Helpful Tips on Starting a Nursing Career
Graduates completing their nursing program can look forward to entering a profession that is in great demand. Across the country, there are over 20,000 openings for staff nurses to work in hospitals, clinics, home care, private practice, schools, military service, occupational settings, and health and wellness centers.
Entry-level nursing positions start in the range of $35,000 to $50,000 with additional compensation for overtime, night and weekend work. Given the nationwide nursing shortage, employers often “sweeten the pie” by providing sign-on bonuses of $3,000 to $6,000 along with up to $5,000 in reimbursed relocation expenses. In addition to competitive salaries, employers typically offer benefits packages that include health insurance, vacation and holiday pay, college tuition reimbursement, childcare allowance, flexible scheduling, and pension plans.
The nursing profession offers many challenges and significant rewards to those who enter the field devoted to the calling of relieving human suffering and dedicated to advancing their career. Although it is not difficult finding a job as a new graduate, it does take careful planning to carve out a career as a distinguished Registered Nurse. Here are some practical pointers to accomplish that goal:
Provide quality patient care. This is what your training has prepared you for as a personal caregiver and valuable member of a medical team. Be diligent in establishing a reputation for providing quality patient care and supporting your health organization’s mission. Along with demonstrating core competencies, develop the “people skills” required for you to work comfortably with all types of patients, physicians and other medical staff.
Stay on the cutting edge of medical knowledge. To maintain state licensure and remain in good standing with your employer, you will need to accumulate a number of Continuing Nurse Education credits (CNE’s) each year. In addition to acquiring CNE’s through formal classroom instruction, why not take advantage of the numerous online opportunities for CNE training? (As one example, check out what’s offered on Nursingcenter.com: www.nursingcenter.com/ce/index.cfm).
To stay abreast of medical advancements, trends and social issues that impact the nursing field, take time to regularly read professional publications like Nursing 2001, RN Journal, NurseWeek, RN Magazine, and Journal of the National Black Nurses Association. Some have online versions that you can easily access at your leisure and convenience.
Become more “culturally competent.” Nurses, like physicians and other health practitioners, are challenged to provide care to patient populations that are becoming increasingly culturally diverse. One way to achieve this goal is to take advantage of any in-service training related to heightening cultural sensitivity, working with language translators, and so on. More ambitious RN’s might also consider learning “medical Spanish” in order to better relate to the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States—persons of Hispanic/Latino background. (One example of a medical Spanish program is found at www.idrama.com/MedSpan.htm).
Network with other medical professionals. Topping the list would be other RN’s who have distinguished themselves in their field. Networking contacts can also include nurse educators, career strategists, and nurse entrepreneurs (such as Nurse Legal Consultants), who can all provide valuable perspectives on career advancement issues. Another important avenue for networking is to become involved in one or more professional associations, such as the American Nurses Association and the National Black Nurses Association. The contacts, information sharing, and career resources these associations offer are invaluable for RN’s who are serious about career advancement.
Make yourself more marketable. Like other professions, nursing is a competitive field. As you map out your career path, think about ways to make yourself more marketable. Suggestions: Pursue an advanced degree (M.S.N.) as preparation for becoming an advanced practice nurse. Cross-train in other hospital departments to acquire additional clinical skills. Do volunteer work such as participating in community health fairs. Learn more about computer applications to nursing practice—i.e., “nursing informatics.”
Consider different career options. There was a time when graduating RNs took a job with a hospital and remained there until departure due to maternity and childrearing or, years later, retirement. Today there are many different career options for well-prepared nurses. One option is to be employed as a locum tenens (temporary) nurse or “traveling nurse.” Pursuing this option would allow you to work in various practice settings, with outstanding physician specialists, in different parts of the country or around the world. (For more information, check out the Web sites of some leading nurse staffing firms: www.intelistaf.com,www.atchealthcare.com, www.starmed.com, www.crosscountrytravcorps.com.) More adventuresome nurses might consider “exotic” nursing careers such as working on a cruise ship, or with a traveling entertainment group, or for an athletic franchise.
Balance work and personal life. It’s no secret that nursing is a stressful vocation. The “burnout” rate exceeds that of most professions. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance between professional responsibilities and personal/ family concerns and interests. In short, have a life outside the workplace. Develop hobbies, participate in recreational outlets, and nurture any creative talents that you may have. Above all, enjoy stimulating and enriching experiences with those who are close to you and add meaning to your life.
Give back to the community. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught, every successful person stands on the shoulders of someone else. As you launch your career and prepare for future professional success, don’t forget others who can benefit from your knowledge and experience. Why not join Big Brothers/Big Sisters and mentor someone who has aspirations to enter the medical field, particularly nursing? If you are a gifted writer or speaker, capitalize on your talents in ways that attract other bright minorities to the nursing profession. Even inspiring one person to become an RN can make the difference in the future of health care delivery among people of color.
Answered By: rhl_goyal - 5/17/2006