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Your new career

Now, as I sit in the opposite seat and interview potential nurse residents I remember what it was like to feel nervous and I try to help them feel comfortable so I can get a more accurate glimpse of their personality.  (A lot of managers focus more on how you say something than what you actually say).

Nervousness, anxiety, indecision is normal. Even feeling not good enough, smart enough etc.

Don’t forget why you wanted to be a nurse, keep things in perspective. Every day you will learn more than the day before, before you know it you will have a year of experience.

  • Set small realistic goals>> Get through orientations>>get through first 3 months>>>get through 6 months>>>then a year.

  • Realize nursing school doesn’t teach you how to be a nurse. It teaches you how to not kill someone. “I didn’t learn anything until after nursing school”...

  • Responsibility of being the “grown up nurse” (Once I realized that was me story)

  • Looking up to the other nurses (how could I ever be like that)?

  • How far have I come? It’s only been working on my 4th year!!


Exerning vs Interning

If you can be a nurse extern while in school take that opportunity! You will be glad you did (Alot of experience) Plus you might get hired on that unit and you will already know some of the tricky stuff like where to find things etc and even who’s the best nurse to ask questions.

Internship is once you have your RN, find a hospital that has a nurse residency program which is a much more extended orientation with alot of support and checking in along the way.


Residencies usually consist of the following:

  • Classroom and skills lab

  • Online learning

  • Unit based clinical preceptorship

  • Mentors (Other than preceptor)

  • Support groups/ self care

  • Shadowing other disciplines or related units>>>> Example of our specific shadowing includes CV Imaging, Stress Lab/ EP, Cath lab, ARU, HF Resource Center, Cardiac Rehab, House Tele with monitor tech, and Cardiology APP. Other areas in the program are WC, SLP, PT/OT, Stat team (RRT), PICC team, Phlebotomy, Case Management, and Respiratory. It is a great way to see what other members of the health care team do and what they need in order to take care of the patients.>>>I got to scrub in an Open Heart case and that is what I believe solidified my love of Cardiac Nursing.


“Nobody knows everything” You should always  be learning and discovering new processes, otherwise you’re not growing.

Nursing school is phase 1, Your first job is phase 2:


Preparing for your first nursing job

  • Look for externships while you are still a student>>> Even if it’s during your summer breaks

  • Try and find a job as a tech in the hospital>>> ED tech, EKG tech, Patient care tech, monitor tech, any entry level tech position will help you gain experience and your foot in the door to determine a good fit once you have graduated.

  • Don’t accept your first job offer right away and don’t get down on yourself if you aren’t offered every job you apply for. It’s best to make sure you are both a good fit!

  • Obtaining your BLS and even ACLS will give you a competitive edge when applying for hospital positions. (Most hospitals require your BLS and will help you obtain your ACLS/PALS where required).

  • Be an active member of the NSNA for leadership and career development opportunities. Attend the conventions whenever possible (These have a lot of attendance from prospective employers).


What is the right first job for you?

  • Assess your area as a whole. Are there a lot of available jobs or are things a bit more scarce? This is a big determinant in accepting a job that although may not be your first pick it will give you some experience to be able to later apply for more positions.

  • If possible find a facility that has a strong orientation program and good educational support services.


Some questions to ask a potential employer (or they should be able to answer you before you ask)

  • Is there an internship program/residency?

  • What does the orientation schedule consist of?

  • What specialties are available for a new grad?

  • What kinds of ongoing training is available?

  • Are there unit based educators?

  • How long will I be with a preceptor?


What is the most important?

  • Money should never be your most important factor. A lack of support and a bad work environment is a more deciding factor than if they pay well.

  • Benefits are important and may be more valuable than your salary, your individual situation will help determine that.

  • Is there tuition reimbursement if you want to continue your formal education?

  • What does their retirement plan look like?

  • Are there additional benefits available? (HIA accounts, employee assistance programs, wellness benefits, etc)

Things to know about ANY job

  • Thoroughly read the job description

  • Is there a weekend/ holiday work requirement

  • Is there required on call?

  • How often are evaluations given and what do they consist of?

  • How does floating to other units work if that’s even a possibility?>>>Will you have to cross-train?

How to get the job you want

  • Network! >>>> Contact nurse recruiters in your area

  • Career fairs, professional association meetings, conventions, open houses etc.

First impressions are crucial!!!>>>>> Look your absolute best! You will not be able to overdress for the interview. Make good eye contact, smile, extend for a hand shake, and be engaged in the conversation.  You will be judged on this because nursing is a people person job!

Express willingness to be open to other areas of nursing. Flexibility is a huge plus to any hiring manager.

Always send a thank you note as well as any recruiters you meet at a hiring event. Make it a personal handwritten note and you will impress.


Your FIRST Day

  • Get a copy of your job description and read it

  • Read and understand your Nurse Practice Act >>> Can be found on your board of nursing website for your state.

  • Obtain info on your chain of command for your organization

  • Learn as much about the facility as possible>> Go to the website see what awards or articles are written about them recently

  • Join and become active in professional associations>> ANA, GNA, Specialty organization such as ENA etc.

  • Professional Liability Insurance>>>> you should always have your own

  • Pocket drug reference guide



HR should notify you of these things prior to orientation:

  • Time/location

  • Dress code

  • Supplies needed/recommended



Important>> Know the policy regarding personal electronics. Many employers have strict policies on the use of personal electronics in the workplace. Your best bet is to have your phone for emergencies only or to give another contact number in the event your family has to reach you. A lot of people have had to be let go because of personal cell use in the hospital. It’s best to not do it at all.


First Day Checklist

  • Notebook and pen

  • Name badge (if obtained)

  • Parking and meal pass (if applicable)

  • Licenses and certs

  • Several resume copies

  • Employee handbook

  • Job description

  • Any other documents you were given for review


For the first week

  • Stethoscope

  • Watch with second hand

  • Small folder with notepad/clipboard etc

  • pens/pencils

  • Calipers (cardiac floor)

  • Scrubs (find out the required colors)

  • Comfortable shoes- (Danskos, other clogs, good running shoes like brooks)

Staying Organized from Day One

  • Keep all of your on-boarding/orientation paperwork organized in a three ring binder or folder with any educational materials you accumulate

  • Keep a separate professional portfolio for tracking in-services, volunteer hours, shadowing, continuing education, classes, certifications, and any other professional information.

  • Keep this portfolio up to date with any pertinent info such as licenses, diplomas, check off sheets. Basically anything you’ve done that you would want to showcase as a professional.

  • Your unit educator may already have something like this in place for you. Keep your evaluations and any progress reports here and review them as part of your portfolio. You can build upon them and utilize them for later on when a promotion or transfer opportunity may come up.


Other tips

  • See how your preceptor takes report. Is there a sheet they use? Is there a sheet required by your unit? If you don’t have one already see if there is one floating around one of the other nurses would be willing to share with you. You may be surprised to notice what people write down on their nurse “brain”.

  • Once off orientation you are not alone! Who is your go to nurse to bounce ideas off? You will most likely have a couple of these. When in doubt, ask your charge nurse. They usually are a good resource for most questions you may have as well as your unit educator.

  • Join a committee as soon as you are comfortable. Find out about clinical ladder if there is one available for you to start working on. Think about what types of certifications you would like to look into. Explore your interests a little bit and see where it takes you.

  • Lastly, your first year will fly by! Before you know it you will be asked to mentor or precept a new grad or take a student around a shift. Continue to stay plugged in by having the willingness to adapt to change and take the opportunities you may come across.


Way to go!!!! You’ve made it through your first year!!!