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5 signs of a great place to work

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Your resume was perfect, you sailed through the interview and now you’ve got a job offer in hand. Hooray! But before you blurt out “Yes!” to the first offer that comes your way, make sure you stop and look around—is this workplace the right one for you?

Here, I’d like to list some of the things that I now look for when I’m trying to decide whether or not to take a gig.

First, how’s the culture on the unit? If the folks on your prospective floor are smiling, working together, collaborating rather than competing, that’s an excellent sign of a healthy workplace. Everybody has off days, so it’s worth it to do some down-low reconnaissance to see what the usual mood of the unit is.

Second, what’s management like? Ask people where you want to work how often they see or hear from their CNO or DON. Ask people what happens if they’re short-staffed. Does the manager stick around to help out? Do people volunteer to work extra? If there are problems on the unit, whether they’re technological or personnel problems, how are those handled? How often do the nurses get props and compliments?

Third, what’s staffing like overall at the facility? A well-staffed surgical CCU means nothing if the stepdown units are constantly overflowing. How often is mandatory overtime required? How many agency nurses are on your unit at one time? In the facility overall at one time? How often do nurses renew their contracts? Do they stick around or do they go elsewhere as soon as they can?

Fourth, what’s the benefit package like? Are there incentives for longevity? Does the institution reimburse nurses for licensing or specialty-certification costs? How does management approach educational opportunities? If you’re interested in continuing your education with a BSN or an MSN, ask about reimbursements for that. A pal of mine recently got a sweet gig in an ICU, and the hospital is paying for her PhD as well.

Fifth, and finally, look around at the way people interact with the folks they work with who aren’t their clinical colleagues. Simple politeness, friendships that cross departmental lines and plain old respect all go a very long way toward making a place a good place to work.

You probably won’t find everything on this list in one place unless you decide to work for a schwanky private hospital. It’s worth your time to check online message boards to see what other nurses say about your prospective employer—but always remember that the disgruntled yell louder than the happy. And good luck. Nightmare stories are everywhere, but most people, provided they’re not either perfectionists or jerks, can find a comfortable place to work and learn.

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