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Ready, set, get hired

By: By Mary E. Fortier, EdD, RN, CNL

Use the nursing process to find the job that’s right for you.


  • Use the nursing process as a guide to your job search: assess, diagnosis, plan, implement, and evaluate.
  • Consider the benefits of working for an organization that’s achieved Magnet® recognition.
    Professional growth requires ongoing assessment and evaluation.

By Mary E. Fortier, EdD, RN, CNL

You’ve graduated. You’ve passed the NCLEX-RN examination. You’re an RN!

Now, how do you begin your professional career? What qualities are you looking for in an employer? Have you researched your potential employers? What benefits—personal, professional, and financial—do they offer? Do they have opportunities for advancement? Do their mission and vision statements align with your beliefs? Do they have Magnet® Recognition? All of these questions, as well as the qualities that set you above others looking to fill the same position, should guide your employment decision.

Where should you begin?

Many nurses say, “I need a job, any job.” Don’t give in to that refrain. You’re a nurse—a member of the most trusted profession—and you’re the reason patients recover successfully and learn new behaviors to improve their health outcomes and literacy. You’re why institutions achieve Magnet Recognition, and you’re a key member of the healthcare team. So start by remembering the nursing process.

  • Assessing. Assess yourself and your potential employers.
  • Diagnosing. Will these organizations provide an environment that promotes your professional growth?
  • Planning. Do your research. Who is your potential employer? What qualities will you bring to the organization?
  • Implementing. Update your résumé, submit applications, meet with recruiters, and follow up.
  • Evaluating. Make evaluation a life-long process that takes into account new professional and personal goals and priorities.


When assessing possible places of employment, consider the setting; is it a hospital, clinic, community organization, or school? If it’s a hospital, is it a teaching institution or a small community-based facility? Has it achieved Magnet Recognition? (See Benefits of Magnet Recognition.)

ready set get hired benefits

What does the position require? Do you need an associate degree, a baccalaureate degree, prior experience, or specialty certifications? What’s the salary? What benefits does the organization provide—health insurance, retirement plans (and what percentage is matched), paid vacation time, educational benefits (school and continuing education)? What opportunities for professional growth and career advancement do they offer?

ready set get hiredNow for the challenging part: self-assessment. In an interview, you’ll probably be asked what qualities you possess that set you apart from other applicants and how you see yourself as an asset to the organization. In preparing to answer these questions, consider your education, communication and critical-thinking skills, and ability to be self-directed and handle challenges. Include an example of each quality in action. Also think about where you see yourself professionally in 5 years and 10 years. Will your potential employer provide the assistance and support to help you achieve those goals?


Review your potential employer’s mission and vision statements. How do they define patient care goals, community goals, and staff and healthcare provider involvement? Does the organizational chart support open communication, nursing education and advancement, improved patient outcomes, and healthy communities? Is the chief executive officer a nurse? How is the organization viewed by the community it serves and by the RNs and staff they employ?


Based on your diagnosis, weigh the benefits of all your potential employers and how they measure up. List the benefits each organization provides, including salary, health insurance, tuition support, paid vacation, and personal time. You’ll also want to note the nurse turnover rate, how much voice employees have in the day-to-day and long-range projections of patient care, community interaction with the organization, overall work environment, and opportunities for professional growth and career advancement.
After you’ve completed the list, rate each potential employer based on your personal priorities. A side-by-side comparison of possible positions will show you how each provides what you’re seeking. For example, if you want summers and school holidays off because of family commitments, a school nurse position may meet your goals. And although a hospital with Magnet Recognition is ideal, you must weigh that along with other factors. Is location important to you? Then maybe the local hospital is the right choice, even if it doesn’t have Magnet Recognition.


Begin implementing your plan by updating your résumé and submitting applications to the organizations you’ve selected as being the best professional and personal fits. Follow up on your applications and meet with nurse recruiters. After all interviews and meetings, write a thank-you note that acknowledges the time of those you met with and includes a sentence or two about how you align with their mission and values and that you’re certain you’d be a valued member of their healthcare team and an asset to the organization.


Just as education is a life-long process, so is evaluating your professional and career plan. RNs are always learning, which may lead to different professional venues. So, keep evaluating. Will the organization provide you with the education, knowledge, and skills you’ll need to reach your future goals?

An ongoing process

Taking the nursing process approach to your job search will help you prioritize your needs and goals and determine the right job and organization fit for you. And remember, professional growth requires ongoing assessment and evaluation to ensure that your career doesn’t stagnate and that you continue to achieve new goals you set for yourself.

Mary E. Fortier is an associate professor in the department of nursing at the New Jersey City University in Jersey City.

Selected references

ANA Career Center staff. 4 ways to get your nursing job search off to a great start. American Nurses Association. September 2015.

Malugani M. Find your first healthcare job: Tips from new graduates. Monster.

Papandrea D. 10 tips to help you get your first nursing job. Nurse.org. July 8, 2015.


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