Never Give Up: My New Grad RN Job Search Experience

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!

Spring Blooms and Cultivation

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.

My Rainbow Latte I had during brunch with my friend – I enjoyed all the colors of the day!

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!

Life is hard, but you can do hard things

I was inspired by a quote I saw in a post about life not being easy:

“Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.

Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.

Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard.

Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.

Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard. Choose wisely”

-Author unknown

I don’t know who authored the original quote, but I thought I’d add my own spin on it.

Also, I want to tell you something I tell my daughter (and myself) : “YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS”.

I am my daughter’s first and foremost female role model. How she sees me react to struggle or hard things makes an impression on her.  I am not perfect. I struggle and often make mistakes. However, I want my daughter to see me handle difficult things and be resilient. She needs to know it’s okay to try again after failure or to continuously attempt hard things. The best way to teach her that is through my own actions.

Life isn’t easy. We don’t always have easy or favorable choices. We often have hard choices. But our resiliency and how we handle hard choices is what shapes us and makes us stronger. Know you’re not alone.

Why I Blog – Reflections of a Mature/Mom Student Nurse

It is surreal how my and my daughter’s lives have been paralleling one another throughout my nursing journey. When I applied to colleges to complete my nursing pre-requisites, I also submitted preschool applications for my daughter. I was shocked to learn that preschool wait-list applications cost more than college applications. Some preschool application fees/deposits were 1.5 times more than the application fee for our local community college! This week, I had a significant job interview with my top choice employer. In the same afternoon, I received a call to schedule an interview for my daughter for a language-immersion kindergarten. We’re both interviewing for something that sets the foundation and determines how our lives will be for years to come. If I get into my desired new graduate nursing program, I can see myself staying at that hospital until retirement. If she gets into this language-immersion program and accepts the spot, she commits to attending the school for the next six years. 

Most of my other nursing school classmates did not have to contend with commandeering significant change in one’s own life while being responsible for someone else’s life and wellbeing or a family budget. You may be the only parent in your class. Or, like me, you may be older than every student in your classrooms. You are not alone. Other people have been in that situation before or are in that situation currently, perhaps at another school. I write this blog because I want you to know it’s possible to earn a college degree later in life, even with kids. It’s possible to start over with a nursing career, even after a lifetime in another role. Everyone has their unique struggles or responsibilities, and while you might feel alone in yours, know that you are not. There are registered nurses who have had to repeat a semester or more of nursing school. Some nurses I know were pregnant or dealing with a loved one’s death during nursing school. I’ve read stories of students getting cancer treatments during their nursing program or single moms balancing working and nursing school with their family life. If nursing is your calling, you will find your way, as countless others have. 

Your career path may not look like the paths of other nurses or nursing students you currently know. Your burdens or responsibilities may not be the same as your classmates’. For instance, my classmates did not struggle to potty-train their child while studying for finals, as I did. However, I assure you that there is a nurse with a story similar to yours. Whether you are in nursing school or already a nurse, I invite you to share your story. There’s likely something in your nursing journey that others may find relatable or inspiring. A future nurse might need your encouragement.

I blog for the possibility that someone is encouraged by my story. I blog for the person doubting their abilities or overwhelmed by their circumstances. I blog for mature students who might recognize themselves in me. You don’t have to be a blogger to share your story. Other ideas include:

  • Accepting career day invitations for schools.
  • Being a guest speaker for after-school programs.
  • Joining your alumni association mentorship program as a mentor or recruiter for future students.
  • Providing helpful or encouraging feedback to communities for nursing students online.

Thank you for reading my blog and allowing me to share. I find when we share ourselves, it permits others to do the same. Good luck on your journey – and share your story!

Struggling With Boundaries and “No”

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!

MLK Career Inspiration

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!

HUGE Milestone: Graduation!

I graduated from my Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing Program! Until about a week ago, I was busy with finals and organizing my cohort’s virtual pinning ceremony. However, TODAY, my school finally posted that I officially conferred my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree on August 08, 2020!

Class of 2020 BSN Graduate!

I graduated, but there were MANY people who made this possible!

Like many in my cohort, I feel God lead me to the nursing profession. Through constant prayer and faith in God’s plans, I arrived at this point in my life. I was able to move forward in my path toward Nursing because of God and the people and circumstances God placed in my life.

In my virtual pinning ceremony (*a pinning ceremony is a nursing school tradition to celebrate the completion of the program where graduates are pinned with a lapel pin – often their school’s emblem), I dedicated my pin to my husband, daughter, and parents. My husband and daughter have sacrificed time with me and their schedules to accommodate my classes, studying, and clinical rotations. My parents often volunteered to watch my daughter so I could study, and they would visit and offer to help with dinners, dishes, laundry so I could focus on school. Nursing school was a journey my entire family shared, and I can’t imagine graduating without their love and support.

I consider myself lucky to have had such generous and collaborative classmates. Instead of competing with one another, we worked together to create study guides and study sessions. Life would have been considerably harder without everyone’s contributions and kindness in my cohort.

I was also blessed to have another mom in my program. I discovered during orientation that she was my neighbor! We became carpool buddies and, eventually, close friends. Being a nursing student in an accelerated program is tough – balancing school with kids in a pandemic makes things even trickier. We both understood and could commiserate in our unique struggles.

I want to acknowledge the teachers, instructors, and school staff for making it possible for students to continue learning. It was not necessarily easy for students to move exclusively to online lectures and have their schedules changed, but I recognize it was not easy for those teaching and supporting students as well. I’m very grateful for our instructors for being flexible and making themselves available. Some of our clinical instructors were on-call and taught us over the Summer when they initially planned to guide us in the hospitals in Spring. Our administration also hustled to place all the nursing students in rotations when many hospitals canceled their preceptorships. When the pandemic started and we were pulled from our clinicals, we were in limbo. If we were unable to return to the hospitals to complete our clinical hours, we would not graduate. After going through all the clearance requirements at one hospital, our instructors, alongside the students, scrambled to complete clearance requirements at other hospitals finally open to students. Despite the obstacles, a pandemic, and a revolution, we managed to graduate on time!

Doing nursing school in 15 months while being a mom was no easy task, but I’m a testament to the fact that it is possible! I had a LOT of support – including friends and family who prayed for me, guided me, and encouraged me along the way. Form your support system if you don’t already have one. Life’s too short to spend time with people who bring out the worst in you! Your journey and timeline may not look like mine, but I encourage you to pursue your passion and dreams. I was the oldest student in my cohort, but I have a lot to offer, and I intend to work as a nurse for multiple decades. It’s cliche, but it’s true: You are never too old (or young) to pursue your dreams!

I know many are starting school this Fall. I wish nothing but the best for the students returning to school and those taking steps to move closer to their goals. These are uncertain times, but I applaud all those adapting, reorganizing themselves, and moving forward. Good luck to everyone this new school year, and CONGRATULATIONS to all the 2020 graduates!