The “nursing experience” myth debunked

Images By: Peter Dazeley

Every nurse has been told this during a conversation about job opportunities: “You need to get some regular floor experience before you specialize.”

You can paint it any color you want, but most nurses who hear this are either new graduate nurses or are seasoned nurses who are trying to dive back into the clinical world.

I’m here to tell you it’s a MYTH. It’s an urban legend. There is NO theoretical evidence that a nurse needs prior experience in order to perform well at a chosen job. Okay, maybe there is, but in my travels as a nurse I’ve never seen this myth supported in any way.

I was one of the lucky ones. When I started as a nurse, all specialty nursing units (ICU) were frothing at the mouth for nurses. They didn’t care how much experience you had–as long as you were willing to go the extra mile, they hired ya. And I’m not talking some small four- or eight-bed suped-up telemetry unit, I’m talking urban teaching hospitals with level 1 trauma status.

As my career progressed, the needs and wants of nursing units changed, and then the economy dropped the infamous ball. Now we’re back to square one, with many specialty nursing units shunning away from new grads with no experience. I’m not sure if it was the strain on the economy or some weird paradigm shift?

What I can tell you is this: In my short tenure as a nurse, I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I’ve seen a seasoned critical care nurse from another hospital with umpteen years of experience fail miserably at a new job in critical care. And I’ve also seen a green-behind-the-ears new grad with no experience shine and become a hard-charging, take-the-lead nurse who scoffs in the face of danger.

I personally don’t think it has anything to do with want or need or ability or personality. I think it has everything to do with desire, willingness and cojones.

I can say with 100% certainty that you are either built for this job or you aren’t. There is no grey area in critical care. You either survive or your drown. I like to make the parallel comparison to our profession in general–you are either built to be a nurse, or you aren’t.

The next time someone feeds you this line of bull, be sure and explain to them why you would be a perfect fit for the job. Convince them they could use a nurse like you. Or don’t you have the cojones?

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