April 2013

Five Tips for Graduating Nurses

scope of practice

Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent by 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But landing the job is just the beginning. Settling into a nurses’ first job isn't necessarily a cakewalk. Before the Class of ’13 heads to Commencement on May 21, here are some tips as they transition from the ivory tower to the working world.

1. Showcase passion for something in your resume. "The resumes that stand out to me show volunteer work, working on a medical mission, things that reveal a potential candidate has a passion for something," says Mary-Ann Radioli, RN, MA, Director of Nurse Recruitment at Maimonides Medical Center, in Brooklyn, NY, one of the hospitals where CUSON students fulfill their clinical hours.

As with any field, experience is key to landing a job in nursing. Externships enhance a job candidate’s application, says Radioli, especially something out of the ordinary. She recently interviewed a nurse who volunteered on The Mercy Ships, a fleet of ships that provides free maxillofacial surgeries to disfigured patients in West Africa.

And experience doesn’t necessarily have to be restricted to the nursing realm. Leadership in community service or within a sorority make candidates’ resumes stand out to Radioli from the piles on her desk. “Candidates with prior degrees in fields like psychology and communications often make great nurses who communicate well with patients,” she says. One of Radioli’s recent hires was a former journalist who had worked in Beijing and spoke several Chinese dialects.

2. Once you get the job, don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it. “Dealing with a sick patient’s family or a patient’s death can be very stressful, especially for a new nurse,” says Sunni Levine, MS, CPNP, Assistant Director of the Entry to Practice Program at CUSON. “Don’t be afraid to ask for support when you are in an emotional situation. Reach out to the HR department where you work and see if counseling is available if you need it.” When Levine first started working as a nurse in the pediatric ICU at Jacobi Medical Center, she had a tough time when a child died. Taking advantage of the counseling services at the hospital helped her cope.

“When the job gets difficult, participate in the activities that make you feel good,” says Levine. “It could be listening to music, going out with your friends, or exercise.”

3. Be prepared to give emotional support to patients and families. “Sometimes recent grads neglect the emotional component to the patient relationship because they are focused on effectively accomplishing their tasks,” says Radioli. “Nursing is a relationship-based model. Nurses have to be present and fully engaged to relate to patients and their families.”

Radioli suggests that the first task for nurses is to introduce themselves to patients and families during daily rounds. Then they should ask if there is anything they can do to help the patient.

4. Be a team player. Teamwork is a requirement in nursing; otherwise nothing would ever get done. In Dr. Atul Gawande’s book “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right,” he argues that health care has evolved into teamwork, rather than remain an individual effort. The caregiving team may include medical interns, NPs, nurses, attending doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, dieticians, social workers and respiratory therapists.

On a strong team everyone should respect each other. “Introduce yourself to the unit clerk on the first day,” says Levine. “Respect everyone on the unit from the head nurse to the janitor. Give respect and you’ll get it back.”

Radioli agrees. “Make sure you aren’t speaking in a condescending manner when you work with patient care techs,” she says. “Many of them have worked there for many years and can teach you a lot. Understand the different roles of your coworkers on the unit. Even though you are new, ask if anyone else needs help.”

5. There are many roles for a nurse—not just at the bedside. Nursing can be a tough job and sometimes nurses need to take a break from the bedside. Fortunately, nurses have opportunities conducting research, working in outpatient facilities, teaching, and administration. Other job opportunities away from the bedside include working for insurance companies to determine whether care is effective and medically necessary, certifying treatments and surgeries, managing patients’ hospital care, assisting with discharge planning and becoming an independent contractor offering holistic serves such as massage, reiki or yoga.