No matter how new or how experienced you are as a nurse, keeping your skills current and transferable is one of the best ways to stay relevant in today’s job market.
But what exactly does it mean to have skills that transfer? And how do you get that across in a job interview? Whether you are looking to make a lateral move or to move up with a new position in another organization, you have plenty of skills that will make you seem like a better fit for the job even without direct experience. But you have to make sure your interviewer hears those stories.
So you’re a newly graduated nurse with plenty of clinical experience, some work experience, and lots of assorted employment not in health care. If you are going for a med/surg position, how can you get across to your interviewer that you know you can do the job?
In a job interview, you have to do more than say you can do the job, you have to prove it. To do that, think of lots of relevant stories from any employment you’ve had that can show your skills. Did you receive an employee of the month award for your dedication or for your customer service skills? Mention the award was for your customer service position in a big box store, but back it up by explaining how your award was based on a specific positive interaction you had with a difficult customer.
Did a customer send your boss a note when you were teaching nursery school? Did your lab manager praise your meticulous attention to safety and detail when you worked as a lab assistant? All those accolades, although they may not seem related to the position you are interviewing for, are especially important when you use them to show solid details of your work ethic, your dependability, your attention to detail, your honesty, or your positive work with the public.
Any hiring manager is looking for those exact qualities in a new nurse—you just have to show, not tell, how those qualities reflect your own work history.
What if you’re a more seasoned nurse looking for a career shift to a new unit or a whole new aspect of health care? All your years of experience do count for something, but just like a new nurse, you have to tell your story. Three decades of nursing experience is impressive, but won’t get you hired unless you can show how effective you were as a nurse for those 30 years.
What do hiring managers look for? They want to see that you helped the organizations you worked for, so it’s up to you to tell them. You can’t assume they will take all those years of work as a nurse and consider you a shoo-in for the job.
But it’s especially tough for veteran nurses to promote themselves because in all those years of work they have likely seen everything and went above and beyond the call of duty almost every single day. That’s what nurses do.
You need to think outside the box a little and tell your story with details about how you saved your hospital money by implementing a new structure to crash carts that saved nurses time and made your floor more efficient. Did you head up a mentoring group for new nurses? Did your commitment to patient safety cause you to be the catalyst for a new approach to preventing falls and make your organization’s safety record improve?
Hiring mangers then interpret all those vivid and very relatable stories into skills their organization needs. You might see your actions as normal activities that any good nurse would do, but you need to promote them so the hiring manager sees you as an excellent nurse that their organization needs as an employee.
Even if your perfect GPA or your years of experience are on your resume, you cannot let your resume speak for you. You have to speak for you if you want the job. At your next interview, tell your story, explain your skills with examples, and show how you belong in their organization. Even the best resume can’t do that for you.
Some nurses are becoming frustrated with the profession and leaving altogether to pursue other careers. I’ve known a few well-seasoned nurses who have left after 10, 20, or 30 years in the profession. Some nurses leave after only a short time in the field. Why?
Here are the top 5 reasons why nurses leave the field:
1. Short staffing
Short staffing runs rampant in nursing. There never seems to be enough staff to care for patients on any given day. Staffing issues cause undue stress on the average nurse, especially when it’s an ongoing issue. The unit they work for will ask nurses to pick up an overtime shift or two and this then becomes the norm. The money for overtime shifts may be good, but nurses get tired of continually pulling more than their weight during any given shift. In addition, if your unit is fully staffed and other units in the hospital aren’t, you may be asked to float. Having to float to another unit is the bane of most nurses’ existence.
2. Too many tasks
It seems as if each time I report to work there’s a new piece of paper to fill out or a new task for nursing to do that another department used to handle. Sometimes it seems as if every other department in the hospital dumps on nursing. As a result, nurses end up doing someone else’s job (and well at that matter!) and soon the hospital is finding other ways to further cut costs and push even more on the nursing staff.
A prime example of this is Vanderbilt Medical Center. Nurses there are now taking over housekeeping duties! Can someone please tell me why management thought this was a good idea? This is wrong on so many levels; infection control, overworking nursing staff, disrespect for the nursing profession- I could go on and on. Most nurses barely have time to eat, let alone pee, so how can Vanderbilt feasibly add housekeeping to the list of things nurses have to do each day?
3. Lack of upward mobility
Let’s face it…it’s hard to move beyond the bedside without having an advanced degree. Many older nurses received either a diploma or associates degree to enter the field. When I received my associate’s in nursing 8 years ago, all it took to move beyond the bedside was a BSN. It’s getting more and more difficult to find a non-clinical nursing job without a master’s degree or higher. Because of this, many experienced nurses who want to try something non-clinical either have to go back to school for many more years of schooling or decide to leave the profession for non-nursing jobs when they get tired.
4. Poor management
I once read that nurses don’t leave specific floors, they leave poor management. This sentiment rang true for me as I reflected on previous jobs and the main reasons I left. I can honestly say my two worst jobs weren’t because of coworkers or the workload- it was because of poor management. Poor management can cause toxicity among coworkers and increased workload. There is a correlation! If management truly cared about the backbone of the hospital (nurses!) then maybe they wouldn’t lose so many.
A common misconception among the general public is that nurses are paid very well for the work we do. Although we hold a tremendous amount of responsibility, this couldn’t be further from the truth for many of us. Nursing salaries vary widely based on geographic location, but most nurses feel underpaid for the amount of responsibility we have on a daily basis. Another issue concerning underpayment is that nursing salaries are capped after so many years of experience. Even worse, some newer nurses make almost as much as experienced nurses because their starting salaries begin higher than the experienced nurses did oh-so many years ago.
There are many more reasons nurses end up leaving the profession, but these are the top 5 as I see them. What are the other reasons why nurses leave and what can be done to keep more nurses in the profession?
In addition to working as a RN, Nachole Johnson is a freelance copywriter and an author with her first book, You’re a Nurse and Want to Start Your Own Business? The Complete Guide, to be released later this year. Visit her ReNursing blog at http://renursing.wordpress.com.
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