Three steps to finding your dream job.
Whether you’re a new or an experienced nurse, you may not know where you’ll end your career or even what your next step will be. But with a little guidance, you can find a supportive organization and the opportunities you need to drive your career.
Confirm the culture before you say “yes”
The single most important decision you make in your nursing career is choosing an organization you can trust with your future. Nursing is an incredible career because it meets you where you are in life—as long as you partner with the right organization. Use these three steps to help you make the right choice for your future.
Step 1: Evaluate up-front offerings
In today’s competitive nurse recruitment atmosphere, many distractions may lure you into taking a position with an organization that’s not right for you. For example, an organization might offer you:
- Sign-on bonuses. Large sign-on bonuses may be offered for positions that are considered hard to fill; however, they also can be used in organizations or units with high turnover and less-than-appealing working conditions. Seek to understand the driving force behind the sign-on bonus.
- Absence of commitment contracts. Many organizations require a commitment in return for their investment in your education and onboarding, particularly for new graduates completing a residency. An organization that doesn’t require a commitment may not offer much support. Evaluate the value the organization is offering compared to the commitment required.
- Scheduling promises. In acute- and subacute-care settings, off-shifts and weekends must be covered. Don’t get hung up on landing the perfect schedule; positioning yourself for a growth opportunity may require that you work a less desirable shift for a while.
Step 2: Evaluate leadership
Your growth and support within an organization will depend on its leaders. Take the time to research the organization’s leadership before you commit.
- Research the top leaders (chief executive officer, chief nurse executive, chief nursing officer). Find out what these leaders are passionate about. Do their priorities align with yours?
- Identify the organization’s mission statement and core values. How do the organization’s mission and values directly impact its culture?
- Shadow in the department (if possible). Shadowing is a great way to show you’re seriously interested in a position, network with future colleagues, and gain insight into the department’s environment.
- Speak with nurses. Seek out nurses who work in the department you’re interested in. Shadowing will make this easy.
- Read reviews. When reading reviews, look for general themes. For example, one employee’s complaint of leadership on the organization’s social media or an employer review website such as Glassdoor shouldn’t dissuade you if most of the reviews are positive.
- During your interview, ask questions that focus on growth opportunities. Ask about nursing councils, preceptor opportunities, educational conferences, tuition reimbursement, and details of structured clinical advancement. For example, many organizations have a defined clinical ladder.
- Seek to understand the benefits package. Become knowledgeable about essential benefits such as health insurance, and check for benefits that fit with your needs, such as fertility benefits if you’re planning a family.
- Learn about educational support options. Find out if the organization supports further education, certification, conferences, and other professional opportunities.
Step 3: Evaluate workplace environment
Take a deep dive into the clinical components of the organization, unit, and position that will shape your day-to-day work experience.
- Nurse-to-patient ratios. How many patients are assigned to a nurse during each shift?
- Patient acuity. Does the nurse-to-patient ratio match the standard based on patient population acuity? For example, an intensive care unit’s ratio may be 2:1 while a medical unit’s may be closer to 5:1.
- Clinical resources. Does the organization have nurse support services? For example, does it have vascular access nurses, patient transportation assistance, and 24-hour environmental services support?
- Employee satisfaction scores. How do nurses in the organization rank their engagement and satisfaction? Many organizations publish a nursing annual report you can find online. You also may want to ask a few questions about nursing engagement and satisfaction during the interview process.
- Nurse engagement. Do frontline nurses sit on systemwide councils? Are they involved in a peer-review process? How are nurses involved in unit performance improvement?
After you say “yes”
You may have found an organization you trust with your future and started your new job, but your work isn’t done. You must now invest time and energy to develop a relationship with your leadership team. Just as care for your patients should be a partnership, forming a partnership with your leaders also is important. Here are a few ways to develop good leadership relationships.
- Get involved. Join councils and committees, and find other opportunities to support your unit.
- Be a role model. Model good behavior at all times; be reliable, offer support whenever possible, and become known for your positive attitude.
- Be open to change. Embrace innovation, including new processes, equipment, and colleagues.
- Discuss your goals and priorities. Speak with your manager regularly about your professional goals.
- Ask for feedback. Seek feedback from managers and colleagues and make positive adjustments in response to what you learn.
Continued success and satisfaction
The last (and possibly the most important) piece of the puzzle is listening to your own needs. As a nurse, your work options include everything from per diem arrangements to full-time, salaried positions. When you choose the option that best fits your needs, you’re more likely to bring your best to work each day, which ensures future opportunities will be open to you.
Take the time to research what’s important to you and what an organization has to offer before you say “yes.” Your future self will thank you.
Jessica Rhoades is the director of nursing and advanced practice clinician recruitment at ChristianaCare in Wilmington, Delaware.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. What Every Nursing Student Should Know When Seeking Employment. aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/Publications/Brochures/SeekingEmployment.pdf