The First Year After Nursing School

You're graduating from nursing school! Now what?

Graduation day has arrived, you've completed nursing school and you're ready to conquer the world. Now it's time to tackle the NCLEX–the culmination of everything you've learned in nursing school. So what do you do now? Well if you've applied yourself in you studies over the last few years, don't sweat it. Follow these simple steps and you'll be fine.

  • 1. Obtain a copy of the NCLEX book at the beginning of nursing school. Use the book to study for your tests. It will not only help you pass your tests in school, it will start familiarizing you with the NCLEX style of questions and prepare you to pass the NCLEX following graduation.

  • 2. Set a daily study schedule for NCLEX. If you study for the NCLEX routinely throughout your schooling, passing the NCLEX will be a breeze. Working 1-2 hours a day on NCLEX will ensure you're ready.

  • 3. Participate in a NCLEX review course. This step is optional, but recommended. Most students who participate in the course say it was useful for learning testing strategies and becoming familiar with the style of questions presented and answering formats expected by NCLEX.

  • 4. Expand your studying to include books, CDs, and online review resources. Using other resources for studying will help you cover a broader range of questions you might encounter on the actual test.

Finding Your First Job as an RN
Graduating from nursing school and passing the NCLEX are admirable accomplishments, but you're still just at the beginning of your journey. You have the qualifications, and you're getting your license, now it's time to find your first job.

Although there are many nursing positions to fill, searching for your first nursing job can an interesting, if not daunting, experience, with much to consider. The following are a few of the most important factors you'll want to think about.

  • Location
    Nurses are in demand, but they aren't in demand everywhere. If you're one of the lucky few, who live near a large metropolitan area that offers a large selection of hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities chances are you'll find a good job. However, if you live in an rural area, with fewer resources, you may not be so lucky. Location can have a big impact on what type of nursing job you'll get and how much you'll earn right out of nursing school. If you live in a rural area, but have the ability to move to a large city or state with higher demand for nurses, you may have an easier time finding a good job with greater earning potential.

  • Competition
    While large cities and populous states tend to provide the greatest number of positions for nurses, there's another factor to consider: competition. How much competition are you going to face in the area you choose to work? For example, Erie, PA is home to four reputable colleges that offer RN programs. Between these four institution, each year they churn out hundreds of nursing graduates. Unfortunately, Erie only has two hospitals that don't hire hundreds of new nurses a year. Competition for each coveted opening that arrises at either hospital is intense. In the face of competition, you either have to stand out from the competition or be willing to relocate to an area where employment opportunities are more favorable.

  • Making Initial Contact
    Sometimes making intial contact is the hardest step in obtaining your first nursing job. You're just out school, you have very little real-world work experience and the proposition of having to now market yourself and your skills is a bit daunting. But don't despair, you can do it.

    Get started by developing an employer-focused resume that communicates a strong value proposition to potential employers. Instead of focusing on what you want, use your resume to communicate how the skills you've developed will help the employer and are directly applicable to the position they're looking to fill. Do your research and become intimately familiar with each prospective employer and position. Then tailor your resume to address the unique character and needs of each company and position you apply to.

    Don't be shy. Once you've submitted your resume for consideration, take the time to follow up with the HR department or hiring manager and express your interest and desire to interview for the position for which you applied.

    As you start landing interviews, you want to make sure you stand out from the other candidates in a positive way. Without coming off arrogant or cocky, exude confidence and professionalism.

Tips for Your First Year as a Nurse
You're in the door, you've received a few job offers, you're feeling a little bit more stability and now you're really ready to conquer the world. How do you proceed? The following are some sage career tips and advice for first year RNs.

  • 1. Even though you're going to be anxious to find a job, make sure the position you choose is a good fit for you. If you can't find a position that meets your expectation in the area where you're currently residing, consider moving to a different area. A lot of people do it. Remember, you're going be working at your job day after day pulling long and demanding shifts. If you're unhappy with your job, life may get a little bit miserable. Your first job also begins to set the direction of your future career, so if you can afford to pass up a few offers that aren't really appealing to you, it's okay to hold out until you find a good fit.

  • 2. Once you've accepted a position and are on the job make sure to familiarize yourself with where the resources are on the unit, but make sure to ask questions if you need some assistance–or are unsure of a procedure. Don't let your pride or fear of asking questions put you or your patient in a compromising situation. When it comes to your patients, safety always comes first. The only dumb question, is the one you don't ask.

  • 3. Refer to your nursing books and other references sources to refamiliarize yourself with specific areas of practice, procedures and conditions you may be working with. No one expects you to have perfect memory, especially when the last time you studied the subject was 2 or 3 years ago.

  • 4. Most direct patient care is now provided via a team effort. Physicians, nurses, technicians and physician assistants work together to provide reliable and comprehensive health services in an effort to maximize patient outcomes. As such, it's important that you become a team player early on. Take the time to get to know all the other healthcare professionals you'll be working with early on. Establishing rapport with make your job easier, more productive and more enjoyable.

  • 5. Your nursing license is your permission slip to work as nurse. Make sure not to do anything that would jeopardize it. Never falsify or alter patient records, neglect a patient, violate probation or conduct yourself in any manner that may be viewed as unprofessional.

  • 6. Don't be scared to push yourself. From time to time you'll be presented with situations that require skills and abilities you have not yet developed. Take the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and tackle harder tasks that will help you build new knowledge, skill and confidence. When tackling a new and demanding situation for the first time, make sure there is a more experienced nurse or physician available to answer any questions you may have or help assist if things become overwhelming.

  • 7. Sometimes it's beneficial to get to know the people you work with outside of work. Take the opportunity to attend functions held outside of work.

If you prepare well, find the right job in the right location, aren't afraid to ask questions, are willing to step outside your comfort zone to tackle challenging tasks, and will focus on being team player, your first year of being a nurse can be one of the most fulfilling and exciting times of your career.

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