I attended a retreat when I was younger where the speaker talked about going on a journey in a car as a metaphor for life. As the driver of your life, you may have a map or route in mind and see the road ahead. Every once in a while, you look at your rearview mirror. While moving forward in life with your plans, it’s worthwhile to reflect periodically and look back at your life, your rearview mirror. However, no one drives a car long-distances by focusing ONLY on the rearview mirror. In the same way, to move forward with life, you cannot be stuck in the past.
As I’ve shared, I’ve been interviewing for new grad nurse positions. Some interviews have gone well, and some have not. I need to look back at my interviews to understand where I can improve and what I did well to move forward in future applications or interviews. However, it doesn’t serve me to beat myself up and ruminate over any mistakes I might have made. I can be overly critical of myself, but that’s crippling and doesn’t help me. It’s important instead to learn from my mistakes and consider what I can do differently the next time I encounter the same scenario. I suppose I needed reminders to not dwell on my shortcomings and be solutions-oriented instead – I have an important interview next week. Throughout this past week, I have noticed messages reminding me about how my focus determines my path.
My first reminder came in a reflection from a 2021 Lenten devotional I’ve been reading, “Embrace This Holy Season” by Joseph F. Sica. In the February 22 entry entitled “Getting Past the Past,” Joseph F. Sica shared:
“When you find yourself being drawn back into the pain and negative experiences, choose to focus on the present—on what is happening right now—and recognize that history is history. To get past your past, you need to accept it as it was and leave it there. Then pay deliberate attention to this moment—a time that’s never been before and is loaded with opportunities and possibilities. All you have to do is seize them.”
He then offers the helpful practice of taping the following quote to a mirror: “Never look back unless you’re planning to go that way.” It reminded me of the retreat speaker sharing the story about driving using one’s rearview mirror. While I wouldn’t suggest NEVER looking back, don’t be fixated on life’s rearview mirror.
My second reminder came in an email from Marie Forleo, an entrepreneur. She was talking about her relationship with her husband and shared the following:
“Human minds are wired to scan for what’s wrong, especially when it comes to our significant other. We criticize, correct, and attempt to control them. We’re quick to judge and point out (either in our head or out loud) what’s not working. My suggestion? Stop that ASAP. Where attention goes, energy flows. Make a commitment to keep looking for what’s right about your partner. Focus on what they did do, who they are as a soul, and what’s wonderful about them — then proactively and verbally acknowledge that to them consistently.”
While Marie Forleo was talking about relationships, her statement about energy going where our attention flows applies to life, in general. We can focus on mistakes we’ve made in the past, our shortcomings, or we can focus on our strengths and continual improvement. As someone starting over in my career, I need to acknowledge when I do things right because it is easy for me to self-criticize when I do something wrong or not exactly how I would have liked. I’m still learning and developing as a novice nurse, and I need to give myself some grace.
Finally, my third reminder came from Brene Brown, a researcher who focuses on shame and vulnerability. She has a podcast and had a guest, Dr. Edith Eger, discuss “Recognizing the Choices and Gifts in Our Lives.” Below is a quote from Dr. Eger that caught my eye while I was on LinkedIn:
I love the concept of finding an arrow and following it. We can’t move forward without an idea of our destination. Otherwise, we’re just wandering. If I make mistakes, after attempting to correct them, I need to know how to prevent them from happening again or improve myself. I’ve lived long enough to come to an understanding that God will present me with the same lesson over and over until I learn from it. Without a path to move forward, we may end up in circles.
Maybe you, too, needed gentle reminders to focus on moving forward. Perhaps you need to acknowledge your gifts and talents instead of dwelling on your shortcomings. Learn from your mistakes and move onward. Envision what you want, be assured of yourself, and head in that direction!
This past week was a little whirlwind filled with holidays, starting with Valentine’s Day, followed by President’s Day, Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, then Ash Wednesday. I worked the early part of this week at a mass vaccination site in LA County. It was the first time I had the opportunity to administer the COVID vaccine in my job. I was glad to be of service to so many in the community and happy to network with so many nurses.
It was tiring to be out in the sun, on my feet all day, in a stadium parking lot to either observe patients or give vaccines. Despite my achy feet and slight sunburn, I was grateful to contribute to the vaccine clinic. Patients were appreciative to get the vaccine. Amidst the 4,000 people we were vaccinating each day, I saw an old co-worker and friend I hadn’t seen in 3 years since I left my previous career to become a nurse. I took it as assurance that I am where I’m supposed to be, even if I’m still searching for a new grad hospital position. I also met experienced nurses who gave me suggestions and offered help in getting me a hospital job. I took that as a blessing and another sign that I’m where I’m supposed to be. The other nurses and I worked as a team and got to know one another. While supporting the community and each other, we enjoyed the perks of beautiful weather, stadium views over our lunch breaks, and food provided by the event organizers.
After a long day of work on Wednesday, I attended Ash Wednesday mass virtually at home. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season. In his homily, my pastor exclaimed, “Don’t let a good pandemic go to waste!” It’s a strange thing to say, perhaps, but it offers guidance. Now, more than ever, we can slow down and not lead such hectic lives. I don’t have the excuses I once had about my pre-pandemic schedule being busy. My family and I can’t go to parties, attractions, museums, restaurants, bars, or friend’s homes like we used to. Instead of running around with our schedules filled, we can choose to spend time in meditation, prayer, or reflection. We can (re-)connect with others and build relationships using the technology available to us. (I’ve recently discovered the app, Marco Polo, and highly recommend it for connecting with others via private video messages)! I want to use this pandemic and Lent to re-focus on my spiritual well-being.
One of the things I’ve decided to do for Lent is to meditate or reflect on scripture each day. Luckily, my church is offering a daily devotional for parishioners to use during Lent, “Embrace This Holy Season” by Joseph Sica. I have enjoyed it so far.
On one of the days I had off from the vaccine clinic, I had my car serviced. I decided to pack my Med-Surge review book with me along with my devotional and bible. (I’m reviewing the Med-Surge book to prepare for an upcoming interview). The bible and “Embrace This Holy Season” were for me to complete my daily Lenten commitment. While the dealership serviced my car, I went for a walk, grabbed a coffee, and found an empty bench for me to study and meditate. I hadn’t taken time for myself like that in a very long time; it was glorious!
When I was a younger adult, I disliked the solemnity of the Lenten season. I appreciated the focus of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, but it seemed like such a dark time. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the preparation Lent is for Easter. Lent is like a “time-out” for me to focus on my spiritual practices.
The Lenten reflection from Joseph Sica’s book for the day was about being ourselves and loving ourselves. I found it inspiring and a great reminder. I share parts of the reflection here with you, in case you need to read/hear it, too:
Some of you may not be Christian or observe Lent. Regardless, I encourage you to take time for yourself every once in a while for reflection or meditation. Create time for peace and quiet, if you can. Some of you have gratitude journals or practice hygge. This Lent, I commit to daily meditation and reflection. Even if you don’t observe Lent, maybe consider what you can do to make the most out of this pandemic. “Don’t let a good pandemic go to waste!” Can you use this time apart from others to gain clarity? Can you practice self-acceptance and appreciation? I love to hear how others practice self-care or self-love during this pandemic! Good luck on your journey!
I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I feel like I’ve been struggling lately and don’t know what words of inspiration to provide. I find myself working when I didn’t plan to work to please my boss. I recognize that consistently not holding the boundaries I set for myself is unhealthy and causes suffering and resentment. Establishing and maintaining boundaries is a skill I have yet to master. I don’t know if I’d even call myself competent.
Sometimes I find myself working extra shifts, not because I want or need to, but because I want to keep my boss happy. I want her to give me a good recommendation when I put her down as a job reference. (I work as a COVID tester but am looking for an acute care RN role). However, when I work extra days to please my boss, it costs me a chance to recharge myself, spend time with family, job search, or blog. For example, even though I said I was unavailable to work the day after my second-dose COVID vaccination, I found myself working when I didn’t plan on it because my boss was short-staffed and begged me to work. My arm was sore, and I was tired and achy, but I had no other symptoms, so I obliged her plea for me to work. I had hoped to be taking it easy at home the day after my vaccination to fill out my daughter’s complicated kindergarten applications and other job applications for myself. Instead, I wore myself out by working the day after my second shot. By the time I got home, I felt so fatigued that all I could do was shower and lie in bed all evening. I couldn’t even pick up my daughter from her preschool; my husband did. My boss asked me to work again the following day (a day I usually have off), and I said I could not; I felt like I was fighting the flu! I found myself to the point of exhaustion before I finally said “No,” to my boss.
Being short-staffed seems to be a common theme no matter where a nurse works. (There are so many memes about this!) I am not a bad employee if I tell my boss I am not working extra days. Saying “No” is a skill I know I must strengthen to maintain the boundaries I set to keep myself healthy and balanced. [Un]Fortunately, it looks like I will have plenty of opportunities to practice saying, “No.”
Before I became a nurse, I was the type to cram a lot into my schedule. I still am this way. Usually, I enjoy it, but sometimes it’s stressful, especially when running late from event to event. However, since marrying my husband and having my daughter, I’ve been conscious of my family’s schedule and try not to burden them with too much activity. A nurse- and mom-friend told me her life coach suggested she schedule no more than three things in a day. I’ve been good with this for my family, but I am trying to uphold this goal for myself. I accomplish goals I set for myself more efficiently, and I am more satisfied and less overwhelmed when I create a manageable schedule.
I still have many goals and lots of things I feel I need to do or accomplish each day. Fortunately, I realize 1) I do not need to do everything all at once, and 2) Some things (like working or blogging) may fall off my schedule to focus on completing other things (like job and kindergarten applications). Honestly, I should make one of my goals to stop being such a people-pleaser, and I would be able to say NO guilt-free and struggle less. I am working on this, so thanks for your patience during my mini-break from blogging the past week!
Due to an unexpected quarantine from my daughter’s exposure to a COVID positive person, I found myself stuck at home for two weeks in January with my husband and daughter. Thankfully, all of us remained asymptomatic and tested negative for COVID. However, I adhered to the health recommendations to quarantine, and I did not work or leave the house outside of medical appointments for 14 days. Homebound, I decided to make my 2021 vision board a fun, creative activity I could do with my daughter.
Below is the result of crafting together that day.
I tend to be a visual learner and have found vision boards to be powerful tools. I’ve shared this before, but years before I became a mom, I made a vision board about being a parent. My husband and I spent over a year trying to get pregnant before I had a miscarriage. I eventually became pregnant with my daughter almost a year after our loss. It was pretty amazing to look back at that vision board, even though my dream of motherhood took some time to materialize.
If you want to try your hand at making a vision board, below are some tips:
Review your goals or vision board from the prior year (or semester or quarter). Reflect on what you’ve accomplished and acknowledge your achievements!
Do you have any remaining goals that will continue into the next year (or another timeframe)? Do you need to remove some obstacles before you’re able to achieve these goals? Consider removal of a barrier to be an initial goal.
Think about your goals for your specified timeframe (year, semester, or quarter). What plans do you have for various areas of your life? You can focus on several areas of your life or many, but here are some to consider: work/career, finances, personal relationships, health/fitness, spirituality/well-being, education & development, rest & relaxation, or hobbies & fun.
Are your goals S.M.A.R.T. ? S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Achieveable, R = Realistic, T = Time-bound. If not, design them to be S.M.A.R.T.
After you’ve thought about your goals (I also recommend writing them down in a planner or calendar!), gather supplies: paper, scissors, tape, glue, markers, and items with images you can use in your vision board (magazines, calendars, catalogs, or Pinterest photos/pins).
Start cutting out and collecting images or words that inspire you or remind you of the goals you have set for yourself.
Get at least one photo of yourself to place on your vision board. I also included pictures of my family in mine.
Assemble your vision board, making sure to include the year or goal timeframe (e.g. Semester I 2021) and a photo of yourself!
Place the vision board in an area you frequently see. I made my 2020 vision board and hung it on the wall by my desktop all last year. I replaced it with my 2021 vision board this month.
Before I made my 2021 vision board, I reviewed my 2020 vision board (per step 1 above). I posted my board last January on my FB and IG pages:
Upon review of last year’s vision board, it was reassuring to see how many things I accomplished or goals I achieved, despite a worldwide pandemic and various stay-at-home orders:
The photo of a mom and her newborn in my vision board was a nod to my much-anticipated maternal newborn and pediatric rotations. I got to attend an emotionally moving c-section birth as part of my maternal newborn clinical rotation last year. My classmate and I witnessed a father cry with overwhelming joy and love for his newborn child – it was so sweet that my classmate and I were both moved to tears. I got to complete my preceptorship in a NICU. I had wonderful experiences during my rotations.
I had a bunch of images related to nursing, education, and graduation. I graduated from nursing school with my BSN and passed my NCLEX last year.
I have “RN” and a pile of money on my board. I started my first job as a Registered Nurse before the year ended.
I have travel luggage, a camera, vacation views, and photos of families having fun doing various physical activities on my 2020 board. My family and I managed to squeeze in two family vacations last year – one to Solvang (thanks to a good friend’s timeshare) and another to Bishop (as a result of tagging along on my husband’s business trip). We did not travel the way I originally envisioned after graduation, but my family enjoyed ourselves and explored new places while safely adhering to health orders.
I have images from “Hamilton”, the musical. I had tickets to watch the musical in-person with my husband at the Pantages in May. The show was canceled due to the pandemic. Luckily, our theatre tickets were refunded. I had to be satisfied (but “I will never be satisfied!”, a la Angelica Schuyler) watching it on Disney+. A benefit with watching the musical at home is that my daughter gets to enjoy it, too. My daughter periodically requests Alexa to play the songs, particularly the ones sung by any of the Schuyler Sisters.
Before the pandemic, I was excited to be part of the graduating class of perfect vision, 2020. I remember being a total dork and declaring this to my classmates well before the pandemic became a reality. After the pandemic started, I forgot about being part of the class of perfect vision. Earlier this year, however, my church’s mothers’ ministry had a Zoom meeting challenging members to think about how 2020 was the year of perfect vision. It was interesting to consider: I had to be laser-focused in my commitment to my goals to avoid distractions and overcome the obstacles of an unexpected pandemic. And maybe 2020 had me re-focus and let go of attachments and what I thought my life should look like. My family did not travel to other states or countries for vacation as in previous years, but we got to experience adventure and explore new places locally and within the state. My daughter speaks fondly of Solvang as much as she does of Spain (we visited in 2019). Even with letting go of attachments and expectations of what I thought things should be like, I didn’t accomplish all my 2020 goals – I still need to add more physical activity in my life and to declutter my home – but looking at my old vision board, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2020! Now, onward to 2021!
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day in America, where we celebrate and remember this great activist. Most people are familiar with Martin Luther King Jr.’s (MLK) “I Have a Dream” speech but may not be aware of his other speeches or the origin of some of his inspirational quotes. He was a great preacher and gave many more rallying and inspirational speeches promoting justice, non-violence, and people’s dignity. One of his speeches that inspired me in my career and career change was “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” I wasn’t aware of this speech or its contents until I attended a performance at my work years ago where someone had assembled parts of MLK’s speeches and presented/recited it for us during an MLK day celebration. I was lucky to have an active African American employee resource group host the presentation over lunch at our company.
Martin Luther King, Jr. presented “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” to a group of students at Barrat Junior High School on October 26, 1967. It is a timeless message that is relevant today and applies to all ages about being the best you can be. Footage from that day and video of his entire speech can be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/kmsAxX84cjQ, thanks to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. In honor of the holiday, I encourage you to watch the footage, which is only about 20 minutes. Below, I have gathered some motivational quotes and excerpts from his speech that were not previously familiar to me. I hope you reference them whenever you need inspiration!
Keep striving for excellence as you pursue your future endeavors, whether it be nursing or otherwise! Have a blessed day!
Your friends are either a reflection of who you are or who you want to be. Ideal friends help carry you when you’re down and hold you accountable to being the best version of yourself. However, what if your friends doubt your abilities to obtain a nursing degree or succeed at something you desperately desire? I’ve had friends who have been either naysayers or cheerleaders in my life. Over time, I have learned to curate my friendships. After having a family and working full-time or going to school, my time is limited. How and with whom I invest my free time matters to me.
When I started taking my nursing pre-requisites, I had a friend share how her partner questioned my pursuit and wondered if I would go into Nursing. She said she defended me to her partner and responded that he doesn’t know me well enough to know how determined I am. While I appreciated her supporting me, I wondered why she even shared the story with me at all. You may have family or friends in your life who are not supportive or do not understand why you are pursuing a career change or nursing. You may need to limit the time you spend with them to focus on your goals. Limiting time with my friend with the doubting partner was not super intentional for me – I had little free time while I was doing pre-requisites and completing nursing school. I ended up not spending much time with many of my friends outside of school anyway.
Now that I’ve graduated from nursing school, I still don’t get to spend as much time as I wish with friends. Aside from the pandemic, circumstances such as friends becoming parents, moving, or job changes have made it challenging to coordinate schedules. However, I’ve learned I’d rather have a handful of close friends on whom I can rely rather than a ton of acquaintances or shallow friends. My relationships with close friends remain strong despite lapses in connecting with another or physical distance separating us. It doesn’t make sense for me to go out of my way to maintain relationships with people who don’t value me or my friendship or whose motives I question. I already have great friends with whom I do not spend enough time!
I was in a toxic relationship years ago, and a friend exclaimed, “There are so many people in this world! Why are you with someone nice to you only some of the time?” It’s been over 20 years, and that remark has stuck with me and helps guide me. Seriously, why invest time and energy in someone who doesn’t treat you well or support your growth and success? When I was younger, and my self-esteem was lower, I allowed people I thought were my friends to treat me terribly. I accepted friends who would insult and lie to me or were not interested in my wellbeing. They served as obstacles instead of contributors to my success. I am grateful to have grown and matured enough to recognize true friendship and to set better boundaries for myself.
Decades ago, when pursuing my engineering degree, I had a planner with various inspirational quotes listed each week. A quote that stood out for me is from Alice Walker about friends: “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.” Is someone who is not supportive of your career pursuits denying your right to grow? Have they shared any valid concerns? Or are they just tearing you down? Maybe it’s time to set boundaries and rethink your friendships.
I also like Alice Walker’s quote because it challenges me to evaluate my actions as a friend. In this time of passionate opposing views regarding the pandemic or politics, I’ve questioned if I need to remain friends with a person when I find myself wanting to block a friend or hide their posts from my feed. There should be mutual respect in friendships, and sometimes, I do not respect views expressed by some friends. I’ve wondered about some of my friends on social media, particularly when they don’t seem to be a reflection of who I am or aspire to be. If we were real friends, I would consider having a meaningful dialogue with them instead of silencing them. In the end, given my limited time and energy, I need to decide if the effort to maintain a friendship is worth it.
I remind myself of why we became friends. I consider how surrounding myself with only like-minded individuals furthers the divide I see in this country. So I continue to have friends or family in my social media feed whose political views I disagree with but who wholeheartedly supported me during my life’s milestones and career change. I’d rather be a person who builds bridges than walls. However, there are times when unhealthy, abusive, or toxic friendships must end. I think part of being more mature is developing the wisdom to know how and when to set boundaries.
Surrounding yourself with supportive people and good friends is vital, particularly during challenging or tumultuous times in one’s life. Friends do not always agree with everything you do or say, but they ultimately share your values or interests and respect you or care for your wellbeing. If friends disagree with what you are doing or oppose your pursuits – are their concerns valid? Are they voicing concerns because they care about you? Are they opening up your realm of possibilities, giving you a new perspective, or are they trying to keep you in your place?
One of the big reasons I pursued nursing is because a good friend challenged me. When I got laid off as an engineer and expressed interest in staying in engineering, he told me he’d help me but asked if it’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. He asked if I could see myself doing anything else. I took to heart what he asked, and I reflected, prayed, and did a lot of inner searching. His challenge and my resulting self-reflection are what prompted me to finally take action on my career change and go into nursing. I had thought about changing careers nearly a decade before but decided not to pursue it for various reasons. With my friend’s reminder and the new-found freedom I had from getting laid off and getting severance pay, I resurrected my dream to change careers. Good friends don’t always go along with what you say, but they help you be your best by providing a different perspective.
Good friends are there for you, not just in happy or triumphant moments but also in difficult moments. Nursing school brought me to tears more than once, and it helped to have good friends and family around me. When I doubted myself or my abilities, these good friends and family members listened to me and lifted me when I was down. Hopefully, you have good friends in your life. If not, seek out good friends. There is an abundance of people in this world – there is no need to choose friends who do not respect or appreciate you. I wish you good friendships and good luck for this new year!
Recently, I decided to cut back on the number of days a week I work. I recognize I’m blessed to have the option to work as many or as few days as a contract RN and COVID tester. Not everyone has the financial ability to work less. I know it’s a privilege to have this flexibility. Because I’ve spent my entire adult life working a minimum of 40 hours per week, I felt obligated to work full-time as a nurse in this pandemic, even though I have a per diem contract position.
I found myself exhausted after my five-day-a-week shifts and having to continually re-arrange my family’s schedule. I am a COVID tester for a studio. Due to ever-changing production schedules, I don’t often know what time I am to start work until the night before, and I usually do not know what time the workday will end my day has already begun. My start times last week ranged from 4:30a to 5:30a. My days ended anywhere from 2-4 pm. On days I work, my husband has to juggle conference calls while coordinating preschool dropoffs. If I don’t get out early enough, he also has to squeeze in pickups during his workday.
Besides worrying about my breadwinner husband adjusting his life to accommodate my work schedule, I began to worry about my physical well-being from working so much and being exposed to hundreds of people a week. During the past two weeks, four different nurses I work with called off work due to some illness or another. Other people seemed tenser because they discovered more people in their work or personal life had come down with COVID.
Since Thanksgiving, I get tested for COVID every day I work. I appreciated the daily tests confirming I didn’t have COVID but realized my body was feeling worn out. Even though I’m naturally an extrovert, I didn’t understand how exhausting it can be to serve hundreds of diverse clients every week. My unpredictable work schedule was also adding to my daily stress. One day I was so tired after work, I think I fell asleep on my way home at a stoplight. I know driving drowsy is extremely dangerous – I didn’t realize how tired I was.
One of the nurses I worked with is a retired hospital nurse. She is a seasoned nurse who now works per diem for “fun” during her retirement. She shared that when she was younger, she always volunteered to work overtime. It resulted in her developing hypertension and needing medication. Since then, she has become an advocate for self-care and setting healthy boundaries. In addition to her, I’ve heard similar messages from bloggers I follow: Do not do things out of obligation or because it’s what you think others expect of you. Do what is best for yourself.
Despite my co-worker’s advice, I didn’t consider cutting back on the days I worked until a friend suggested it. During a phone call, she commented on how tired I sounded and heard my increased anxiety about people around me getting sick. After some thought, I requested fewer days from my boss this past Sunday. This week was the first week I didn’t work five days in a row! I felt guilty at first. However, as COVID cases and deaths rise here in Los Angeles, I feel more secure in my decision. I’ve also had more patience and energy for work and home since I’ve had more days to rest this week.
Nurses in hospitals are overwhelmed and have contacted me to let me know all their units are short-staffed. The patient loads are high and over ratio. New grads are getting pulled off orientation to help. As much as I feel like I’m struggling to get a hospital job right now, it seems like a blessing I don’t have one. I’m frustrated and relieved at the same time. I’m glad I get to work as a nurse and contribute somehow, but I’m also thankful that I’m not like my friends and family working in hospitals witnessing the COVID deaths and raging illness. They are frustrated when they see or hear about people not following public health orders to wear masks or avoid social gatherings because they suffer the consequences in a more profound way than the general public.
To all healthcare workers right now, particularly those in hospitals, I am praying for you and grateful for you. I hope you are protected and supported and able to do what you need for self-care. I hope this vaccine is effective and able to remove the burden of worrying about getting COVID or bringing it home to your loved ones. I am doing what I think is best to ensure my family or I do not add to your patient ratios. I’m trying to keep myself safe and healthy so that I may be part of the care team in a hospital someday soon! It took a while to be aware of my own needs, but I have cut back on the days I work for my well-being. For everyone reading this, please practice self-care and keep yourself safe!
Some of you might be applying and preparing for nursing school interviews. December is when I began my nursing school interviews a couple of years ago. Out of the schools to which I applied, only two required in-person interviews as part of their application process. Luckily, I wasn’t a stranger to interviews by that point. Before nursing school, I interviewed for a competitive clinical volunteer program and eventually helped interview and screen applicants when I became a leader. It seems to be that time of year again for interviews because I landed my first new grad RN interview this past week for a local hospital. Since it appears to be interview season for myself and others, here are some of my suggestions for interviews, based on my experience and advice from friends and professors. They include anecdotes of my interview blunders, so you hopefully learn from my mistakes!
Research the organization
Do your research before the interview:
Research the organization by reviewing its website and doing an internet search. You can research companies and hospitals and see what their current and former employees have to say about them on Glassdoor.com.
Review mission statements. What can you share about yourself that matches or aligns with their mission statement?
If you know any current or former employees/students, ask them about the unit, program, or culture.
Doing this research will help you prepare a more specific answer to the interview question, “Why do you want to be part of this school/hospital/unit/organization?” You’ll also be able to find information about considerations you might have to reduce the number of questions you ask during your interview.
Anticipate the questions and prepare your answers
Be prepared to answer questions from your application essays and be able to speak to your resume. You should be able to discuss or explain anything you have provided in your application. Be prepared to talk about yourself and give them an idea of who you are. Interviews with nursing school, volunteer programs, or entry-level positions do not typically ask many technical questions – people want to learn about YOU. (Although, I did have a couple of clinical-type questions in my latest interview).
What I found interesting is that nursing school interview questions were not much different than job interview questions or even questions from my volunteer program. Below are some common questions one should be prepared to answer or discuss during an interview:
Tell me about yourself
Why did you become a nurse? or Why do you want to be a nurse?
Why do you want to be part of this school / hospital / unit / organization?
Why do you want this position?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
Tell me about a time you managed a challenging situation or overcame a challenge.
Describe a time you had a conflict or disagreement with a colleague.
What do you have to offer? / What makes you different from other candidates? / Why should we hire you? / What can you bring?
What would you do if you had a difficult or agitated patient?
What would you do if you had a difficult preceptor?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
Do you have any questions?
For my volunteer program and nursing schools, other questions I encountered were:
How have you prepared for this program?
How have you ensured your successful completion of this program?
Finally, for additional interview questions, there are some great ones listed online. I found other nursing school interview questions at https://allnurses.com/common-nursing-school-interview-questions-t553788/. I looked at job applications for new grad programs, even ones to which I wasn’t applying, and I pulled some of the following questions from an application:
What academic, clinical skills, and personal attributes do you have that will enhance your success in this program and your professional role as a nurse?
Cultural competence and respect for others are important in nursing practice. Describe a few ways that you have incorporated cultural sensitivity and competence into your own nursing practice.
Please briefly describe your professional/career goals.
Allnurses.com also has forums for people applying to specific nursing schools or hospital new grad programs – the discussion boards usually give you an idea of interview schedules, formats (in-person vs. virtual), or questions. When applying to specific programs, it’s helpful to know if candidates are already interviewing to assess if the program is still considering your application. It’s also good to keep in touch with your cohort after graduation for this same reason. My classmates received interview invitations and job offers to join a new grad program I applied to, while I heard nothing. It took over a month to receive my official program rejection, but I anticipated it since my classmates had interviewed for the same program a month prior.
One of my friends recently finished her first year and a half working as a nurse and interviewed for a new RN job. She shared possible interview questions with me. For more seasoned nurses, a potential employer may ask the following questions:
What do you look for in a leader? How do you emulate that?
What do you like about nursing? Dislikes?
What do you find rewarding about this profession?
How do you deal w/someone unsatisfied w/ your care?
Tell me a time about a clinical emergency and how you reacted.
Tell me a time you had to deal w/ difficult MD.
Here’s another great interview question I found in a Facebook group: Tell us about a time you had an error in judgement. What happened, what did you learn, and how has this shaped you into the nurse you are today?
Practice and use prompts
One interview preparation technique my friend used was to write out her responses to potential interview questions. She placed the questions and notes about her answers on the wall behind her computer and camera. During her virtual interview, she was able to glance at her notes, when needed, to help her answer questions. I think this idea is genius!
I do not recommend reading word-for-word written answers to interview questions. However, writing answers may help clarify what you want to convey about yourself or allow you to draw upon stories and examples to share more readily. I love my friend’s technique because little notes or prompts help prevent blanking out during an interview. This technique is similar to giving speeches or presentations: Never recite notes or slides, but use them as prompts to remind you what to say or share.
After writing out your responses to potential interview questions, practice sharing your answer out loud. Practice with yourself in a mirror, and later, practice with another human being. I am planning to do this with friends and former classmates. Mock interviews serve as dress rehearsals and allow for feedback for improvement and adjustments before actual interviews.
For my clinical volunteer program, applicants were instructed to dress professionally for their interview. I dressed in business casual clothing and opted not to wear a blazer. It wasn’t until I became a leader that I discovered that they docked points for applicants not wearing a blazer or suit to their interview. After learning this, I made sure to wear a blazer (or business suit) during future clinical interviews.
The following year, for one nursing school interview, I spilled tea all over my blazer as I drove to the interview. I set my tea on the passenger seat (it didn’t fit in the cup holder), and somehow my tumbler tipped and spilled its entire contents onto my blazer resting below it. Luckily, my blazer was black, and it was difficult to tell it was even wet. I dried it as best as I could once I arrived and parked at my interview location. I was able to wear my blazer during my interview, even though it was damp. It just smelled fragrant – like lavender earl grey tea! My lesson from this is never to drink colored beverages going to an interview and maybe carry a Tide pen!
For nursing job interviews, job applicants typically do not wear scrubs to an interview unless they arrive directly from a shift or are interviewing during a break in their workday. If you’ll need to wear scrubs to an interview, explain that to your interviewer beforehand.
Bring copies and material for notes
For your interview, bring extra copies of your resume or your nursing portfolio to share with interviewers. Bring material (ex. pen, blank paper) to take notes. Collect the contact information or business cards of your interviewers.
Arrive early enough to park and walk to your interview! Unfortunately, I was about a minute late to my top choice nursing school interview. I arrived at the interview location 40 minutes early but was unable to find parking. I had been to the site twice before and easily parked at the adjacent parking structure both times. I thought arriving 40 minutes before my interview would give me extra time to park elsewhere on campus if needed. I was wrong.
All lots, even the farthest ones on campus, were full. It was raining and a Tuesday of the first week of the semester; most students were attending class or petitioning themselves in courses. I drove around multiple times and tried parking on all parking lots listed on the campus map. I even went through the nearby neighborhood, but the residential area required permits to park. I finally found street parking outside a restaurant blocks from the campus beyond a freeway entrance. Only 60 minutes of parking was allowed per street signs, but I was willing to take my chances. I could go over a little time and possibly get a parking ticket over missing my interview at my top school!
After I parked, I ran as quickly as possible and called my interviewer to let her know I was on my way but running late. I arrived at the front office out of breath and wet from the rain. Fortunately, I was only a minute late, and they allowed me to interview. Lucky for me, that school accepted me into their program!
These days, because of the pandemic, many interviews are done virtually. Get yourself set up early enough to allow your computer to load, log in to the program used for the interview, and be comfortable. Make sure the background the interviewer is seeing is free of mess and clutter or anything distracting. A trick an old co-worker of mine used was to ensure she seated herself in front of a wall of her awards and certificates during a virtual interview. If you have a place where you hang your diploma(s), awards, etc., consider that wall as your background.
Be confident and calm
If you’ve prepared for your interview, you should be confident. You have made it farther than other candidates by even getting offered an interview! If you don’t feel confident or are anxious for your interview, practice slow deep breaths. Inhale over 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds. Exhale for 4 seconds and hold your breath for 4 seconds. Repeat this breathing pattern to calm yourself. (I learned this breathing exercise from a live talk from Brene Brown, but I guess this is something first responders also practice)!
Hopefully, you arrived to your interview early. Go to a restroom beforehand, look at yourself in the mirror, compliment yourself, and practice wide-stances. Put your hands on your hips. Keep your back straight, shoulders back, and chest up. Make sure you are not physically sinking inward, which can give the impression of insecurity. Do your pep talk and superhero wide-stance practice immediately before your interview. (I learned this superhero confidence-building trick during a training workshop in my previous job). During the interview, remember to look your interviewers in the eyes as you talk to them.
If you’ve done your research, but you still have questions, make a list and bring it to your interview. The interview also allows an applicant to discern if a position or organization is right for them. “Do you have any questions?” is a common question asked at the end of an interview. When prompted, you can draw from your list of questions.
Below is a list of possible topics one could consider before or during an RN job interview. Ideally, you would research these topics ahead of time and discover most of the answers before your interview. Some job considerations are from my friend while others are from a nursing school professor:
Employee performance review process?
Support in education? CE? Conferences?
Opportunities to teach/mentor?
Involvement in shared governance
Why do you like working here?
Is this a magnet hospital?
When was your last accreditation? May I see the report?
Is this physical facility a place where I’d want to seek care?
Take a tour to see staff working. Are they happy?
Ask to visit unit(s). Observe the number of patients per RN on the board.
What are the benefits?
Is a contract expected?
When are people eligible for raises?
When does vacation start accruing?
Is childcare available or offered?
Meet with staff who will be in charge of you.
Are nurses allowed to do advocacy?
Is quality improvement top-down or driven by nurses? Do nurses drive performance improvement?
If in a clinic, is the medical director strong and stable?
What is nursing turnover like in the unit?
Do finance people speak same language as nurses? What are their priorities?
What partnerships does the nursing departement have with patient families? What resources are available across the continuum and community?
Some questions to consider asking during nursing schools interviews are:
What is the NCLEX pass rate of your graduates?
How do you prepare your students for NCLEX? Are students required to do HESI or ATI or purchase UWorld?
What is the rate of people graduating in the recommended timeframe? How long does it typically take for people to get their degree in this program?
What is the clinical and lecture schedule?What is a typical day like for your students?
What is the size of the cohort?
What are the traits or practices of your most successful students?
What are the hospitals or clinics where clinicals have been held?
Are there student or faculty mentors?
Do you help with job search or placement?
How quickly do your graduates find jobs after graduating?
Where do your graduates typically work?
Write Thank You Notes
After your interview, write thank you notes to your interviewers. (You collected their contact info. during the interview, right?) Reiterate unique traits and strengths or clarify any uncertainties about yourself. You want to do this to be memorable and to give your interviewers confidence in choosing you. Express your gratitude and appreciation for the people that took the time to interview you. Emailing the thank you messages ensures quick delivery.
I wrote this blog post as a resource for others but also for myself. I need these reminders, too! I like that I can now review this list before every nursing interview. Do you have interview questions to share or tips to add? I would love to hear them!
Thank you for reading! If you found this post helpful or appreciate anything from it, please like and share with others! Good luck to you and your endeavors, and good luck with your interviews!
Thanks to an upsurge in COVID cases in Southern California, we have new stay-at-home orders in effect starting today. The Health Department does not recommend co-mingling or going to parks with other households. Playgrounds have shut down again. Dining at restaurants – even outdoors – is not allowed. As a parent, it’s sometimes hard to explain the changing rules to my preschooler. I’m a nurse trying to adhere to public health orders, but I’m also a concerned wife, daughter, and mother who wants to protect my family and loved ones from COVID. I found some complimentary child-friendly resources that explain COVID, hand-washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. I’ve used them with my daughter and thought I’d share them here.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the series of books “A Kids Book About”… offered a free e-book “A Kids Book About Covid-19” by Malia Jones. It is still available for download here: https://akidsbookabout.com/products/a-kids-book-about-covid-19. My daughter and I read the e-book together, which helped her better understand social distancing and hand hygiene. (“A Kids Book About” offers other great books that help discuss complex topics such as death, cancer, and racism with children. I encourage other parents to check out the series)!
Another great book, also free, is “The Inside Book” by Matthew Griffiths. There’s graphics at the back of the book explaining handwashing, mask-wearing, and how to cover a cough or sneeze. This book is offered as a free download in various languages on the author’s website, https://mattcgriffiths.com/. There’s also an animated reading of the book at the same website and on YouTube.
On YouTube, the Dr. Binocs series offered by Peekaboo Kidz helps explain coronavirus and other science-related topics. (I discovered the series when I tried looking for kid-friendly information about pinworms. There was a pinworm outbreak at my daughter’s school a year ago, and I couldn’t find any preschool appropriate resource to explain it to my daughter)!
Life is hard enough to navigate during a pandemic. As a parent, it’s nice to have free tools to explain this pandemic and public health recommendations to my daughter (or younger patients)! I think these free resources above would be great to use for pediatric patient education. If you have other pediatric resources you use, please share! I would love to learn about them! Stay healthy and safe, friends!
Things have been hectic for me this week because I started a new job on Monday! I am a COVID tester for a studio! Hollywood studios have resumed filming and frequently test their cast and crew to ensure people do not have or spread COVID.
I found out Sunday night I got the job and was expected to work at 3:30a the next morning in a city about 45 minutes from my home (without traffic). I scrambled Sunday night searching for scrubs to purchase in-store, laundering them later at home, applying for professional liability insurance, reviewing, signing, submitting paperwork, and reading the policies and procedures manual. I also had to complete and submit an application for a new grad program due that same Sunday. I was up until about midnight and out the door by 2:30a. I was tired but running on adrenalin! I am like a substitute teacher – I don’t know where I’m going or what time I’m working until the afternoon before each workday. It’s been a whirlwind for me since Monday!
My former classmate referred me to my current job. I am lucky that I have such a supportive cohort – we frequently share new grad job opportunities. (TIP: Keep in touch with your classmates, even after you graduate)! He texted our cohort one afternoon. I immediately sent my resume to his contact, and I received a phone call less than a week later! It helped that I updated my resume and was prepared since I had been applying to new grad positions. It’s luck that I got this job, but “Luck is when opportunity and preparation meet.” A year ago, I found this quote, cut it out, and have it posted on my computer monitor as a reminder.
I encourage you to keep striving for your goals. Stay prepared, move forward, and use opportunities as they come along as stepping stones toward your ultimate goals. It’s funny how this opportunity came along just after I posted about rejection and failure last week. I don’t think it’s by accident; maybe I needed to lead by example. When you feel down and as if you’re not moving towards your goals, pick yourself up, and keep striving! Most importantly, when you lift yourself up, take others along with you!