Pursuing a Career in Nursing: The Beginning

Pursuing a Career in Nursing: The Beginning

There are currently nearly 4 million nurses working within the health care industry of the United States. It is the largest health care profession in the country, and for good reason. Nurses make a difference. They are often the first point of contact for anyone seeking medical attention, and they tend to go above and beyond what is typically asked or required of them.

Even though it is the top health care profession, there is always a growing need for nurses. Thankfully, it’s one of the easiest careers to pursue. Nursing courses are offered almost everywhere, including online, and once you’ve completed your coursework you can enter the workforce quickly. Plus, you can choose your own specialty, depending on your interests or passion.

Nurses also have the opportunity to work almost anywhere in the world, and job security will always be there. But, if you’re already interested in pursuing a career in nursing, you likely already have your own reasons to make it your life’s work.

The better question is, how should you get started? What should you expect as you go through your undergraduate studies, and which career path should you take when it’s time to make that choice?

Getting the Education You Need

The amount of education and training you’ll need to become a nurse depends on what type of nurse you’d like to be. For example, to become a Registered Nurse (RN), you’ll need a minimum of an Associate’s Degree.

If you’re already an RN or if you want to pursue something higher, consider getting your BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) at a four-year university or institution. No matter what degree completion you go through, everyone entering the nursing field needs to complete the NCLEX. This is an exam that is required by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. You’ll need to apply to take the exam through the state in which you plan on working. A passing grade is required to become an RN, and the categories include:

  • Safe, effective care environment
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Physiology integrity
  • Health promotion

Once you are an RN or have received your BSN, you can decide whether you’d like to choose a specialty or continue your education to become a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners must complete a Master of Science in Nursing program (MSN). On top of your previous education, the entire timeline can take anywhere from 6-8 years. If you haven’t yet started your educational journey toward becoming a nurse, it’s never too early. Some nursing programs are available online (at least partially). If you know nursing is your passion, you can begin to take courses early and gain experience that will help you once you find yourself in the workforce.

Facing the Realities of Nursing

No matter what level or area of nursing you decide to pursue, there are a few truths you’ll need to understand before you get started. Maybe you’ve been passionate about becoming a nurse since you were a child. Those passions and dreams don’t have to be “squashed,” but knowing as much as possible about the realities of nursing before you break into the field can help you determine if it’s really the right career for you.

First, it’s important to understand that you will always come second. That’s actually one of the reasons many people become nurses: to provide service to others. Doing so can help you to feel fulfilled and satisfied with your work. But, that doesn’t mean it will always be easy. Some potential “drawbacks” to keep in mind about a nursing career include:

  • You’re constantly on your feet, which can cause muscle aches and pains, or even lead to varicose veins.
  • If you work in a busy hospital, you may have irregular hours.
  • Nurses are at a high risk of experiencing workplace burnout.
  • It can sometimes be a “thankless job”.
  • Entry-level RNs only make an average of $41,000 per year.

Nursing can be a demanding profession, depending on where you work. But, most people stay in that profession for years because the rewards outweigh any of the disadvantages. It helps to have certain traits and characteristics to enjoy nursing as a long-term career. You have to enjoy working with different types of people every day and be willing to be a major component in a functional team.

How to Land a Great Nursing Job

Once you’ve completed your education and received your certification to become a nurse, the next step is to find the right job. Thankfully, due to the high demand for nurses across the country, your qualifications will often be enough for you to get hired quickly. Nurses are needed in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Nursing homes
  • Local government agencies

Think about the type of setting that would be a good fit for you before applying to different open positions. You may want to start somewhere small to gain experience, especially if you eventually want to continue your training toward a specialty.

Networking is just as important in the health care industry as it is in other business sectors. If you know anyone in the industry, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and market yourself to land a job. Many times, getting the job you want is about “who you know”, so use your connections wisely.

Finally, think about some of the most common questions you could be asked during a job interview. While it’s important to practice your answers for the interview itself, you can also gain more insight into what you really want to achieve out of your career. What are your goals? Why did you want to become a nurse? What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses? By understanding some of those things about yourself, you will have more direction in where you want to take your career.

Nursing is one of the oldest, most stable professions in the country, and it’s still seeing continuous growth. If you are pursuing a career in nursing, keep these ideas in mind to continue your forward progress, and know what to expect as you start your first job.

4 Quick and Effective Job Interview Tips

4 Quick and Effective Job Interview Tips

Do you ever wonder what makes one job candidate stand out enough in a job interview to actually get hired?

Being the best job candidate you can be takes time, effort, and a lot of preparation on your part. Now is the time when you have to raise your game so you become the job prospect who gets hired. Truth be told, you probably feel a little worn out after submitting your resume to many job openings and you’re just ready to get through this final step. Maybe you think your grad experience or your resume and exceptional work experience should speak for themselves—you know you’ve got what it takes to be part of their team.

The job interview has many layers. Yes, it’s about making sure you would be a good candidate who can do the job well. Any organization wants to know they have hired someone who is qualified, reliable, and professionally competent. But another layer of the interview is to see if you would fit in with the culture and mission of the organization.

Nurses know each workplace has a slightly different environment and work culture. Depending on the unit, the shift, and the established work guidelines, nurses will find they thrive better in one organization than another. That’s a natural part of any workplace and finding the right fit is something that can’t be found on a resume. Interviewers hope they can ask questions to understand how your background, personality, work expectations, work ethic, and training will help advance their team and provide their patients with the best care.

How can you prepare for that kind of pressure?

  1. Find Out More

Do a little investigating of your own before heading to a job interview. Understand the culture of the organization and find out how the teams work. Look at LinkedIn profiles, check out social media posts, and read up on the place’s history. Find out all you possibly can. No interviewer wants to explain a company to an interviewee. They expect you will come with an understanding of what they do and why.

  1. Understand What You Can Do for Them

If you’re applying for a job, an organization knows it can help you fill that immediate need. As an interviewee, you’re in the position where you need to sell yourself. Successful job candidates know you can’t just sell yourself by relaying all your accomplishments. Telling your interviewer about everything that’s on your resume isn’t the best use of anyone’s time. They have your resume—now they want to find out what you can do to help them. Where will you fit in and why will that help that healthcare organization be better? That’s what any interviewer wants to know. Don’t make them dig for that information in a job interview.

  1. Don’t Throw Away Your Shot

If you think you have only one chance to get something right, you’ll do your best. Well, this is your one shot to get it right. Today’s job interviewers don’t have time to coddle an interviewee. They want you to be prepared, to be dressed appropriately, to have any materials you need, to have references ready to go, and to be ready to answer their questions thoughtfully and thoroughly.

  1. Don’t Leave the Obvious Unsaid

You might think your five years on NICU will help you land this new role in a similar unit. You might be right, but do you want to leave that to chance? If two interviewees have the same experience, be the one who can demonstrate with anecdotes and proven results. Choose a few of your accomplishments in your last role and be ready to talk about how those results helped your last organization and also how it helped you professionally. Don’t assume your resume tells your story. The resume is the headline—the interview is the rest of the story.

Before you head to your next job interview, take some time for preparation and see what kind of a difference it makes in your interview process.

4 Things to Do Before Your Job Interview

4 Things to Do Before Your Job Interview

One of the most exciting aspects of your nursing job search is receiving an invitation to interview. You impressed the hiring manager with your resume and cover letter. Now it’s time to impress them during your job interview.

Job interviews are nerve-racking for sure. But you can calm some of your anxiety by doing these four things before your interview.

1. Company Research

Reading through the job posting isn’t enough to prepare for an interview. Dig deeper and read through the organization’s website and any social media pages they have. Spend some time perusing their press releases to learn about new initiatives the company is working on.

Some companies also have an HR section on their website where they publish their employee benefits information and employee handbook. These documents will give you insight to help you determine if the company is a good fit for you.

Finally, be sure to read their annual reports from the past several years if they are posted online. These reports will give you a glimpse into the company’s financial health as well as key milestones achieved throughout the year.

2. Review Potential Questions

Don’t “wing it” when it comes to preparing for any job interview. It will pay off to spend some time thinking through the possible questions you will be asked as well as how you will answer them.

Be sure you can answer questions about:

  • Your education and work experience
  • Your strengths and weaknesses
  • Your patient care philosophy
  • Work/school challenges you have faced and how you worked through them
  • Your short and long-term career goals
  • Why you want to work for this company/organization

3. Prepare Your Questions

There will usually come a time during your interview when you will have the chance to ask some questions of your own. Be smart and have a few questions prepared. It shows that you’re invested in learning more about the job and company.

These questions will get you started:

  • What is the training/orientation process?
  • What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
  • What shift(s) will I likely work?
  • How long do most nurses work on this unit?
  • What career growth opportunities do nurses have?
  • Describe your management style and/or management philosophy.

One warning: Don’t ask questions about salary or benefits during your interview. Save those questions for after you receive a job offer. At that point you know they want you for the position and you’ll be in a much stronger position to negotiate your starting salary and benefits.

4. Do a Test Run

One of the worst first impressions you can make is to be late for your interview. Mitigate the risk of being late by asking for directions to the interview site, including parking instructions. It’s wise to also do a test run a day or two before the interview so that you can gauge the time it takes to get there and park.

These tips will save you some stress and help you shine during your next job interview.

Tell Your Story in a Job Interview

Tell Your Story in a Job Interview

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.

Make Your Nursing Resume Do Double Duty

Make Your Nursing Resume Do Double Duty

Writing a nursing resume is a pressure-packed exercise in self-promotion (in a good way), using concise and meaningful wording, and cramming all your valuable and relevant experience into the shortest possible area. While you’re at it, make sure you have enough visually pleasing white space.

Yikes! No wonder why nurses dread writing resumes. So the next time your resume needs some fine-tuning, do a little multi tasking and look at the chore as an excellent way to prepare for a job interview. All those descriptive and action-packed words you use to describe yourself in your resume take time, so you should think of how you can use them again in your interview.

An effective nursing resume shows your experience, but it also needs to convey what makes you a better employee than anyone else the company is interviewing. If they call you in for an interview, your resume caught their attention. Keep that momentum.

Use Your Resume as an Outline

During your interview, talk up any high points listed in your resume or use them as a springboard for telling the story more completely. Did you achieve a nursing award? Your resume should say so, but you should follow up with the story of how you got the award and what it was given for. Was it for your endless hours of volunteer work? Was it for bravery or excellence? Take those highlights and give the interviewer the bigger picture.

Bring In Those Hard-Earned Words

It probably took a long time to come up with words to describe yourself and to describe your previous experience. Here’s your chance to use them twice. Don’t feel like you have to use every word, but certainly make sure some of your answers to questions use the ones that are particularly applicable. Does your resume say you are organized? Efficient? Accurate? Dedicated? Are you an excellent leader? Drop those words throughout your interview in a way that is most natural to you.

Tell Your Story

You don’t want to limit yourself to what’s on your resume in an interview – you want to really expand on what your resume presents. Think of your resume as the abstract and your interview as the full report. You got their attention, now think of ways to keep it. Decide on a few real highlights or challenges in your working life and a few from your personal life where you persevered and came out in a better place or with a better result for your organization. Did your idea about patient comfort turn into a new hospital policy? Note it on your resume and then talk about how you launched a new initiative that turned into a successful policy and reported an overall 30 percent rise in patient satisfaction. Be clear, give numbers if you can, and don’t generalize. Tell them exactly what you did.

Show, Don’t Tell

Your resume shouldn’t say you are a self-motivated nurse or a respected leader in the field. If you are, your resume should show that. List the classes you have taken, the new nurses you mentor, the professional organizations you belong to, the boards you serve on, the certifications you have, and all the other ways you use your nursing skills to make the world better or healthier. By showing, not telling, anyone who reads your resume will see you are self motivated and hard working. Tell them about your leadership roles, your expert status as an author or researcher and give the numbers again. Tell them more than 80 percent of your mentees go on to get advanced degrees. If you’re just starting out, mention how you presented a paper at a national conference. Don’t make your interviewer guess.

Crafting your resume is challenging, but it’s also a good way to think about how you would answer interview questions. Create your resume with that end goal in mind and you’ll have a stronger resume to get you in the door and a fantastic interview preparation once you sit for the interview.