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Top new grad and student nurse questions, answered!

Walking in our shoes is not an easy job by any means. Those who need us, know us. And those who know us know the difference between what the public  ‘thinks’ we do, and what the public ‘knows’ we do.  No one ever said this job was easy, first of which is deciding ‘what’ job you want to pursue! Becoming a nurse only begins after you graduate from school. Now you have to chose which direction?! This is why I think being a nurse is THE GREATEST JOB. You get so many choices!

As a student we all get our fair share of ‘directional’ advice from our educators, our employers, fellow classmates, and of course the myriad of working nurses. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Where should you go? I was inspired by Megan, our Student Nurse Blogger after she posed this very question. So I thought I’d answer her – sorry it took me so long Megan!

Did you always know you were going to end up working where you currently are?

Heck no! Wholly cow! I think I changed my mind every semester while I was a nursing student. Every time we had a new ‘rotation’, the experience would impact and motivate me to either follow that direction or stay as far away from that ‘field’ of nursing. I was a breathe away from OB nursing, and I couldn’t be more sure of how I didn’t like or want pediatrics. I re-visited orthopedics I think over a dozen times, then I went through my critical care rotation! Being in critical care moved me. It excited me, scared me, and sparked an interest in me that still follows me around to this day. During my career as a nurse I stepped away from critical care for about 5 months, and it took me that long to realize how big a mistake that was for me.

My advice, follow your instinct and your desire. What motivates you? What inspires you to want to come back for more? What field of nursing would not be just a ‘paycheck’ or a job? Find a field of nursing that you want to become a part of you.

The only hard part is, sometimes that field isn’t discovered until after you’ve been out there in the workforce, but you’ll know it when it happens.

What are some of the worst jobs you ever held as a nurse?

2 jobs. The first was with a manager that never listened to anything I had to say, never was fair with my needs as an employee, and who played favorites. I was miserable because of the lack of respect and equality. It was a job I endured for almost 9 months before I realized how miserable it was making me.

The second job simply was a job that kept me away from my family and my life outside of work. I like a healthy balance between work and play, and with that job it was all work. It drained the life out of me.

Needless to say both jobs have taught me what I won’t and don’t want in a job.

What nursing jobs weren’t for you?

It took me a long time… a loooong time.. to realize my source of joy came from caring for patients at the bedside. I love to teach, but I love to care for patients more. That immediacy and impact cannot be found anywhere else except right in the ‘thick of things’. And in the world of critical care, the impact you make moves worlds and saves lives. There is nothing better for me. So anything outside of that is definitely not up for discussion.

I’m not much for ped’s or OB either. I admire and respect those nurses for the job they do, it’s just not for me.

People always tell me that “you have to start in med-surg to become a respectful nurse” or “if you work in ICU, you can work anywhere.” So, is there a proper place to start after I graduate?

I wanted nothing more than to type a number of expletives and passionate responses to this horrible fallacy that the ‘older generation’ of nurses love to tell. This scare tactic is a bunch of hog-wash (is that considered an expletive?). This statement is nothing more than an excuse for why some nurse can’t make it in the world of critical care.

As a seasoned ICU nurse who has worked in every setting imaginable – from  large urban hospitals, level 1 trauma centers, to small community facilities; It has EVERYTHING to do with the nurse, not their experience. I have seen green-behind-the-ear new grads excel in the critical care community, and I have seen 5-10 year seasoned nurses fail in that same setting. In my humble opinion, you are either made for that job setting or you are not. You can’t ‘fake’ your way through critical care. You can’t hide what you don’t know. In the end your ability to do your job influences lives. Period. You either rise to the occasion, stand at attention and take hold of the reins, or you drown in the ‘attention to detail’ and miniscule room for error and bow out kindly. It’s a pass or fail. It’s that simple. I for one feel that if you have a true passion and are truly motivated to try your hand in the ICU, GO FOR IT.

Can I just work where my heart leads me?

Yes. That’s the beauty of our profession, the unlimited amount of opportunities and choices.

I hope Megan and all other nursing students will stick your chest out, lift your chin up and handle whatever comes your way. Command, demand and transform your skills and education into a love for our profession. There is no greater joy than living the dream.

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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5 Responses to Top new grad and student nurse questions, answered!

  1. Megan

    Thanks for the advice! These are questions that pop into my mind as a student. I have heard the old “you need to start in med-surge” bit. To be honest with you, my med-surge clinical almost made me want to quit nursing. It was horrible! Just not for me….I don’t think I could handle that many pt’s at a time…ever.

  2. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Megan You are welcome. Go with your gut! Best of luck.

  3. Ana

    Nice article, but in the ICU/MedSurg question you didn’t mention anything about Med Surg. For example in someone is not sure where to start, would it be benificial if they start in MedSurg? Or if someone is thinking of going into OB/L&D/Perinatal/maternity what ever you wanna call in, or even the NICU! would they have a better/broaded knowledge/experience base if they do MedSurg first?
    And if someone doen’t go into MedSurd, and start say in OB… and then a few years down the road they want to try a different area of nursing I don’t know, say ICU or ER, wouldn’t it be easier to witch over if you have that 1-2 years in MedSurd background?
    Thanks!

  4. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Ana – it really doesn’t matter where you start. Follow your instinct, follow your gut, follow your heart. Don’t let anyone ‘tell’ you you ‘need’ this ‘type’ or that ‘type’ of experience first before you go to the field you desire.
    You get out what you put in when it comes to education, skills, and experience as a nurse.
    My advice – go for it.

  5. rainie paul

    Hello everyone,
    I am a new grad with just 8 months experience in the nursing home environment and I am finding it very difficult to obtain a position in the hospital or nursing home. I have been trying for over a year applying but with no positive response. Anyone, can you advise me what I need to do next. Thanks so much.