I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed for several nursing positions, and each experience gave me some serious food for thought about nurse job-seekers and what they endure when searching for a new job.
If you’re in the job market, the reality of the interview process is that it’s fairly nerve-wracking for most people. There’s so much to think about when you’re prepping for an interview, and waiting for a job offer or some constructive feedback can feel like sitting on pins and needles. You’re definitely not alone if you have the nursing job interview blues.
Just Landing an Interview Can be Hard Enough
When you’re hot on the trail of a new job, just getting to the point of landing an interview can be a long and sometimes frustrating path. Despite a nursing shortage, competition can be fierce in many markets, especially in places like Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Dallas, Boston, etc. However, the challenges can be no less difficult, even in smaller cities and towns.
Reaching the moment you’re asked to sit for an interview involves many steps. These can include combing online job boards and facility websites for open positions, filling out redundant online applications (why can’t there be a universal online application, anyway?), tweaking your resume if necessary, and writing compelling cover letters that don’t feel cookie-cutter or cliché.
On top of it all, once you click “submit,” your online nursing job application enters a digital black hole where it’s unclear if an actual human being will see it. An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a bot that scans resumes for keywords, and your resume reaching a real person depends on a thumbs up from the bot.
So even before you’re offered an interview, there’s a lot to think about and do when it comes to the cause of getting a new nursing job.
The Blues of Job Interviews
With a nursing shortage, healthcare organizations would fall over themselves to interview and hire nurses for open positions. Despite demand, many nurses report the experience of their job applications falling into the digital black hole, never to be seen again.
And, just like I recently experienced, it’s not necessarily uncommon to never receive a word about the outcome of an interview, even in the form of a simple rejection letter. In my case, the discussions went very well, with a great deal of laughter and the nodding of heads in enthusiastic agreement with my responses.
In terms of the impact of 21st-century technology on job interviews, a few years ago, I interviewed over video, but there was no interviewer. Instead, a video recording captured my responses to questions that were flashed on the screen. I hope that the interview strategy dies a well-deserved death.
What to do When You Have the Job Interview Blues
When you have acute job interview blues, it’s time for some sorely needed intervention.
The first thing to acknowledge is that you have little control over most aspects of the process. While you might do things differently if you were in these employers’ shoes, the fact remains that you’re at the mercy of however they go about it, no matter how rude and inhumane their actions might seem.
Unfortunately, you can’t control your application’s entrance into the infamous digital black hole. You also can’t control whether you’re invited for an interview. Likewise, whether you receive a job offer or a rejection letter is equally out of your ken, and it’s shocking how many employers will leave you hanging and never get back in touch.
Other things you can’t control are what questions are asked, your interviewers’ attitudes, the tone of any particular interview, and how much time you’re given to ask any questions you may have.
So, when you have the job interview blues, remind yourself of what’s actually within your control:
Remember that every job interview is research data that tells you which employers are worthy of having you as an employee and which ones are companies to avoid
Every interview is also an opportunity to practice skills like thinking on your feet, being conscious of your body language, and coming across as sincere and authentic
You have the right to ask questions in a job interview, and following up afterward is appropriate, even if they don’t reach out to you
Remind yourself that if they aren’t kind enough even to let you know you’ve been rejected, you don’t want to work for them anyway
Your resume and cover letter are entirely within your power in terms of personality, design, style, and how you want to come across
If a potential workplace feels toxic or unhealthy based on the interview experience, you don’t need ever to work there
The nursing job market can seem rather cutthroat and inhumane, but you’ll also encounter great people along the way. Remember that you’re a valuable professional with skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm to contribute; any employer would be lucky to have you.
When you have the nursing job interview blues, remind yourself that there are better days ahead, and you have the wherewithal to find a great position and a workplace that will appreciate you and treat you like you deserve. Now your job is to get out there and find them.
Many nurses feel stuck and need help figuring out why. Alright, no worries. I can reassure you that you are not the only nurse feeling this way. Here are some reasons you may feel stuck and how to get out of that rut.
Lack of Career Advancement and Growth
You may not be experiencing growth in your current position. Or you are not getting the opportunities you want due to different circumstances.
The Fix: Keep learning and growing from a personal and professional standpoint. Seek opportunities to learn, go to conferences, return to school, or get certified in your specialty area.
The bottom line:
Continue to increase your skills and knowledge.
Articulate your desire to be promoted and advance in your career.
Make sure you keep all your receipts and be ready to present why you deserve to be promoted.
Sitting in the corner and working hard will not automatically get you promoted. Instead, make yourself visible and highlight your accomplishments. Network with other nurses and other industries. Network in person and on social media and search for different opportunities. If all fails, then you can take your talents somewhere else.
Learn to say no in your personal and professional life.
Ask for help and support from colleagues.
Prioritize self-care activities such as sleep, exercise, rest, and eating healthy. If you take a break and return, still not feeling well, it may be time to find another position.
Seek medical attention for an assessment and speak to a licensed professional regarding mental health concerns.
Limited Scope of Practice and Not Feeling Challenged
The Fix: Nurses can feel stuck due to the limitations of their current practice. Recommend taking on a different assignment or project.
Precepting or mentoring can be a great way to reignite your passion and keep you on your toes. Seek out work that is fulfilling and aligned with your purpose and values. Consider going back to school to pursue advanced practice roles such as a nurse practitioner. You may be bored of the same thing day in and day out. Starting your own side business, such as writing, tutoring, or speaking, could add something new and exciting to your career.
You may not realize it, but perhaps you feel underpaid, undervalued, and unappreciated.
Join or start a recognition and appreciation committee within your organization.
Ask for feedback from colleagues, patients, families, and the leadership team.
Engage in nursing organizations that promote recognition and support for nurses.
You may not know exactly what you want, and that’s ok. However, this uncertainty may lead to you feeling stuck.
The Fix: Take the time to reflect and see what you want to do. Try to be strategic by looking at your end goal and working backward to how you will get there. Create career goals and a list of what is most important in your life this season. Determine what type of life you want to have and create your career around that lifestyle. Define what success means to you. Seek guidance from mentors and career coaches to gain clarity and develop a career advancement and success roadmap. Career coaches like me can help you get crystal clear about your priorities and your next moves.
Compare yourself to only yourself
Do what you want, and do you
Be patient with yourself
Invest in yourself
Ask for help
Stop overthinking, make a decision, and take action. Part of feeling stuck is all in our heads, and this indecisiveness can lead to anxiety and, obviously, inaction. Nursing is the greatest profession in the world, with so many opportunities. Be comfortable knowing you can always redirect yourself to another path in whatever direction you take. So go ahead and take action. Get unstuck.
Has your nursing career drifted off course? Do you need to align your career path with your personal or professional mission? You’re not alone, and there’s something you can do about it.
We all choose nursing as a career for a variety of reasons. For some, nursing is the prudent career choice to put food on the table for our families. For others, it’s a lifelong dream. And for still others, the mission and vision of being a nurse develop over time, no matter the original reason for pursuing this particular professional path.
It’s a given that various factors impact our career choices. It’s also apparent that foreseen and unforeseen circumstances govern our personal and professional lives. To be fair to ourselves, we can choose to see ourselves and our careers with compassion when our professional life goes off course, our work loses meaning, and we feel at sea on an ocean of self-doubt and mission drift.
Identifying Where Your Career Went Off Course
Once you acknowledge that your career is off course, the next step is identifying where things went awry. This isn’t always easy, but it can be done — with or without professional help in unpacking the state of your nursing career.
First, look back at why you chose to pursue nursing in the first place. Was it for the money? Did a family legacy influence you? Did you choose nursing because of a personal experience that inspired you? Did you see nursing as a solid career offering flexibility, a decent living, and a varied career?
Once you remember why nursing seemed right then, consider the course of your career from the beginning until now. What choices did you make? Did you find work environments that suited your personality and interests? If you managed to change specialties at some point during your nursing career, what prompted the change, and did it bring you increased satisfaction?
After enumerating these various aspects of your career, it’s time to dig deeper and begin to wrestle with why you’re unhappy or feel off-kilter. Be brutally honest, and assess what it is about your current career trajectory that isn’t sitting well with you. We all change over time, and what may have seemed exciting or fulfilling ten years ago may now seem loathsome, dull, or overly stressful.
Aside from your career and job choices, you must also evaluate your personal life. For example, did you have a child or two since becoming a nurse? Did you get married or divorced? Has a loved one become disabled or died since you became a nurse? What age-related changes do you perceive in your life and health?
The circumstances of your personal life are impacting your work more than you thought. Several babies born in a few short years can change your feelings about work. A divorce can throw you off your game. A little self-compassion can go a long way here.
No matter how or what went off course, you can get back on target when you’re ready to do the work to get there.
Creating Your Future
When you’ve identified what brought you to the game in the first place, you’ve taken the first step. And once you’ve been honest enough to name what’s gone wrong or isn’t working, you’ve taken another leap forward into a new and exciting future.
Now you need to conceptualize — and verbalize — your new career vision and mission. Career drift can’t really be overcome until you can catch a glimpse of what you truly want. A mission and vision come from clearly understanding your motivations and desires. These can be identified in various ways, and you don’t always need a career or life coach to do it (but that can sometimes help).
Do you want to work with children and heal some deeper part of yourself that wasn’t loved as a child? Is working with underserved populations close to your heart? Have you realized that providing nursing care to injured combat veterans in honor of your father’s service is where your heart lies?
Sometimes what drove us to nursing isn’t what continues to light our fire.
When I was first in nursing school, I was sure I’d graduate and serve the dying with dignity and compassion by opening an inpatient hospice. Although I did a fair amount of hospice care over the years, I would never have known that fifteen years later, I’d be focused with the laser-like intention of helping nurses create more satisfying and inspiring careers. I also wouldn’t have guessed that freelance writing, blogging, speaking at conferences, consulting, and podcasting would further support that vision.
My future crept up on me over time — it didn’t hit me over the head. My career was certainly focused on community health and outpatient care for a long time. Still, the other pieces that got me up in the morning were nowhere in sight in 1996 when I graduated from community college with an ADN. My journey was circuitous and unexpected at times.
Creating your future involves assessing the present and seeing what is and isn’t working. This can be subtle, take time, or happen overnight in a grand epiphany of self-awareness and clarity. No matter what, it generally doesn’t all come together without some concerted effort on your part.
Mission Back on Course
Career mission drift can happen for personal and professional reasons. And how you can get back on the course are also varied and based on your needs, motivations, desires, and personal drive.
A nursing career that feels adrift is no fun, and it can sap your satisfaction and inspiration to get out of bed and report to work. Staying focused on what you want out of your career is essential, and since this is a moving target throughout your life, it takes ongoing assessment and reassessment to figure it out along the way.
Be real, honest, and willing to do the work to unearth why your career is off base and how dedicated you are to getting back to a place of inspiration and feeling great about being a nurse.
No one said this is easy, but it’s worth it. If you spend a third of your life working, why not do work that brings you joy and satisfaction? Those are two of the most powerful engines for your personal life and career success. So get back on track and experience more joy in your nursing career — you’ll never regret doing what you love.
Minority Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.
As a nursing student, I loved watching the show “Trauma: Life in the ER.” This show was based on real-life medical stories in the ER of various cities such as New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Detroit. As I watched, I said to myself that is what I want to do! I am going to be a Trauma Nurse in the ER.
In my last semester of nursing school, I requested to be in the Emergency Department, and thankfully, I was placed there for my last rotation. Well, that’s where I fell in love with Nursing. The adrenaline, fast-paced environment, and uncertainty of what will happen next kept me on my toes.
One of my clinical instructors asked me what type of nurse I wanted to be, and I told her with excitement, “I want to be an ER nurse,” and she replied, “you will never be an ER nurse.” I was shocked! I thought, wow, how could an educator be so negative and deter me from following my dream? Well, you already know my stubborn head did not listen. Watch me, I thought to myself. I am going to be a badass ER Nurse. I’m going to save lives.
I developed such great relationships during my clinical rotation that they encouraged me to apply! As a result, I got offered the ER position as a new nurse before I graduated or took my nursing boards in Canada. Hey, hey, hey! I was jumping up and down for joy when I got the offer. I got two offers, but I selected the ER with the trauma center.
Moral of the story: “Follow Your Dreams!”
I have worked in various Emergency Departments in Canada and the U.S., including level 1 trauma centers. I worked in the ER at Detroit Receiving Hospital where the show Trauma: Life in the ER was filmed and at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell where NY ER was filmed. I also became a nurse educator and TNCC instructor and taught clinicals as an Adjunct Faculty. I hold the following three board certifications for Emergency Nursing: CEN-Certified Emergency Nurse, CPEN-Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse, and TCRN-Trauma Certified RN.
These certifications can be obtained from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) once you have at least two years of experience in the Emergency Department.
My mission is to empower all nurses, especially new nurses, to follow their passion and dreams. For this reason, I decided to open up my own nurse coaching business in June 2021. I provide 1-1 coaching and group coaching to nurses. I teach you how to confidently land your dream position and be Badass Nurses too.
You, too, can become an Emergency Nurse if you want! IT IS POSSIBLE!
Was I nervous to start? Yes, but you will get a proper orientation and a preceptor to guide you along the way! Think about it, there is always an attending physician there, 24/7, nurses, charge nurses, respiratory therapists, and the list goes on! You are not alone!
5 Tips to Help You on Your Journey to Becoming an Emergency Nurse
Request your last clinical rotation/placement to be in the Emergency Department
If you are a nursing student, get any job in the Emergency Department, such as a Patient Care Tech, EKG Tech, Patient transporter, etc.
Join the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) as a student or a Nurse. (discounted price for students, access to ENA Journal, conferences, and educational content)
Get a nursing mentor and or nursing coach who can guide you along your journey (hint: contact me)
Develop your skills, build your resume, and get any certification:
Good luck on your journey to becoming a badass ER Nurse.
In healthcare and nursing, there’s always so much in our career we can say no to; however, there are plenty of things we find ourselves saying yes to.
Granted, it’s always empowering to say no to things like working a double shift when you’re exhausted, accepting bullying and incivility as normal, working without adequate PPE, and unsafe staffing levels that put your license and your patients at risk. But those enlightening moments of saying yes and recognizing latent potential can open doors of perception in your mind and opportunities in your life and career.
Saying Yes to Experience
When you sit down in your first nursing class, your lifelong pursuit of building a professional network must begin. That person in the row ahead of you? He may end up being your boss someday. That other student in the back? She might be the key to an incredible opportunity when she founds her nurse-run startup in seven years.
When the opportunity arises to join an interesting committee, become an EMR super user, speak or present at a conference, or take just one more step into commitment. What we’ll call your professional maturation, you’re embracing your evolutionary growth.
If a fantastic job unexpectedly falls in your lap, but you feel reticent to take it because you don’t want your colleagues to feel “abandoned,” this is an important moment to say yes in your best interest. Remember that many of your colleagues would do the same if they were in your shoes, and most will be happy for your good fortune.
No doubt, saying yes to experience can be life-changing.
Saying Yes to Connection
In the preceding section, we mentioned joining a workplace committee. But, again, these experiences can expose you to relationships and connections you would otherwise miss out on. And going to a nursing conference is an excellent experience, especially because you’ll have the chance to meet some fabulous like-minded people.
Your professional network is like your personal brain trust, and building that network over time is an investment that can pay more dividends than you might ever have imagined.
Saying Yes to Prioritizing Yourself
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned things that are prudent to say no to a double shift, bullying and incivility, working with inadequate PPE, and unsafe staffing. Unfortunately, knowing when to say no is as much an art as saying yes.
Saying no to the above scenarios translates to saying yes to prioritizing yourself and your needs. It’s great to help out the team and pick up an extra shift if you have the energy and stamina, but not taking the shift is a win if your reason to do so would solely be guilt.
Likewise, by saying yes to civil discourse and a violence-free workplace (bullying can undoubtedly be characterized as a form of workplace violence), you’re taking a stand for your well-being, not to mention the well-being of your coworkers and patients. Telling a bully that you won’t tolerate their behavior is a resounding yes to your psyche.
Saying yes to self-prioritization is a powerful statement of self-affirmation and valuing your needs and desires. Some might call it selfishness, but you can also call it surviving and thriving.
Saying Yes When It’s Right
As mentioned, there are plenty of things to say no to in healthcare and nursing. And we have established that there’s plenty to say yes to.
Whether it’s a novel experience, a new connection with a valued colleague, or a yes to what you want and need, saying yes can be fodder for a robust, satisfying, and happy nursing career. Saying no or yes is always your right, and knowing when to do so is key to long-term success.
Minority Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.