I viewed this coaching/motivational video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDzfZOfNki4) by Duke Women’s Basketball’s Kara Lawson about how we need to “Handle Hard Better.” I share this post and video to motivate you as we reflect and head toward the weekend. Things get more challenging as we grow, develop, and learn. We become more skilled and adept at facing what’s in front of us. Again, things didn’t get easier – we just got better! We learned to handle hard better.
Another way to look at it: Walking was once difficult, but once I mastered that, I learned to use the stairs, jump, and eventually run. Once we become comfortable handling what we once thought was a challenge, it’s time to take on a new challenge to continue our growth and development. I didn’t even get “comfortable” with my old job or feel like I “mastered” it, yet I left and started a new one! I left my previous NICU (Level 2) to move to a higher acuity NICU (Level 4) because I knew I wanted to be able to handle more seriously ill patients.
I completed my first week with my preceptors at my new job, and it was a little overwhelming. Moving from a Level 2 NICU to a Level 4 NICU feels like a big jump. There’s so much to learn! In some ways, I feel like a new grad nurse all over again and have to familiarize myself with new equipment, processes, and diseases for my higher acuity patients. The video is a reminder to “handle hard better.” The way I handle hard better is to practice and expand my skills and to be willing to learn and open to coaching. I reflect on my performance and search for ways to improve. The way I handle hard is to do what I can to make myself better.
What does that look like for me? I am making report sheets or brains that work for me on my new unit and make me more efficient. I am learning about different disease processes by reading about them and watching YouTube videos. I am giving shift report even though I don’t feel like I’m ready because “doing” is better practice for me than “watching”. I’m learning the new charting system and what my new hospital requires for each shift. I’m learning about the workflow and general day-to-day schedule and expectations. I’m reflecting on my week by writing this post…and I’m giving myself grace that I’m still learning and will improve with more practice and time.
You may be hesitant to pursue a new job or career. You may be reluctant to go back to school. I am here to encourage you. I have met many second-career nurses, older students, and moms returning to college or joining nursing school since I became a nurse. My story is not unique. I share my life as a second-career nurse hoping to inspire others to pursue their dreams even when circumstances may seem hard. You can do it – you can “handle hard better”! Good luck on your journey!
I have faced tough days as a student, mom, or nurse…Beyond prayer, music helps restore me and surrender my circumstances to God. What restores you? What do you do to bring peace or rebuild your confidence when you face uncertainty, have no control, or have had a rough day?
St. Augustine said, “Those who sing pray twice.” I love to sing, and music helps inspire me. Personally, songs from church help bring me peace. Below is the link to my Spotify playlist of songs that I listen to or sing to motivate me on tough days. May it inspire or encourage you.
A friend recently asked me how I switched careers as a working mom. She was considering switching careers, so she wanted to know about some of my steps before becoming a nurse after years of working as an engineer. Some advice I gave her:
Talk to others in your profession of interest.
Ask them about their experience, challenges with their work, how they like their jobs, and their favorite part of their work.
Inquire about the education or training they completed to get where they are and how they got their job.
Before entering nursing school, I did these things to get an idea of what nursing was like and what I needed to do to become a nurse. To put it simply, I networked.
Build on your connections: Talk to Others You Know.
I talked to all the nurses and people in healthcare I knew. I had a couple of cousins who were nurses. Aside from periodically picking their brains at family gatherings, I asked if we could meet for lunch to discuss nursing. I asked them what they liked and disliked about nursing. I learned how they chose and got accepted to their nursing school and how long it took them to complete their programs. They shared how expensive their tuition was. I asked their impression of the various programs and the graduates their hospitals tend to hire.
If I had any nurse acquaintances, I tried interviewing them, too. I reached out to nurses I met from my mom’s club and nurses I knew from church. I offered to have coffee with them to discuss nursing. I had an old friend from college who had a friend that went through an ABSN program, and I asked my friend if I could reach out to her. My friend put us in touch, and I was able to ask her questions about her accelerated nursing program. I reached out to EVERYONE I knew who could give me some perspective on the nursing profession or nursing school.
Form Connections: Talk to Others You Don’t Know.
I even reached out to nurses I didn’t know at all. I joined a MeetUp for nurses. I explained my interest in nursing and my desire to meet more working nurses. When I’d go to my personal doctor’s appointments, I’d talk to MA’s, phlebotomists, and nurses and ask them how they like their job, what training they went through, and if they had advice for aspiring nurses. I even reached out to a nurse in my neighborhood’s Facebook Buy Nothing group. She graduated from a nursing program to which I was applying. I eventually became friends with her and was able to request her to review one of my nursing school application essays. (Sidenote: When I experienced my first death after a code blue, my nurse friend from church recommended I view a TED Talk given by a nurse about grief. The TED talk speaker turned out to be my neighbor/friend from my Buy Nothing group!)
Strengthen Your Connections: Continue to Network.
All nurses and even non-nurses I approached to discuss healthcare and nursing were supportive of me. All were willing to answer my questions. As I started to meet more nurses or people in healthcare, I felt I was getting a more accurate picture of Nursing.
I first heard the brutal truth about nurse burnout during my second Nurse MeetUp event. The host of the MeetUp, Cara Lunsford, didn’t want to scare or discourage me, but she also wanted to acknowledge the challenges nurses face and support working nurses. Until that meetup, I didn’t realize the nursing shortage wasn’t just that not enough people were entering nursing school. Cara shared that a lack of nurses also exists because many nurses leave the profession. The MeetUp was a nurses’ week event, and Cara’s company, Holliblu, hosted a free screening of the 2014 documentary, “The American Nurse.” I thought it was excellent exposure to various facets of nursing and the potential challenges I would face as a nurse. Since then, now that the world has experienced the COVID pandemic, I think more people are aware of nurses’ working conditions and burnout. My continuation to network emphasized that it’s good to learn as much as you can about your area of interest – the good, the bad, the ugly – before deciding whether or not it’s for you.
Join Professional Organizations or Online Groups
After meeting with my nurse friend from church, she suggested I join a professional nursing organization’s Facebook group. She was part of a local chapter of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). I asked to be part of the Facebook group before I was even in nursing school. Because I was part of the Facebook group, I learned about and attended a sponsored event with AACN during nursing school, even though I wasn’t an official AACN member. I spoke with critical care nurses who provided unsolicited but valuable advice on where NOT to work after graduating from nursing school. Eventually, I became a paid member of AACN as a nursing student. (Hint: Membership fees are cheaper if you join professional organizations while still a student. Also, professional memberships are good to put on your resume as you apply to new grad jobs.)
Before I became a nurse, I tried immersing myself in the working environment of a nurse. I reached out to a former co-worker and fellow engineer who volunteered at a hospital before she joined a full-time MBA/MPH program. Her volunteer program, COPE Health Scholars, seemed rigorous and offered excellent training. It was more than simply pushing patients in their wheelchairs or bringing them water. Volunteers took vitals, assisted CNAs with patient activities of daily living, and participated in codes, as allowed by their certifications. I learned about the program through her, and I applied. I passed the rigorous application process and training and got accepted into the COPE Health Scholars program while working as an engineer. I volunteered throughout my pre-requisites, nursing school applications, and until my ABSN program started. I met many more nurses and worked with patients in various units. The program further cemented my desire to become a nurse, gave me valuable clinical experience, and helped with my nursing school applications. Perhaps even more beneficial for a handful of other volunteers, the program helped them recognize that healthcare was not for them.
Return the Favor: Give Back
Seize networking opportunities, but don’t be an opportunist. When networking, it’s not just about what you can take from others. If you want to build relationships and good faith, offer something in return. Share your wealth with others. Your wealth is not just monetary wealth – you have skills, time, knowledge, experience, connections, and resources. Some examples of how I tried to reciprocate with others I networked with:
I offered to buy lunch or coffee for nurses who agreed to meet with me.
When my entrepreneurial MeetUp host inquired about corporate sponsorship or contacts, I gave as much insight as possible about the company that employed me as an engineer. Even though my work experience was in the consumer products sector, my former employer led a campaign to support nurses and the nursing profession.
I signed up to volunteer at AACN community service events and got some of my nursing school classmates to join me. (AACN eventually canceled these Spring 2020 community service opportunities due to the pandemic).
When another mom’s club member approached me to explore nursing as a career change, I readily met with her during a study break.
I put my friend, who is exploring a career change, in touch with the one person I knew who worked in her field of interest.
I have to admit I always found the term “networking” intimidating, but it’s something I had done before changing careers without realizing it. I hope what I’ve written provides examples of how you can network – or connect with others – to explore a second career. I’d love to hear about ways you network, what’s worked/didn’t work, and what you thought was helpful! Good luck on your journey!
Nursing requires emotional regulation in a way that engineering never demanded. If an engineering project experienced delays in my former consumer products and manufacturing career, I could have a lot of anguish, and managers may be upset. Still, such delays generally wouldn’t impact someone’s activities of daily living, quality of life, or health and well-being. There are a lot of passionate reactions when a family member expects to take their loved one home from the hospital but cannot for whatever reason. When there are unexpected treatments, tests, or further monitoring patients must undergo, people get frustrated, particularly when they feel their health issues are unresolved or worsening. The family members or patients express their frustrations with their nurses. I try my best that my patients or families feel heard or understood, but sometimes, a healthcare worker’s efforts are not enough or provide little comfort.
I’ve witnessed codes ending in unexpected deaths, and I still have to be present and care for other patients while surviving family members grieve. I’ve dealt with emotionally unstable, angry, or stressed-out patients and family members. Patients have attempted to hit me or have cussed me out. I don’t take it personally, but I sometimes fear for my safety. I feel like these instances of feeling unsafe have drastically dropped since I started working in the NICU. However, I still float to the PICU or Pediatric units. During my orientation in the Pediatric ward, a 4-year-old patient tried to bite me when another nurse and I tried to change his ostomy bag. Shortly after my cross-training to the Pediatric unit, I had a Pediatric teenage patient attack her sitter. These instances are further reminders of why I chose to work in the NICU over other units. But witnessing these events made me realize that it’s not helpful to react emotionally to dysregulated patients. I’ve seen healthcare workers respond angrily, and it does nothing to help de-escalate situations.
Aside from navigating emotional pitfalls with my patients or their family members, I’ve had to figure out how to deal with specific staff and co-workers. I have had to learn who and how to ask for help or get people to do their jobs so I can do mine to ensure my patients are getting appropriate care. Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) typically support registered nurses (RNs) by performing activities of daily living for a patient, taking vital signs, or acting as sitters. RNs are responsible for ensuring the CNAs work is documented and must oversee and support the CNAs work. As a new grad, I’ve had to correct a grumpy CNA about proper hand hygiene or continuously remind a CNA to document their work in the patient’s chart. I like that I don’t have to worry about this in the NICU. In the NICU, we have no CNAs. I appreciate this versus negotiating or constantly confronting an uncooperative CNA to do work or documentation. Don’t get me wrong, just as with any role (Charge nurse, RN, Doctor, etc.), some CNAs are incredible, but some are not. I like having one less variable to deal with during my shifts.
I think it’s good to get a sense of your limitations and your ability to regulate yourself emotionally. I love babies and children, but I chose to work in NICU and not focus on Pediatrics for the genuine concern of being unable to regulate myself emotionally with pediatric patients. Anyone I’ve personally known who’s had a baby in the NICU has had their child leave and carry out healthy lives. My daughter will never be at risk of being in the NICU – she’s way past that stage. However, when I find myself in pediatrics, I see patients there that could be my child – some are there due to some freak accident or unknown illness. One of the most recent times I was in the PICU, a toddler or preschooler was getting intubated on the other side of the unit – I started to tear up as the patient was wailing and crying, “Mama” while their mother held them to prepare for the procedure. I was grateful this wasn’t my patient and tried to distract myself from their cries and their distressed parents by focusing on my patient.
It’s good to see parents involved with their children’s care, but other pediatric patients are there because of abuse by family members and adults. Some of the children’s social situations are sad. I can’t dwell too much on this as I care for my patients, and I try to give the child the best care I can while they’re my patient. I try to develop a trusting relationship with patients (or family members) by promptly communicating with them and responding to their needs. For abused patients, I sometimes tell myself, “This child’s life before they arrived at the hospital may not have been so great, but I can care for them and provide some stability and safety while they’re under my care.”
Complex social problems can also occur with our neonatal patients. I see my fair share of neonatal patients in our NICU because of maternal drug use – some mothers are remorseful of their actions and are in rehab programs, while others have no desire to quit using. Sometimes it’s hard for the moms to see their inconsolable babies withdrawing and know their baby is struggling because of their drug use during pregnancy. Some babies go home with their families despite drug use, and others do not. Either way, as a nurse, I try to support the caregivers taking the babies home and educate them on how to care for their babies. I’m responsible for the care of my patient while they’re in the hospital, but I also want to support their caregivers and give them confidence in being able to care for their babies (or children) when they leave.
I’ve never had a job that demanded so much of me every day. Nursing can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. Until I became a nurse, I don’t think I realized the impact nursing has on a person holistically. I like helping people, I like that I can do that as my job, and I want to be able to do that for a long time. I always heard about the nursing shortage but never really considered that what was contributing to that was nursing burnout and nurses leaving the profession until I started pursuing nursing as a second career. It’s essential to be aware of the typical challenges nurses face to determine how you will guard yourself and strategies for longevity in the profession. I hope this series of posts helps provide insight into what it’s like as a novice nurse and some of the things I do to keep myself connected to the things I love about Nursing. Good luck! If any other nurses out there have other advice to share, I’d love to hear it!
I have been working without my preceptor since the beginning of August, or for about three weeks. I’m lucky to work in a place that values teamwork and helping one another because other nurses have helped or guided me on almost every shift since I’ve been off preceptorship. One of the biggest things I’ve learned and the best advice I’ve received as a new grad is to ASKFOR HELP.
I have no problem asking for help or clarification when I am unsure how to do something. However, I get flustered when asking someone to do things for me when I think I can or should do such things for myself or my patient. At some point in my shifts, I may start falling behind, or the unexpected happens; if I want to stay on track or not be completely off-schedule, I must ask for and accept help and support. Other nurses have started IVs or completed bladder scans at the end of my shift for me, so I can finish passing meds or complete tasks for my other patients. While uncomfortable for me, I’ve learned to ask for help and accept the support and generosity of others. (Note to self: Never mess with a funky IV contraption that ED set up – it’s probably the only way they got it to work. Trying to “fix” it just before shift change can mess it up and cause you to lose IV access, requiring a new IV start as you scramble to do morning meds).
I’m on an exponential learning curve and make mistakes. Each week, I discover new ways of doing things inefficiently, incorrectly, or in ways that doctors, patients, or my manager do not prefer. [Un]fortunately, I am learning through experience and by doing. I make mistakes or feel so uncomfortable or irritated with my performance that I must consider various ways to improve or avoid making mistakes in the future to feel competent and more confident about my work.
I’m still learning how various doctors want to communicate with nurses during the night shift. Some doctors prefer secure chat, while others only want phone calls. I’ve learned preference, of course, because I’ve utilized the opposite method of communication to what some doctors wish to use. Meanwhile, my manager advised only calling doctors in an email that I didn’t read until days after sending numerous notifications to doctors via secure chat. (I now try to be more diligent about checking my work email). Ultimately, if I need to urgently communicate with a doctor about a patient condition or issue, I will use whatever method allows me to get a hold of them. I’ve also learned that it’s better for a doctor to be upset because I communicated something they thought unimportant instead of not sharing a potential issue with a doctor. Also, I need to document every attempt at trying to reach a doctor. I had a doctor upset with me for contacting him so late in the evening, even though I called his answering service multiple times, hours earlier.
Compare and Despair
To be clear, my leadership or staff have not shamed me for my shortcomings. My leaders have been genuinely supportive and offer non-discriminatory methods of correction. I don’t feel singled out by my mistakes, and I know I’m not alone when I speak to others in my cohort. However, I measure my success by using others’ progress as my ruler. For example, one of my cohort-mates calmly activated and engaged in rapid response for one of his patients on only his fourth day without a preceptor. He received accolades from the leadership team, and our manager shared his praise with the rest of our cohort. I was so impressed and in awe by what my colleague faced and how he acted in crisis.
In comparison, during my second week, one of my patients fell. I was getting the patient’s medication in the med room when the fall occurred. Falls require an incident report and are a pretty big deal for hospitals. Thankfully, my patient did not get injured and was apologetic for the fall. I felt embarrassed and ashamed for having an incident and kept replaying the scenario and trying to understand what I could have done differently or how much worse it could have been. I have been vigilant with my patients’ bed alarms and documenting their fall education since that event.
Discovering What I Don’t Know
I have done things in less than ideal ways and made mistakes and will likely make more mistakes. However, instead of dwelling on my mistakes, I can focus on continual improvement. Am I learning from my past actions or others’ mistakes? Can I figure out how to minimize the chances for errors or prevent making the same mistakes again? Can I improve on my processes or methods? As a new nurse, I have so much room for improvement and growth. I don’t even know what I don’t know, and I keep discovering this each week.
I recently learned that I needed to administer or waste narcotics within a specific time from retrieving the medication(s) from our Omnicell. For the past three months, I dispensed and gave narcotic drugs while likely exceeding this time limit because I hadn’t known this guideline existed. I had no idea until a nurse on the floor mentioned it to me this month, and my manager emailed the team after his periodic department audit. Now that I know about this limit, I try to avoid other tasks after pulling a narcotic that may prevent me from immediately administering the medication to the patient.
As I’ve shared in previous posts, I’m still adjusting to working nights and have had difficulty sleeping. I think it’s also because I’ve developed stress-induced insomnia: I replay how my shifts went and how I could have done better. I can beat myself up about things I didn’t know or events I wished I had handled differently, or I can use these experiences as lessons and move forward.
I write this blog to help others and because it allows me to process my experiences as a new nurse. It’s a way to release the ideas in my head so they don’t ruminate in my mind. My blog is also a reminder to focus on neutral or positive thoughts for self-encouragement and coaching. I consider how I would talk to a friend if they were experiencing what I was experiencing.
If you are a new nurse with anxiety before/during/after your shifts or beat yourself up over your mistakes, I am with you. Without realizing it, I survived the last night shift I had without caffeine; I think my stress response kicked in, and I was running on adrenaline. (Also, a unit secretary pointed out I was having hand tremors with the amount of caffeine I was consuming, so I’ve been trying to reduce my caffeine intake). I’m still figuring out the best ways to relieve my stress and practice self-care, just as I’m learning how to be the best nurse I can be. Besides lowering my caffeine intake, I try movement (yoga or hiking), meditating, blogging/journaling, or confiding in other nurses. It doesn’t matter how old, young, experienced, or inexperienced you are – there’s always room for growth and self-discovery.
This blog chronicles my nursing journey and serves as a journal of sorts, but I share my life to support and encourage others’ success and progress, too! I would love to hear from you: How do you give yourself grace while developing and growing? How do you move forward from mistakes? How do you practice self-care? For ideas, check out the past IG post I had about the Alphabet of Coping Mechanisms: https://www.instagram.com/p/B3uuR4ynB_9/
My daughter graduated from preschool last week. During her graduation ceremony, she wore a cap and cape. Instead of the traditional cap and gown, she and her classmates wore capes displaying their chosen super-power. My daughter’s chosen super-power: “I CAN DO HARD THINGS.” The next day, she started her summer camp at a different school. Her best friend from preschool is not attending the same summer program, nor will she follow my daughter to kindergarten. I was probably more emotional about my daughter moving into a different environment after two years with the same preschool teachers and classmates. Despite the mixed feelings I had, my daughter had a seamless transition. She was sad to leave her best friend and other classmates but genuinely happy and excited to be in a new space and meet new friends. My daughter shed no tears about the transition (unlike me). I agree; my daughter can do hard things.
My daughter is a big reason I push myself and powered through to pursue nursing as a second career. I wanted her to know it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and that it’s okay to struggle. When she is frustrated at not doing things perfectly or independently immediately, I remind her that she can do hard things. I allow her to work a bit and put forth the effort to try things on her own. I don’t swoop in to save her or fix things right away.
A recent example of this is when my daughter tried opening a package. She wanted me to open a snack pack for her, but I said she could do it. She then tried once and asked me to open it. Again, I said she could do it. She tried again and became frustrated that she couldn’t do it. I talked her through how she could try holding it a particular way to make it easier to open. She still struggled. I began to wonder if she had enough grip strength. I still cheered her on. She eventually opened the package herself. She was proud of herself. So was I.
Sometimes things take hard work and practice before we become good at something. As a new grad nurse, I identify with this. I do not feel confident or even competent some nights. I thank God that I still have a preceptor. However, it won’t be long before I’m on my own. I know I’m capable, but I doubt my ability to do things all on time or wonder how I’d handle a demanding patient-load independently.
I understand it can take a year or two before some new grads begin to feel confident or secure in their competence. I am anxious about cutting the cord, having my assignments, and nursing solo. But I know I can do hard things. I have done hard things and can continue to do hard things.
Growth and development come from discomfort and pushing our limits. Getting better at something won’t come from doing what feels easy. Like my daughter, I’m going through a transition. I’m in a new environment with new people and doing unfamiliar things (compared to when I was an engineer with 18+ years of experience in the same company and people who knew me).
Sometimes, I have to remind myself what I teach my daughter. It might be good for me not to have a preceptor to “save” me next month, just as I don’t keep my daughter from a bit of struggle. I know it won’t be without hard work, but hopefully, I can be proud of myself as an independent nurse. Maybe you’re like me and need the reminder, too: “YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS!”
I am happy to announce that I got a job as an acute care RN and started my new grad program at a hospital! I did not post last week because I was in orientation all week and transitioning into my new role. I am thrilled to be part of my program since it is at my top choice hospital and provides comprehensive training. While I’m excited to share my good news, I wanted to discuss what led me to land a spot in my new grad program. I share my job search experience to offer encouragement, hope, and advice to future new grad nurses.
I applied to the same program after getting rejected the first time.
I got rejected the first time I applied to my program last Fall. The hospital did not even invite me to interview. I applied a second time to the new grad program in January, interviewed in March, and got an offer two weeks later. Some differences when I applied the second time:
I had gained several months of experience as an RN (COVID tester),
I had earned additional certifications to add to my resume,
I finally knew a couple of nurses working in the hospital, one of whom put in a good word for me to their manager,
I tweaked my application based on what I heard about the need and availability of positions; I emphasized wanting acute care experience instead of working in a specialty.
I applied to 74 RN positions before I got my offer at my hospital.
The new grad program at my hospital was the very first RN job to which I applied. I continued to apply to other positions, but I was narrow in my search. I focused on the specialty I was interested in and expressed this in my new grad program personal statements. After months of submitting applications and not getting any interviews, I expanded my job search to include Med-Surge/Telemetry positions. I finally landed my first acute care RN interview in a Telemetry unit. In the interview, I expressed strong interest in eventually transferring to a specialty unit within five years. I learned they were interested in me but concerned I wouldn’t be happy in the department and abandon them. They did not give me the job offer.
As my search continued, I learned not to narrow my focus to a specialty unit when I had no hospital experience. Once hired, it’s much easier to switch positions internally than to be an external hire. I still have a strong interest in the specialty unit. However, my priority as a new grad is to gain acute care experience and develop my nursing practice in a supportive and safe environment. In my new grad program, no specialty unit positions were available where I initially focused my search. Still, I applied and was determined to have a spot in the program because of the training and development I knew it would provide me. So far, I’ve been happy with my choice and have been learning a lot!
I worked as a COVID tester and vaccinator while applying to new grad programs and acute RN positions.
One of the 74 positions I applied for was a contract RN supporting studios as a COVID tester. Thankfully, I got the job. It was a great way to get experience working as an RN while still having enough flexibility to apply to hospital RN jobs and interview. More recruiters were interested in me once I became a working RN. Also, after working several months, my employer wrote a lovely reference letter for me that I submitted with my applications and included in my portfolio. A handful of positions required an employer reference. It was nice to be able to provide an employer reference from the healthcare industry.
I interviewed at five hospitals before I accepted an offer to join my program.
I applied to many acute care RN positions, with numerous ones at the same hospital or same unit but day and night shift positions. After applying, working, and networking, I eventually got invited to interview for some hospitals. However, most of these interviews took place only because I knew someone internally who advocated for me.
After unsuccessfully job searching on my own, I began to reach out to friends and family members in healthcare to let them know I was searching for hospital RN jobs. I also spoke with other nurses I met in my per diem job about their hospital jobs or connections. One of my coworkers got me an interview at her hospital! Most of the hospital interviews I had were because someone I knew convinced a hiring manager or director to interview me.
If you don’t know someone, it’s not impossible to get an interview. One of the interviews I had where I knew no one in the organization resulted in an on-the-spot job offer. I eventually turned it down and accepted a spot in my current new grad program instead.
I persevered after rejections or no feedback.
I applied to many programs or positions where I received no feedback for months or not at all – I would be listed as “under consideration” several months after applying. The first time I applied to my program in September, I didn’t receive my official rejection until November, months after my application submission. I tried contacting and leaving messages with some of the recruiters for other job submissions but would still get little to no response.
It was frustrating to hear people’s surprise at my difficulty finding a job: “Isn’t there a shortage of nurses? We’re in a pandemic – don’t they need nurses?” I had to explain that organizations need experienced nurses, and I had no experience.
My lack of experience working in healthcare was a disadvantage for me. I knew many of my classmates that quickly found jobs had prior healthcare experience working as surgical technicians, CNAs, Patient Care Associates (PCA), EMTs, or nurse extenders. The majority of my cohort completed their preceptorships at a hospital that used them after completing their clinical hours as nurse extenders or surge nurses in preparation for and during the COVID surge. I’ve learned if you can work in healthcare before you graduate, it’s much easier to find a job as a nurse.
Additionally, new grad programs were difficult to find or were highly competitive since many had been canceled or delayed. While I was disappointed at not getting accepted into programs earlier or not having acute care RN offers to consider sooner, I wonder if the rejections were God’s grace saving me from starting a job amid a COVID surge. A former classmate shared she cried before most of her shifts due to the deaths she witnessed. Another friend shared that many new grads in her unit were pulled off orientation less than two weeks into their training to help with the surge. In various ways, new and veteran nurses that worked during the surges were traumatized by the pandemic. If I had started working in a hospital sooner, COVID would have impacted my nursing experience in a much different way. In retrospect, I’m thankful for the rejections and disappointments in my life that led me to where I am today.
Never Give Up
I did not envision starting a job in a hospital almost nine months after graduating from nursing school. However, I trusted in my skills and abilities and knew that I had something to offer and had to keep trying. I was unsure of when or where I would work as an acute care RN, but I was confident in eventually getting a job somewhere and remained passionate about wanting to help people.
If you have a calling, go for it. If it’s truly your calling, opportunities will present themselves to you to lead you to your vocation, no matter how much you try to ignore it. The road may not be easy and may come with disappointments and rejections, but it might be what you need to direct you to your ultimate calling. Good luck on your journey!
A couple of weeks ago, I witnessed a tense interaction in a parking lot. I decided to visit a specialty market on the way home from an outing with my daughter and a friend. My daughter fell asleep by the time we arrived in the parking lot. Not wanting to wake my preschooler from this rare nap, I patiently waited and sat with my daughter in the car so that my friend could shop.
Our spot was at the end of a parking row, adjacent to an island with trees. A big semi-truck pulled up to park parallel to the island beside me. The driver startled me because he kept scraping his truck against the branches, snapping twigs off, twisting the tree with every adjustment. I was so bewildered by the tree mangling taking place next to my car that I hadn’t noticed this person’s actions caused a commotion in the spot diagonal from me. Because the semi-truck driver parked the way he did, he ended up blocking the end of the parking row across from me. As people were trying to leave and drive off in the direction of the truck, they realized they were arriving at a dead end. A traffic jam formed.
The car diagonal from me tried to back up to exit the parking row, but a car blocked him from behind. Fortunately, the car beside me left, leaving room for the vehicle diagonal from me to drive forward to exit the parking lot. However, there was still yelling and commotion from the drivers as they were leaving. One man was mad that the semi-truck created a dead end. The other driver reasoned with him, “Or, you could just turn around!” The other argued, “I shouldn’t f*ing have to turn around!!” Eventually, they both drove through the empty parking spots beside my car, with the stubborn, angry driver still cursing expletives as he drove off.
Thankfully, my daughter napped through this entire interaction. After the drivers left, I continued to sit in the car to wait for my friend and reflect on what I saw. One of the driver’s reactions made the whole situation more stressful for everyone. It made me tense to watch and hear them yell at one another. While it is irritating that the semi-truck unexpectedly blocked one end of the parking row, people could have chosen to exit on the other end once they realized one side had a dead end. This lot did not have one-way parking rows.
The driver was correct in pointing out to the other driver that he could turn around. However, the irate driver was stuck on the fact that he didn’t create the scenario and shouldn’t have to adjust his actions. By him refusing to move, he remained stuck and blocked the path for others. He was angry and miserable and spread this sentiment to those around him. In life, we may encounter obstacles caused by other people’s actions. Our reaction shapes our resiliency. While resilient people may have experienced hardship or unfortunate circumstances, they do not dwell on their victimhood. Resilient people focus on ways to get out of a bad situation instead of bringing others down with them.
Every person encounters obstacles or dead ends. While we have good reason to be angry or upset by unexpected obstacles – particularly ones caused by others – we have choices for how we react. You can wait for a barrier to be removed, maneuver around the roadblock, or force the obstruction to clear. All are valid reactions. However, I encourage you to choose what empowers you (and hopefully does not bring others misery). Staying stuck and blaming it on others is not productive, nor is it empowering, yet these were the actions of the irate driver. He was so upset by what the semi-truck driver had done that he took it out on those around him and didn’t notice or care that he was blocking others with his car.
In my life, I have to confess, I have acted like that man. Have you? Sometimes it takes a while to learn that certain hardships may not be my fault, but I am still accountable for how I react to them. You can complain about something or someone, but are you willing to take action and do something about it? Are you venting a lot to your friends about the same things over and over? I was a continual complainer, years ago, about my job and a relationship. As a result, I began to look into a career change and am now a second-career nurse. As for that problematic relationship, well, it ended. However, because of my experiences in that relationship, I attended Al-Anon and began to accept and embrace the idea, “I can’t control others. I can only control myself.”
You will encounter obstacles and roadblocks in your life. You can be stuck and blame others for it, or you can recognize that you can move in other directions. You are the driver of your own life. You can’t control other drivers. Choose to be empowered and resilient as you encounter unexpected detours or inconsiderate drivers in your life’s journey!
Last Tuesday, I had the good fortune of spending time with a good friend from Nursing School and enjoying some Spring blooms. We went to an outdoor cafe and visited a botanic garden afterward. If we had not chosen Nursing as our second career, we would have never met, nor would we be able to take a mid-week lunch across town with our previous Monday – Friday jobs. We also likely would not be fully vaccinated at this point to spend time together comfortably. Our mini outing is one of the many reasons I am happy to have chosen Nursing as a career.
I took photos of the colorful flowers I saw in the garden, and I noticed some had not yet fully bloomed – they were still buds. It reminded me of us and our careers since we are only at the beginning of our nursing careers. We are both working nurses (COVID testers) but start our new grad programs at our respective hospitals in a couple of weeks.
I may feel like a “late in life bloomer,” but I look forward to what’s to come. It took patience and persistence to get where I am. I continue to be cultivated and hope I have chosen an environment that allows me to grow and thrive. I had multiple opportunities to work at different hospitals – I accepted the offer at the hospital that didn’t offer the highest pay but had the most extensive training program. I think a general life lesson I’ve learned is: Nourish yourself whenever possible and try placing yourself in conditions that enable you to develop and “bloom.”
After the lovely garden outing with my friend, I came across an old journal I had. In it, I wrote, “What friendships or relationships are restorative or allow you to grow? Cultivate those.” My “nursing school friend” has become one of my best friends. It’s hard to imagine my surviving my nursing school journey (or brutal new grad job search) without her encouragement, support, or commiseration. She is also a mom and knows what it’s like to balance family with work or school. Nursing school is over, but our friendship is not. Our friendship continues to thrive. I don’t think it’s an accident that I came across this quote this week. I think it’s an affirmation and reminder of how lucky I am to have my friend and others like her in my life. May it serve as an affirmation for you as well.
Enjoy this Spring season! Cultivate the relationships in your life, whether it be professional or personal, that nourish you and allow you to grow. Take time to appreciate the blooms and what’s about to blossom in your own life!