight nursing positions. Sure, you want to work your 12 hour shift from 7a to 7p but the reality is most new nursing positions are offered during those hectic hours. Overnight positions offer new nurses the opportunity to learn and grow at a slower pace and there’s a bonus- overnight positions typically pay more.

Focus on smaller hospitals in non congested areas. Sure, you want to land the job in the biggest hospital system in your state but there are other opportunities out there. Try applying to lesser known hospitals who often advertise for new nurses to apply and are willing to give them a fair shot.

Network. Join one of the many professional associations for nurses or slog through to find a medical professionals meeting group in your area.

Ask for help. Go ahead and join LinkedIn and post your job interest and put up a status on Facebook asking your friends to help you in your search. Get your pride out of the way, everyone needs a little help sometimes and you never know who knows somebody who knows somebody.

Volunteer. Register as a volunteer at the hospital that you want to work with. Once you’re there you can mingle, make friends and potentially connect with the very people who can one day point you in the right direction toward your first job opportunity.

If 6 months have gone by and you still haven’t been hired as a nurse, just go ahead and get a job, any. Don’t consider yourself a failure, consider yourself smart enough to understand that nothing is permanent, not even this rough patch when you may feel as though your hard work didn’t pay off. You didn’t get this degree for no reason, your pathway into your career isn’t clear yet and that is okay. You won’t be in this position forever. Go ahead and take care of yourself by any means that you can and do not equate not having a job with your sense of self worth. The two have nothing to do with each other.

You are valuable whether you use your degree or not. You still have time to figure things out or even make a complete change if you want to. You are not trapped. You are not a failure. Be light headed about your job search and open minded about your options. There are a multitude of ways to experience the fulfillment of helping others. You’re seeking financial stability but you are also seeking the peace that comes with it.

How else can you experience the same FEELING you believe you will experience once you were to get your dream nursing job? Find another way to experience that feeling and enjoy it to the last drop.

Don’t give up. You’ve gotten through much rougher times in your life and lived to tell the tale.

Your dream is waiting. Celebrate in advance, everything will work out just fine.

**Shannon is a fictitious name although this story is very real.

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