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5 things you need to give up to get a nursing job

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It’s time for the reality check. America is in a recession and nursing jobs are fewer while competition is greater. It takes even more hustle, dedication and tenacity to land a job today than it did for your parents.

Having a degree isn’t always enough and, sorry to break it to you, you aren’t likely to get your dream job right out of nursing school. While that may be disappointing, it also allows you to clarify your expectations and set realistic goals. Here are five things you’ll need to give up – or compromises you’ll have to make – to land your first entry-level nursing job. If you follow our advice and keep on building your professional credentials, you’ll be able to more effectively network, interview, and succeed in the job you are eventually offered.

#1: The Dream Job… –>

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42 Responses to 5 things you need to give up to get a nursing job

  1. Kevin

    I gave up all this stuff months ago and have finally given up hope. I’m a new LPN grad… October 2010 and I started putting apps in in October… I can’t even get an interview and my loans will be kicking in in two and a half months… I was hoping to have had 4 months of payments put aside by then but it looks pretty dismal.. starting to believe I made a mistake in going to nursing school.. I can’t even get an interview for a CNA position…

  2. K.M.

    Don’t give up hope. It’s all about perspective. Kevin, I don’t know where you live at, but where I’m from we have a shortage of male nurses. They usually get hired on spot. There are tons of valuable resources online to assist with your job search. Also, think outside the box. I passed boards in Jan 2010, submitted a bunch of apps. Had 2 interviews mid Feb and started work March 1. But the facility I went to work for was a group home that I had no idea existed until I done some job searches online. Good luck with your search!

  3. Beth

    I’m not sure if this is a kind of negative article or a true representation of nursing in America. But it has made me feel really glad about how things are over here (in Australia). I finished my nursing degree at the end of 2010, and have just started a grad position with my dream company and in the role I’ve always wanted. It will happen for a significant amount of people, but it might just take a while longer than you thought. Also, do you really only get 5-10 days of holidays as a new grad? Coz we get 5-6 weeks a year, and I can’t believe there’s such a huge difference! That’s pretty awful. Anyway, good luck to anyone who’s looking for a position, you’ll find one eventually, nurses are always needed.

    • The vacation time and things of that sort are much less in the US than they are elsewhere in the world.
      From what I’ve read the “nursing shortage” that gets all the hype actually doesn’t exist.

    • TraciB15

      hahaha 5-6 weeks that dont happen anywhere except for general motors employees..i get three holiday pay and thats only at time and a half at GM i got triple time. also we get no real benefits we have to pay out for insurance..they work ya till your crazy tired..no incentives..im sure thats not every where but any where ive checked not to mention having to work every other weekend with no increase in pay and then on call every 6 weeks which you have to end up working possible 16 hrs with no overtime because they dont fill the holes..america is not what it used to be ..oh and very low payed

  4. Noah

    Kevin, maybe you should continue on with your education and get your RN. A bachelors degree in nursing (BSN) would open alot of doors for you.

  5. Alex

    There IS NO nursing shortage. Nursing is COMPLETELY glutted in the States… but schools tell students just the opposite, that they will be able to always get a job, and all sorts of lying BS…
    There wasn’t a nursing shortage 14 years ago when I started, and it’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE for nurses WITH experience to get a job now! It’s all WHO you know, not what you know! It’s all “personality profiles” on the internet before the company will even talk to you now! With this economy, the employers hold ALL the cards.
    NO ONE BUT NURSING HOMES uses LPNs in ANY state. It’s RN or bust.
    Something else the schools would rather die than tell you!

  6. Vince

    This author is so out of touch with the current job market; it’s quite pathetic. Ask most of the new graduates from 08 to now if they would take a new graduate RN position for minimum wage and no benefits. It would be a resounding yes. No one is being picky, we are trying every avenue that might remotely hire a new RN. There are very very few job openings. In southern California hospitals are averaging 600-1000 applications for new grad positions. Even LTCs and SNFs are being selective and almost all of them will not take new graduates.

    Even if hospitals increased hiring by 300% tomorrow, there is no way that they could work through the current backlog of new grad RNs along with the thousands graduating each semester. At the very least it will take many many years.

    I am really tired of people giving the same advice of going back to school to ride out the bad economy. Some of us can’t afford it. Why go back to school and accumulate more debt when you did that in the first place and couldn’t get hired? How is it going to be any better in the future?

    The author needs to get off his/her high horse and come back down to reality with us bottom feeders that he/she despises so much. Do us a favor and pretend to be a new graduate and shop your resume around. Let us know how it goes.

    • jenna g

      Well said, Vince. Thanks, and best wishes to you.

  7. Zuhra Reiss

    Vince, I completely completely agree with you! I graduated in 2008 and just finally on Thursday landed my first hospital job BUT it’s three and a half hours away from where I live. My husband is on the fence about me taking the job. Saying well this is just showing you that you can land a job now. Excuse me?!?! I only landed the job because I was lucky. This job would be the only one I have been offered upon graduation. I have only gotten a total of three interviews, including the job I just landed. I did settle for one year to work at a sub-acute facility which also, surprisingly helped me land the new job. I am taking this hospital job which may cost my marriage to what degree I don’t know. I am turning 41 in March and I am more than ready to finally give up on hours upon hours of searching for jobs. Mentally, I have been squeezed, dried and hung several thousand times. I live in California so it’s been the worse for us nurses here. If you are on any coast, leave and head to small areas where perhaps the luck will increase.

    • TraciB15

      i would never drive more than a half hour for any job 3 1/2 hours there and back is crazy its like working a double..thats insane and crazy no job is worth that

  8. I am a RN with 35 years experiece. I retired to help my husband in our business about 14 years ago. Boy did I have a hard time finding a job. I got one in an acute nursing care facility passing meds. Now listen I have a history of being a DON, Staff Development, and ADON and so on. I hate it! I get pulled all over the building and time. Some days I work 3-ll, 3-7 & 7-11. Short shifts can not make the mustard in paying my bills. It is so hard out there! Me and the other nurses are being abused physically and mentally. I pass meds. to 39 patients and do the charting for medicare and everthing else. Sometimes I get out of the facility at 1:00 AM with no break and my back is killing me. I am not the only one. What is going on!!!!

  9. Um. Wow. Well, I can tell you that there is a serious shortage where I’m from, here in Nashville. I work in an OR that is 6 nursing positions down, begging for help, and busting our butts the whole shift without potty breaks. The surgeons are crazy, the patients are acute and complicated to say the least, and taking call is constant. And we do employ several LPN’s. Nurses have never made all the “glamorous money” people think they do, are severely underpaid, and are at constant risk of abuse, either physically or mentally, meaning high burnout and turnover rates. I think the author of this article is trying to decrease the level of “RN-itis” that so many new grads seem to be inflated with upon commencement. I love the comment about having to empty bedpans. Really? There are nurses (even new ones) who think they don’t have to do that? What do you do, tell the patient laying in his own filth that you’ll send someone in a few minutes cause that’s not part of your job? What kind of real nurse does that? Anyway, seriously, get on careerbuilder.com and type in “nurse”. I promise, a bazillion listings will come up from all over the country. I hope this helps all of you in the job search.

    • adp5h RN

      I live in Nashville. I’ve put in over 150 applications for every RN job I can find and I can’t even get a call back for an interview. I MISS being in the hospital and I would take any pay, no benefits just to be doing it again. I’m starting my RN-BSN in the fall in hopes this will help. In all reality, it’s just deferring my loans and increasing the amount. I just finished applying for a cashier job at Walgreens. Such is life.

      • jenna g

        adp5h,
        I hear you! Make sure you make time to volunteer in your community, both in and outside of healthcare. Its a mean world for new grads in many parts of the country. Hang tough, build connections every time you can. Sadly, it seems nursing is a “its who you know” industry.
        You’ll get there if you build your network. : )

    • TraciB15

      true tennesse and kentucky have a shortage but the rest of america is overloaded with nurses many in which cant find jobs and yes career builders has job offers but no new grad seldom gets hired they all want experienece how can they get it if no one will hire them.

  10. Rebecca

    Graduated June 2008, after 11 humilating interviews I was hired in March 2009 at the age of 49. I am still there working as nightshift med/surg RN. I work in a small county hospital that has recently started swingbeds. If you like ECF than it is wonderful. We are expected to treat the patients and family like they are staying in the Hilton- provide primary care alot.yes I do provide a lot of perineal care! LOL Its not what I was expecting, but at my age I can’t expect more than this. We also hire LPNs. Sometimes I am afraid of threatened violence with the weekend alcohol abuse patients. One Night Supervisor famous saying is suck it up its your job. I would love to get off this night shift but there are not many openings for nurses that is not a distant drive. So I can sympathize!

    • queenie RN

      I agree!!! I also had many humiliating interviews. I had worked many areas, mostly ICU. I got fired because I had patient families report me for not being “Nice” enough. Too bad I was focusing on their loved one and didn’t have time to offer the family a cup of coffee. Now I work in a prison and it is the best job ever! No more sucking up to families; in fact I am not allowed to talk to families. I also do not get written up if my patient doesn’t like me.

  11. Debbie

    There is plenty of jobs in Arkansas in Correctional Medicine for LPNs . This is working in a prison system.
    Not as bad as some think. You do know who to watch out for. They wear white.

  12. I have been an LPN since 2007, and I am preparing to take the RN board presently. I have always been able to land jobs, once I got one that I really did not want, but I had to take it and wait about a month to get another one better suitable. I live in Michigan, in the Detroit metro area, and it seems that there are TONS of jobs around here! I have always read about negative job availability in California; I would never relocate there to work as a nurse. Just my opinion. But Kevin, I don’t know where u live, but as an LPN, there is something that you will get. Best wishes in your job search, and don’t give up. There will always be work for us, ’cause sick people ain’t going nowhere!

  13. Jo

    guys, gals – there’s plenty of work ex US – if you’re new to nursing in the 21st century then maybe consider an out of country experience. There are plenty of places/countries that are critically short of nurses, and while its a real challenge to up stakes and move, it may well be the experience not only of a lifetime, but kick start your career back home once you can fill out your CV a little. If this works for you, then give it a go. What do you have to lose?

  14. Patty

    I worked an Nursing home while in school as a CNA and LPN, now as a RN I can’t get an interview in a hospital. I have paid for and completed ACLS, still can’t get out of LT care. I will be going agency to at least get experience.

  15. Heidi

    So if you work at night and sleep during the day how, exactly, are you supposed to avoid daycare? Are the kids supposed to watch themselves until you wake up?

  16. rhona davis

    I graduated 1980 and the same thing was going on then….”not hiring”….but “nursing shortage”. I was able to get a job right out of school but many c/o they could not even get an interview. I can’t offer any advice. But all of you who are working, your health is the most important. I was injured on the job. Made to feel like a criminal after 10 years with the same hospital and excellent evals….no compensation. An insult of an offer. unable to work since 1990. Look out for #1 when you do get a job. Things are different now than in those days…make a way to get disability ins on your own…nothing to do with the hospital will carry you very far if you do get hurt. And they used my sick days and vacation days to cover me until they cut me off. They changed rules so I could not come back and work as supervisor and made it requirement that every RN had to be able to pick up and move any patient or object … that was not in their books before…I was told not to apply for a job when the Dr released me. Unfortunately I have not been physically able to return to work. I can barely take care of myself. I cannot enjoy my time with grandchildren and was never able to hold any of the 4 of them…I dropped the first one and I was sitting in a recliner propped with pillows all around to help…fortunately his parents were at chariside and prevented him falling/getting injured. Get a job, do a good job, but don’t let them push you around. They were a hazzard when I worked. No physical help. not enough nurses. We actually had 2 RN’s working. No tech’s nor orderlies etc. 20 patients all with IVs most numerous IV’s with many meds…Neuro patients…surgical and new strokes etc. at one point we had 2 codes in different rooms at the same time…which left 18 patients without nurses. Doctors were trying to make rounds….(Sunday morning)….9 am. I loved being a nurse but i hated the politics that the hospital played with our jobs, salaries, staffing, etc. I did not get to go home for 9 years for Christmas because my family lived 1000 miles away…we could not have both Christmas days or New Years day together…we HAD to work one day of each. the last year I worked, I DEMANDED I go home and when they said I could not I had my resignation all typed and ready to turn in. My two weeks notice would be those two weeks. We had a patient who weight so much she had to be weighted on the scales in the department where meat etc came in….almost 500 lbs. broke her bed, broke the hoyer lift, and ruptured 3 discs in my neck. Don’t move anything that unreasonable…NEVER….you will end up like me…living in severe pain, not working, wondering how yuo will pay bills and buy meds and see doctors etc….

  17. Tenra

    It is so sad to see how most of us long time nurses feel about the profession. Taking care of the patients and doing the very best for each and every patient is what I strive for, as most nurses also do.Unfortunately, it continues to be the politics,hours and the pay of each place of employment.Employers not hiring when we are in desperate need of help. I have seen employers not hiring for nearly thirty years nation wide and it has not changed yet. All and all,it hurts the patients. I am tired and put out and looking to get out of the profession.I have not regretted my career,but being a RN does not qualify one for the best pay and benefits. I worked for a exclusive home health agency for 19 years and they discontinued our health insurance in 2006.Before this job,I worked the hospital which put us all on a wage freeze for over a year.I have been working corrections for a few years now because of the great benefits,pay is not bad but I was told 40 hour/week.Guess what? NOT! I have worked 70 plus hours,no OT because we are salary.This is the story of my career. I still have no life,haven’t since I started my career.It is time to become a walmart greeter or try finding gold in them there hills somewhere in this nation.At least I would be one with nature.Yes,this sad,very sad to say the least.The ANA has not made much head way either in getting things changed.I am not the only nurse that feels like this anymore.New nurses try for a year or two and they get out of the business.Patients are not getting the care and it is very disturbing. It is way past due for a wake-up call.

  18. Mary

    They left off any chance of ever having a normal life, you give up lots of family time,and actually having a holiday celebration on the holiday.

  19. Mary

    They left off any chance of ever having a normal life, you give up lots of family time,and actually having a holiday celebration on the holiday.

  20. Judy

    One of the problems with new RNs trying to get a job is they’re idealized about what the job is. I’ve had several nursing students tell me they were told by instructors no more than 4 pts at a time, max. That is not realistic.
    When I lived in KC and had been a tele RN for 5 years, I applied to an intercity hospital. The DON asked why someone with my experience wanted to work there. The new grads in the area were told if they could work there for 6 months, it was the equivalent of 2 years anywhere else. I loved that job and only left when I moved. The work at intercity hosp is grueling, mind numbing, and hazardous at times but it would be a choice for new grads to get their start.

  21. Melissa

    What I see here, in these comments about understaffing, overworked, underpaid, and no benefits, reminds me that the #1 payer of healthcare bills is Medicare & Medicaid. Government sponsored care. If someone TRULY wants to make a difference in the patient-nurse ratios, the dollar amount spent per patient, and the availablility of supplies to do your job… it’s not the administration you should write to, it’s your congress representative!!!
    Regarding the article – As an LPN in LTC (and loving the people I care for) – I am so sick of hearing new & old RN’s gripe about doing hands on care. Really? What did you become a nurse for? What part of wounds, injuries, strokes, MIs, amputations, gangrene & C-Diff did you think would be enjoyable???
    I’ll tell you what part is enjoyable – watching someone get better and walk out!!! I also find joy in knowing when someone isn’t suffering anymore! There’s more to nursing than a paycheck & cute scrubs!

  22. Pammy1369 Caption Contest

    I know nursing sucks some times, the pay, the hours, and the work load! Luckily I was given the best piece of advice in school, if you’re doing this for money, GET OUT! Seriously, it’s not worth it! I work 12 hour shifts on a cardiac floor and a family. We were recently bought out by a company and are all struggling with being under appreciated and overworked! Through all of my hard days at work, I try hard to remember Why I am doing this. I have the priviledge to work in a much needed profession, the ability to make lives better everyday, and I get to go home everyday feeling good about what I do! I have two families to spend holidays with. (My work family:). I feel truly blessed to be in this profession. Don’t let the business part of our job ruin the most important part:).

  23. Smithteamracing RN

    I have over 20 years of experience and have worked in the same hospital for 11 years. I now worry that my hospital is going to replace me with someone younger and cheaper. Hope to retire in 3-5 years.
    Some things a nurse must give up: weekends…at least a couple every month. Holidays…you will have to spend some major holidays working. And many new grads are going to have to accept night shifts.
    Good luck to all the new grads. I know it is tough right now but do think it will improve eventually.

  24. jenna g

    This article left me thinking the author needs a dose of reality. I am a 48 year old “new grad” RN I have no fantasies about “deserving’ some dream hospital job offering extraordinary pay, vacation, and leadership opportunities. Really, it would seem the writer believes all new RNs are spolied children with no common sense. I can’t think of even ONE classmate that would benefit from reading this article. We’ve all held other jobs, some of us for years. In fact, I’d say new RN’s are less prone to magical thinking than the average student! The comments on this article would support that too.

    What would the article writer have to say to a 49 year old new RN who has only applied to long term care and ambulatory care facilities and yet has not even garnered so much as a phone interview in over 6 months. I do not have a weak resume, nor an age weakened body. I’m more than willing to work weekends and nights, can long distance commute, have a solid history as a positive team player, and have great references. I only wish my lack of employment had anything to do with the silly “5 Things” mentioned in this article. How about a rational piece on coping with age discrimination for we “silly” second career nurses?

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  27. Smithteamracing RN

    I’ve been a RN for 27 years and there has always been RN jobs. BUT hospital go through cycles where they won’t hire any new grads–costs to much to train them…. Of course, in a couple of years when the shortage gets acute they start crying about a shortage. Hospitals are getting higher ratings & money based on the number of BSN’s they have. The hospital I work at only hires new grads with BSNs but they have to relocate so many of them don’t stay very long. All RN’s are hired per diem and usually nights….and they get first choice when a regular position opens up. In California LVN’s are used mostly in long term care.

    Don’t give up & consider moving. And you may need to consider a hospital in the inner city. Nursing is a good career so don’t give up. Things will change eventually…I know that doesn’t help with the bills now!! Good luck & God bless.

  28. AliceTrout Student

    I know the market is tight in some locations, but not everywhere. I graduate in 8 days. I already have had 6 interviews, and 6 job offers. During a welcome dinner for new hires, I met numerous people that had relocated to this area to get a job, because they couldn’t find one in California, Washington, etc. Moving isn’t an option for every new grad, but it does seem help to get your foot in the door if it is an option.

    I will add that this is not as true for my friends coming out of LPN and ADN programs in this area. While BSNs are being welcomed with open arms in this area, LPNs and ADNs are having a tough time finding jobs outside of nursing homes. Most of the local hospitals have lofty ambitions of becoming magnet status, and so take BSNs over LPNs and ADNs every chance they get.

    As to this authors comments regarding free time…a working schedule (even without spring/summer break) is a huge improvement on nursing school! At least when I get home from a 12 hour shit I won’t have to spend 5 hours on care plans and reading before my next 12 hour hour shift the following day! Time off will actually be time off – not time to catch up on housework, hours of reading, presentations, care plans, and maybe a 1 hour window for a “social life” haha!

  29. hlittle3

    Wow am I glad to be a nursing student in the UK! what I have been reading is pure craziness. The hospital I am training at must have at least 200-300 students at different levels in their training and at present they are offering an 100% employment rate to all of their students. Though if they wanted to move and find a job in another hospital, in another part of the country, they would be very likely to get employment there too. As a student nurse you can expect instant employment in a hospital as standard. We are also have a massive shortage of community nurses which are much needed as the focus is on care at home rather than hospital at the moment. Reading stories like these make me even more proud of the National health service and how healthcare here is seen as a basic human right and not a privilege, and because we don’t have privatisation of healthcare to the extent you guys do we do not see our hospitals as hotels, they are somewhere you go when you are sick, and where you can be cared for and not expect to pay for it. In return, You do not expect luxury and all the added extra frills of a hotel, you expect to get better and that is it. It seems to me that the system in the US is not only flawed because it expects you to be able to pay for your illnesses, but also it leaves good quality nurses who would be appreciated in the NHS over here out in the cold as they do not fit the mould of the hospital or facilities’ particular ‘brand’… Much like a customer service assistant. These big US healthcare businesses (these words do not belong in the same sentence) clearly have warped ideas of what a nurses job is and expect their nurses to be like mini doctors… Also what’s all this LPN RN BSN business? In the UK, you become a nurse, You get a job. There is only one qualification, everyone enters at the same level. Any other higher nursing position you get on the job and train for on the job. I feel sorry for anyone dealing with or involved with healthcare in the US as it’s a sorry state of affairs

  30. MGT21

    The author left out giving up your pride, your shame and your soul.I have had 1 interview in 6 months and judging from the comments that’s pretty good. I would love to further my education as the author suggests, unfortunately tuition to grad school isn’t free.

  31. pedsrn

    I moved from Florida where I was for many years, to Ohio. There are very few jobs, and the demanded requirements are so out of line to the work. Of course it is a way to weed out and screen for best candidates. There is often a stated shortage, but for many areas it is that the facilities are not going to hire, if they can have productivity at 100-110%. While I uphold education, it does not come with competency, and the new nurses cannot find a job as so many places will not fund the necessary orientation. It has become abusive, and with the economy, take it or walk. There are many great facilities and there are many more poorly staffed, poorly run facilities. I would love to return to school, but I refuse to fund an advanced degree to spend time working making a salary that does not pay for the cost of the education. I am also at a loss as to why any place would adopt a schedule to make staff work day and night shift in the same week. It is so unhealthy. I am worried about the future of nursing, not the educators and researchers, but the actual nurses that are on the front line fighting against an autocratic dictatorial manager, patients and families that are looking to blame someone, and risks that no sane individual would think to take on. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, we are the only support we have. Many of us have to work, and until we find our voice for common sense change and safe working conditions, we will continue to see the exodus.

  32. maxmason1

    Here the strait truth for nurses. The trend for nursing will go up and then go down. The market is flooded with RN’s due to all the drama of severe shortages over the last few years. But the big change is coming nursing will be taking major cuts in pay and the transformation is being done quietly. There have been talks of the 2 for 1. Meaning they bring 2 RN’S IN AT 16-18.00/HR to replace one that was at 36.00/hr. If you think this can’t happen think again. It’s happening all over corporate America. And with high paying jobs on the decline people are filling these lower paying jobs and keeping them. The ladder which one climbs to get to top pay has been extended, for example it used to be about 8 years and you hit top pay now its been extended to 12-13. In Ohio one hospital was almost 28 years till you got 35.00/hr. The wage caps are being lowered so top pay is decreasing.So it sounds bleak but it’s the truth. So if your thinking of being a nurse I don’t think the investment into 4 years of college is worth it for this degree. There are other ways to invest in yourself. Keep in mind your working the worst hours for companies that don’t offer any retirement and will not even match percentages or extremely little. This is not a great field to go into. Oh and by the way all you folks thinking that your going to anesthesia school to make the big bucks, well think again their getting their hairs trimmed back as well. Their wages and benefits are getting reduced because there are tons of them out there looking for work.