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Fresh out of nursing school? How to differentiate yourself

By  MiracleWorkers

Congratulations! You've finally passed all the tests, logged all the hours and jumped through all the hoops necessary to become a registered nurse (RN). You're on your way to landing your first "real" job as an RN, the role the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts will grow by a robust 26% (that's over 700,000 new nursing jobs) for the decade 2010-2020. The only problem: with all the competition, how do you stand out?

Getting your first job out of nursing school can seem daunting. We spoke to a few people in the industry to gather advice on how new RNs can overcome their feelings of inexperience and land an offer.

Emphasize rotations

"Recent graduates looking for their first jobs should always include any information about their clinical rotations on their résumés," says Allison Kuhns. Kuhns is the managing director of the health services division of ExecuSearch, a leading recruitment firm. She has helped many healthcare workers, including nurses, obtain solid employment.

"For example, if you are applying for a pediatric position and completed clinical rotations in the NICU, the PICU, and the pediatrics units," she advises, "you might be more marketable than another new grad who did rotations on a psych or geriatric floor."

Highlight volunteer experience

This is a universal bit of advice you might have heard about job-hunting: if you can't get someone to pay you for something, do it free so you can at least get experience. Kuhns notes that volunteering in a healthcare facility before finding employment can make the facilities more likely to hire new grads "since they know the RN already has that exposure and experience."

Work that second language (or learn one)

"RNs with foreign-language skills, especially those working in diverse urban environments, should promote their ability to communicate with patients who speak little or no English," says Ellen Jovin, a writer and multi-linguist with Words & Worlds of New York. "It is a huge advantage professionally to know more than one language and a boon to patient care. Those who do not yet have foreign-language skills can acquire some, either through a class or by using teach-yourself resources."

Get a big brother or big sister

Dr. Anita Siccardi is dean of the School of Nursing at Marian University in Indianapolis. She encourages recently out-of-school RNs to find advice and comfort in someone already doing what they would like to be doing. "Seek a nurse mentor to shadow or follow to increase confidence and self-esteem," she advises.

She also recommends a little mental exercise to help in doing so. "Visualize the position you want as a nurse," she says. That comes first. Then, make a connection with a nurse practicing in that position, so you can learn what attributes are needed to do it and understand how those attributes compare to your own.

Be willing to relocate

You might have dreamt of bright lights and big cities before, but sometimes learning to love life in a small town makes getting a good job easier. Siccardi mentions that new grads should consider working in rural areas where the need is greater. "We tell new grads that they may not find the position in the department they want or location...," she shares, "but the jobs are there."


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