1. Perkins, Amanda DNP, RN

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You've passed the NCLEX and now it's time to face the next hurdle, finding a job. Currently in the nursing field, finding a job is relatively easy because of the nationwide shortage; the difficult part is finding the right job. This is extremely important for you, the new graduate nurse. It's easy to become mesmerized by a job with great pay or an ideal schedule, but those aren't the only things to consider. Before you accept and dive in, you should make sure that you're taking a job that will support you in the transition from nursing student to nurse. We're seeing unsustainable working conditions, high turnover rates, and high levels of stress reported by nurses.1 These factors can lead to an undesirable work environment, no matter the pay or schedule. A supportive and healthy work environment is essential for all nurses, but more so for the new graduate nurse who's no longer able to lean on faculty for support and is now responsible for the choices made and care provided. This article will provide practical advice and tips for the new graduate nurse searching for the right job.


Building your resume

First, it's important to discuss the resume. In many instances, applying for a nursing job always starts with developing the right resume for your desired position. A well-rounded resume can help you stand out and grab the attention of hiring managers. Pay attention to the job posting and identify key words to highlight in your resume.2 You can find many of these key words under the qualifications or requirements sections.2 For example, some job postings may prefer an individual who has experience with a specific electronic health record or documentation system. If you've previously used that documentation system, include that skill in your resume. If you don't have experience with that system but pick up on new systems quickly, add that information to your cover letter.


Develop a resume that's straightforward and easy for the potential employer to read.2 Resumes should be short, highlighting your strengths and accomplishments. Include relevant information without a lot of "fluff."2 Employers often review multiple resumes and avoid spending excess time on a single resume. Adding too much or irrelevant information can distract from key experience that you want the employer to notice.2 For example, don't include a babysitting job that you held 15 years ago. Really think about the information that you want to highlight, focusing on those key words in the job posting. You want to align yourself with the organization and position. Another tip is to review the organization's mission statement and use those key words in your resume.


It's essential to ensure that your resume is grammatically correct and doesn't contain any spelling errors. A simple grammatical error could mean the difference between an interview or a rejection. Don't use a fancy font to try to stand out because this could lead an employer to overlook you. The goal is to develop a resume that looks professional. Best practice is to use fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman with a font size between 10 and 12.2


Be aware that the new graduate nurse resume will differ from the standard resume.3 For example, as a new graduate nurse you may need to place more emphasis on your education rather than your work experience. The new graduate nursing resume should include the following:3


* a summary or objective


* licenses and certifications


* education history


* clinical rotations


* work experience


* volunteer history


* additional skills



Be sure to omit any of these sections if they don't pertain to you, avoiding any blank spaces. As you go through nursing school, pay attention to your clinical rotations and keep track of hours, skills that you've obtained, and places where you completed your clinical rotations. Take note of any electronic health records or systems that you gain experience with and add these to your resume. You may not yet have clinical experience as a nurse, but the experiences you acquired during nursing school are beneficial and can help your resume stand out.


When developing your resume, make sure to include your nursing license. Note the state your license is issued in, the expiration date, whether you have a compact license, and the associated license number.3 Include any additional certifications such as basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, and the like. Add relevant information such as the ability to speak multiple languages to make your resume stand out from the crowd.3 You should also include any awards that you've received, such as a clinical excellence award.


If you feel at a loss or are struggling with the development of your resume, you can reach out to the student support center at your school. These centers often have individuals available who can assist with the development and proofreading of a resume. Pay attention to college emails as the year is ending because these centers will often send out emails with information about how to get assistance with resume building. You can also find a variety of resume templates online or included in your word processing software. If using these templates, remember to customize them to your own achievements and skills.


What to look for

One of the most important aspects of a nursing job, especially a job for a new graduate nurse, is a comprehensive orientation. Many organizations offer a transition to practice program, which is beneficial because they provide structured support to the new graduate nurse and have been associated with decreased attrition and improved patient outcomes. With that said, some organizations don't have these programs in place but do offer a great orientation. The most effective orientation programs span 1 year in length.4 This doesn't mean that the nurse is working one-on-one with a preceptor for a year; it simply means that the new graduate nurse will have support for a year. In many cases the new graduate nurse will work independently but still have meetings with a preceptor or mentor to discuss questions, challenges, and so on.


Longer orientation times, specifically orientations lasting longer than 4 months, are associated with increased satisfaction among new graduate nurses.5 Look for organizations with orientations lasting at least 4 months and those that have patient-centered care, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, safety, teamwork, and information technology as essential core competencies.5 It's also important to look for organizations that put time and resources into properly training nurse preceptors. Properly trained preceptors will enhance the orientation process for the new graduate nurse.5 Preceptors are important because they provide support, knowledge, and guidance.5 Preceptors who are properly trained will learn how to provide feedback and foster clinical judgment.5


It would also be beneficial for you to seek out organizations that offer leadership training to those in leadership positions within the organization. Leadership training is beneficial because it helps to ensure that an organization is free from bullying, places emphasis on enhanced continued education and professional development, and understands how to build an effective team.4 Search for organizations that recognize and support nurses by providing benefits such as tuition reimbursement and support for enhanced education.4


Look for organizations with balanced working conditions because those that provide access to support, resources, information, and opportunities to grow have been found to be better for nurses.1 These opportunities create a healthier work environment. In general, healthier work environments are composed of leaders who show appreciation toward their employees.1 Another component of the healthy work environment is effective communication.1 Many people have worked in those environments in which communication was lacking or ineffective. This can lead to frustration and uncertainty in the workplace. Examples of ineffective communication may include an overall lack of communication from those in leadership positions, poor nurse-to-nurse shift rapport, and aggressive or passive-aggressive communication techniques.


Lastly, don't forget about the benefits. A great benefits package is essential and something that can be easily overlooked, especially if this is your first job. You want to work for an organization that offers good health insurance, money toward retirement, and vacation days. Sometimes organizations will also offer money for professional development and continued education. This is important if pursuing continued education is a goal.


Questions to ask

The interview process can be challenging and intimidating, but it's important for you to ask the tough questions and advocate for yourself. For starters, ask about the orientation program. Ask for information on the program including its essential core competencies and the length. It's also important to determine how competency is evaluated: Do you perform a task once and then get cleared by your preceptor? Or are you given multiple opportunities to complete a task before getting cleared?5 Ask how many preceptors you'll have. It's better to have one versus multiple because everyone does things a little differently and learning multiple approaches can be challenging. Ask if the organization offers customized training, which has been shown to be more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach.4


It's important to ask and ensure whether the organization has a zero-tolerance policy for nurse-to-nurse incivility. Nurse-to-nurse incivility can lead to increased stress for nurses, especially new graduate nurses who are just getting their footing. Another relevant question to have answered is about nurse-to-patient ratios. What is the expected workload? How many licensed nursing assistants are scheduled on the unit that you'll be working on? You may also want to ask about turnover. Has this been a problem? If yes, how has it been addressed?


Ask about the benefits package. Once an organization gives a job offer, it should also provide an explanation of benefits. You should review the benefits package, including the health insurance, vacations, and tuition reimbursement. Make sure that the benefits package is acceptable. A higher rate of pay paired with a high-deductible benefits package could ultimately correlate with a lower rate of pay when compared with a job that pays less but requires the employee to spend less on health insurance. Remember to look at the full picture.


If possible, seek out a peer who works for the organization where you've applied. In many instances, speaking with a current or former employee can provide the most accurate insight. You need to be mindful that you're trying to sell yourself in a job interview. Likewise, the organization is also trying put its best foot forward and as a result may not be fully transparent. If something doesn't feel right, investigate it further.


Your career starts now

Keep in mind that you'll never find a nursing position that requires no work from you. Although you need to find a good organization to work for that fits all your needs, you also need to meet the requirements for success. You need to be willing to identify your own weaknesses and work toward improving them. For starters, put in the work to develop a strong resume and ask the tough questions during your interview. You can do this!


On the web

How to create a new grad nursing resume

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5 tips for new nurse grad orientation


10 resume writing tips to help you land a position




1. Moloney W, Fieldes J, Jacobs S. An integrative review of how healthcare organizations can support hospital nurses to thrive at work. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(23):8757. [Context Link]


2. Indeed Editorial Team. 10 resume writing tips to help you land a position. 2022. [Context Link]


3. Indeed Editorial Team. How to create a new grad nursing resume. 2021. [Context Link]


4. Health. 5 tips for new nurse grad orientation. Wolters Kluwer. 2017. [Context Link]


5. Laflamme J, Hyrkas K. New graduate orientation evaluation: are there any best practices out there. J Nurses Prof Dev. 2020;36(4):199-212. [Context Link]