Embarking on a job search is often an exciting, and yet exhausting process. Beginning a new role, especially one that matches your professional and personal goals, reminds you of why you started a career in nursing and can restart your passion for what you do.
But a job search takes a lot of work, so some preparation before you begin will save you time and will help you find a good match for your skills and your own needs (a higher salary, a shorter commute, a new location).
Q: Should nurses do any kind of self-evaluation or career evaluation before they begin a job search?
A: Yes. Self-reflection is always helpful. It is important to spend time thinking about why you think a job change may be needed or desired. Are you stuck in a place without opportunity? Is the company you currently work for unstable? Is there an unanticipated career opportunity that is too good to pass up? Once you determine your motivation for doing a job search, ranking the following areas in order of importance can be helpful in narrowing your search.
New level of responsibility
Opportunity for growth within the new company or new job role
Pay and benefits
Q: What is the best way to get organized and think about a job search?
A: Ask yourself what you have enjoyed doing most throughout your career, what you’d prefer never to do again, and what areas of career growth opportunities you may have identified. This self-exploration should help you to picture your ideal role more clearly.
Browse job postings for the different types of roles that align with your identified career goals. Are the responsibilities described in the postings appealing and do you meet most of the qualifications?
Edit your resume so that prospective employers will understand what type of position you are seeking and how your experience aligns. You may need to edit the content depending on the job you are seeking. Highlight accomplishments and experiences that are most transferrable, listing the most recent and pertinent to the posting at the top of your resume.
Create a one-page cover letter template that identifies the position you are applying for and clearly demonstrates that you have done research on the company–for example, mention a recent company accomplishment or news story. This template can easily be customized to each job role you apply for. Address the letter to the hiring manager, recruiter, or human resource representative at the company.
Identify 3-5 people to be your references and ask them if they would be willing to speak to your skills. Consider present colleagues, professors, or supervisors.
After participating in a job interview, write an amazing thank you note within 24 hours of the interview.
Q: What are the best tools to use in a job search and what makes each one distinctive — for instance LinkedIn, networking, job boards, alma maters.
A: First, consider all your resources: General nurse recruiting websites or agencies, and nursing specialty job boards like AAACN’s Career Center, or those offered by the Organization for Nurse Leaders. Networking is, of course, one of the best ways to find a new position. I’ve heard our AAACN nurses say they found a new job after they joined one of our Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and I see job discussions frequently in our online community. Such new connections can help a nurse discover an area of practice they didn’t know about or had never even considered.
Second, create or optimize your LinkedIn profile. It should be an extension of your resume and cover letter, and should include a professional profile photo and engaging summary that highlights your skills, career achievements, and accomplishments. Also, include volunteer experience as appropriate, as well as education and professional certifications. Maintain your presence by regularly posting and commenting so you appear active and engaged.
Social media can also be a positive platform if used to contribute to conversations regarding timely health care topics. Ensure that you refrain from engaging in conversations that could be considered controversial. Also, make sure your profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms are set to private.
Q: Should recently graduated nurses conduct a job search in a different way from a more experienced nurse? Are there better approaches for nurses in different stages of a career?
A: While knowledge, skills, and attitudes are important, a positive attitude and ability to communicate flexibility in the acceptance of job assignments is key for the new grad. Content and processes can always be taught, but a positive attitude in an employee can sometimes be hard to find. Take full advantage of job fairs that are organized by your nursing school as well as healthcare systems recruitment events. Employers who offer nurse residency programs as part of orientation and onboarding are committed to hiring new graduates and investing in them as long-term employees.
Q: Is there anything about this time when so many processes are remote, that can impact a job search positively or negatively?
A: The biggest impact is the uncertainty of the impact from COVID-19 on the job market. Many organizations have suspended hiring and have temporarily furloughed nurses. That said, facilities that offer remote work such as nurse call centers have been vital to providing virtual clinical support to vulnerable populations and have expanded during this unprecedented time in health care.
We’ve seen this trend reflected in a jump in demand for AAACN’s telehealth resources and the networking among our AAACN members who practice telehealth. I think telehealth is going to continue to grow significantly in coming years because its value will remain even when COVID-19 has been tamed.
Q: How can a nurse prepare to use this time as an advantage?
A: Self-educate and develop skills that support patient engagement, mutual goal setting, and motivational interviewing that promote patient self-care management. AAACN’s Care Coordination and Transition Management (CCTM) resources can assist in developing these skills and competencies. These skills are especially critical when working with patients virtually but can translate to any work environment to ensure improved disease management and quality outcomes.
Nurse leaders are essential to bringing the nursing industry forward, especially during the tumultuous times like the present. With a global pandemic disrupting life as we know it, nurse leaders are needed to advocate for the safety and health of nurses and those they care for.
How can nurses increase leadership experiences on the job and in the community?
Nursing leadership is multidimensional across healthcare organizations. Nurse leaders range from the bedside (clinical level) to the boardroom (administrators, chief executive officers, etc.). Many settings have mid-level managers. There are also leaders in research, academia, and technology. Regardless of this complexity, a key factor that fosters nurses’ leadership experiences on the job or in the community is being involved in their professional organization. This kind of engagement helps attune nurses to their professional landscape and broadens their skills and knowledge, which in turn can be used on the job and in their communities. Personally, my involvement in the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) was a game changer in my leadership development. Not only have I been able to meet and forge relationships with my AAACN colleagues, but the education and resources AAACN offers really helps build and connect nursing leaders. Our Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are designed specifically for that purpose.
In addition, the knowledge I’ve gotten from my role as an AAACN leader has helped me move to the frontlines in building and sustaining ambulatory care practices in my career. I’ve brought new ideas, evidence-based best practices, and other benefits to my workplace and my community, helping me increase my leadership experiences and strengthen my leadership skills in additional areas. This is why I encourage other nurses to get involved in professional nursing organizations. It helps them develop interprofessional collaboration in their workplaces to improve patient outcomes and participate in the improvement and design of health systems and practice environments to achieve a common/collective goal/purpose. In our communities, leadership experience for nurses involves engaging at the local, state, and national levels to improve the culture of health. This can take the form of serving as a nurse educator, working with community groups on promoting health and preventing disease, getting involved in campaigns, and informing the community about the level and quality of services of their facility.
Why should nurses continue to seek these experiences throughout their careers?
Nursing leadership is characterized by a wide range of responsibilities across the profession. It’s important to continue to seek leadership experiences to ensure proper responsibilities and accountability for different operations such as human resources and patient outcomes. I believe it’s also crucial for nurse leaders to understand the economic influences that affect health care delivery. You’re seeing that financial focus right now as the world struggles to meet the economic challenges of a global pandemic.
Leadership roles are changing rapidly in a fast-paced healthcare environment, and nurses need to evolve in that direction. The knowledge and skills for leading healthcare services and personnel are ever-changing, and nurses must continue to seek growth in leadership to enhance their problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making abilities. The nurse leader who is passionate about learning and evolving is able to empower other nurses, and subsequently improve many aspects of the healthcare system.
How does leadership make a nurse better?
Leadership keeps a nurse up-to-date on today’s healthcare environment. For instance, in the clinical arena, the nurse leader who is well-informed in evidence-based studies and public health issues is able to make the right choices for optimal patient care. In other instances, leadership sharpens a nurse leader in the areas of policies and healthcare strategies that affect patient care.
The ability to lead and be the voice for other nurses, the bridge between policy and practice, leading change or becoming a change agent, are also factors that contribute to the betterment of a nurse. Leadership can afford the nurse with practical skills and knowledge to understand the business of healthcare as a whole. Understanding the impact of nurses in healthcare/patient outcomes through Nurse-Sensitive Indicators (NSIs) is one such example. AAACN partnered with the Collaborative Alliance for Nursing Outcomes (CALNOC) and through this leadership, a number of indicators are now available to nurses in ambulatory care and telehealth settings for benchmarking.
Why is it important to the nursing industry to have more nurses in leadership roles?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; 2018) nursing is the country’s largest healthcare profession, with approximately 3.9 licensed RNs. Yet there continues to be a lack of nursing representation on hospital and health system boards and governance of community health efforts. In our 21st century healthcare industry, increasing the number of nurses in leadership roles will allow nursing to have a greater impact on policies, strategies, and tactical healthcare decision making for communities and health systems across the nation.
Nurse leaders who, for instance, understand value-based purchasing/care can help eliminate waste and inefficiencies and transform their organizations to high-reliability health systems. This also speaks to the Future of Nursing 2020-2030 Campaign. Unlike when I was in nursing school, today’s nursing curricula have a leadership component, and professional organizations are also offering leadership training and/or toolkits. AAACN has a Leadership Special Interest Group (SIG), a diverse group of both experienced and novice nurse leaders. They work together within the SIG to foster continued leadership support, growth, and development for themselves and other nurses.
What are some challenges facing nursing leaders today?
I believe one of the challenges that continue to face nursing leaders is staff retention and recruitment. COVID-19 has made this challenge even greater as nurse leaders not only are working on staffing patterns to meet the demand for COVID-19 care, but also working on retaining staff and mitigating burnout and compassion fatigue.
It must be noted that the BLS projected a yearly need of 203,700 registered nurses through 2026 to replace retiring RNs and fill newly created positions. This shows the nursing shortage is real and serious. And, of course, the shortage has been brought to the forefront by the current pandemic. Healthcare organizations such as the VA and many others are calling urgently for the return of retired nurses or fast-tracking students to their workforce to augment COVID-19 staffing.
I must say in times like this, staying connected with other nurse leaders is crucial to gain insight on staff leveraging and related issues. Our AAACN Connected Community (online networking platform) has been extremely active during the pandemic, with nurses of every level connecting and sharing their experiences and best practices in ambulatory care and telehealth. And, like so many other healthcare organizations, AAACN is offering education for free. We just did a free webinar on “Telephone Triage and COVID-19,” and we will continue serving nurse leaders and the community this way.
Although the pandemic is top-of-mind right now, I have to say that violence against nurses is another serious concern facing nursing leaders. There has been an increased trend of violence against health professionals, with nursing taking the brunt.
The more nurses there are in leadership roles on hospitals and health system boards, the stronger advocacy efforts will be for policymakers to assess this phenomenon thoroughly and enact measures to protect nurses and all healthcare providers.