Thriving in a challenging job market


considering-a-jobIn spite of a well-publicized nursing shortage, the job market is currently tight for new graduates and even some laid-off nurses. A sluggish economy has resulted in older nurses delaying retirement, working nurses picking up extra hours and experienced nurses who have been out of the workforce seeking part-time and full-time employment.
Additionally, some facilities simply don’t have the financial or human resources to spend on new graduate orientation. And while some of these trends are predicted to be temporary, you can’t necessarily afford to “ride it out” and stay unemployed for any length of time.

So what’s a new graduate or a laid off nurse to do in challenging times? Here are five surefire ways to successfully launch your career.

1. There’s more than one horse in the race. Ride one.

If hospital work is what you want, keep looking—but in the meantime, seek other opportunities in nursing. Extended unemployment wreaks havoc with your confidence and psyche, and does nothing for your resume or marketability. You can always make a change down the road.  These opportunities could be: A clinic, school nurse position, any doctor office, public health positions, medical staff in a gym, nursing home, health educator in a community setting, etc.

2. Volunteer somewhere health-related.

Volunteering while you seek paid employment has many benefits. You can get some great experience and make good contacts. It also gives you something to discuss in an interview and can help to beef up your resume. Additionally, volunteer positions sometimes turn into paid employment. Consider a blood bank or local public health department.

3. Explore job options.

You can get good experience in acute and long-term rehabilitation facilities, long-term and sub-acute care, and a new type of care facility known as long term acute care (LTAC). Interested in pediatrics? Consider a pedi rehab facility. Does OB-GYN intrigue you? Consider a birthing center or Planned Parenthood clinic. Ismed-surg what you crave? Seek out an inner-city medical clinic or large cardiology practice. There are many ways to enter the profession.

4. Join your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (

Immerse yourself in the community of nursing. Join the ANA and attend meetings in your local area. Not only will you create a support system in your new profession, but you’ll also learn about trends and issues. Get active by joining a committee or working on a special project—it helps you to become known and develop opportunities to seek feedback, advice, mentoring and job-search help from experienced nurses.

5. Continue your education.

Look for interesting clinical courses offered by professional associations, education companies and others. Use online continuing education to expand your knowledge base and stay sharp. Consider IV and ACLS certification programs. Just because you don’t have a paying job yet doesn’t mean you have to languish in inactivity. And while you don’t need to immediately jump back into college, you should look into BSN or graduate school options for the future.

With traditional hospital jobs scarce, both new graduates and experienced nurses have to look in new directions for employment. Fortunately, nursing offers many challenging, interesting and rewarding specialties and types of employers. Shed your preconceived notions of what your career should look like and start moving forward.

Donna Cardillo
Donna Wilk Cardillo, RN, MA is the Career Guru for Nurses. She is the Dear Donna columnist for and Nursing Spectrum and NurseWeek magazines. Donna is author of Your 1st Year as a Nurse – Making the Transition From Total Novice to Successful Professional and The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses – Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career . Donna is also creator of Career Alternatives for Nurses® seminars and home study program. Contact Donna at

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