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Should you say “yes” to the job?

By: Jessica Rhoades, MSN, MBA, RN, PCCN

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.

I landed the dream job I’d never dreamed of

How great leaders can help shape your future.

As a nurse, you have the exciting and unique opportunity to grow your career in directions you may not have thought of. And you’ll find leaders who will mentor and support you along the way.

Today—Jessica Rhoades, MBA, BSN, RN, PCCN, director of nursing and advanced practice clinician recruitment at ChristianaCare in Wilmington, Delaware.

Now, let’s go back to where it all began…

2008—I still remember the excitement I felt as I put on my first pair of scrubs. The pants were baggy and slightly too short and the shirt looked like it belonged to my father, but I wore it with pride.

2009—I started as a student nurse extern on a pulmonary step-down unit. I did everything I could to make a good impression. I remember the throbbing sensation in my feet as I left the unit each day because I literally refused to sit down other than during my meal break and occasionally when I “interviewed” the nurses. This was a unit where I realized I needed teamwork, got exposed to every single smell in the books, held patients’ hands as they took their last breath, and most important, realized I loved caring for people and their families.

2010—I graduated from the University of Delaware and immediately applied for a residency program. This ended up being a pivotal part of my story because I didn’t get my dream residency but instead was offered an alternative one. I found this strange because I hadn’t seen the residency posted when I applied. That’s when I realized my manager (leader #1) helped the hiring team see the value in supporting me. Even though I wasn’t selected for my top pick, I felt honored to be offered a residency position—period. This leader helped me take my first step into nursing.

2013—I took every chance I had to get involved, including becoming the cochair of the patient- and family-centered care council. However, I suddenly felt pulled to support my family’s business, so I went to my manager (leader #2) and had a conversation to evaluate my options. I was a bit uncertain how it would go, but she immediately encouraged and supported me. She took the steps to connect me with the manager of the float pool, and shortly after I took a position as a per diem RN. This leader helped me take my second step in nursing—again, in a different direction than I had originally planned.

In addition to working per diem as a nurse, I began working full-time with my family’s allied health school as the director of student affairs; over several years, I grew into the director of education. I learned the foundations of leadership and gained loads of experience dealing with challenging situations, making difficult decisions, and leading people.

2015—I was pregnant with my first daughter and going to school for my master of science in nursing and my master’s in business administration. Around the time my daughter was born, we sold the family business, and I had the opportunity to evaluate my priorities. I decided to primarily stay home with my daughter, but I desired to work more. Again, I went to my manager (leader #3). She graciously encouraged me to increase my per diem commitment, which was just what I needed. She helped me take my third step in nursing.

2017—As much as I loved being home with my daughter, I also felt my personal desire to grow professionally wasn’t being met. I began exploring options on our internal job portal and saw a posting for an assistant nurse manager for the float pool, a new position for the organization due to current and future growth. I emailed my manager (leader #4) and expressed interest in the position. She encouraged me to apply, so I did. I ended up getting the position and was excited to use the leadership skills I had gained in my previous role and nursing experience.

This leader helped me take my fourth step—a big step—back into a full-time nursing position. This job was everything I loved and more. It was nursing, it was business, and it was somewhere I could make a positive impact. This leader taught me so much. She trusted me, encouraged me to grow, and frequently allowed me to take the lead on new projects. She quickly became a huge role model for me.

2019—I was waking up every day and going to work with a smile on my face; I truly loved my job. I loved the people I worked with, the team we supported, and how I could see the impact we had on the organization. I had no intention of leaving, but I happen to be a very curious person and as part of my normal weekly routine I would search the internal portal. I read a posting and thought it aligned with my skills and would be an opportunity for growth. I closed the posting and kept working, but about 5 minutes later I opened it again. The next day, I went into my manager’s office and asked if I could talk. I was nervous, but I knew she would be supportive. She was; she even called to get some additional insight for me as we sat in her office together. I knew she was somewhat disappointed, but she focused on my growth. She gave me guidance and asked questions to ensure the position would be a good fit. She acted not only as a manager, but also as a mentor and a friend.

So now, here I am, the director for nursing and advanced practice recruitment for ChristianaCare. I was worried that I might not have the opportunity to work for such an amazing leader again, but thankfully I was wrong. Leader #5, my new boss, has already gone out of her way to support me and encourages me to keep pushing the envelope.

I still wake up every day and smile as I drive to work.


Find an organization that goes out of its way and invests its time in leading, listening to, adjusting for, and supporting its caregivers. When you say yes to an offer, be sure you know the organization’s culture and that you’re ready to put your best foot forward in whatever role you accept. Your location is the sum of all the steps you’ve taken. How will you choose? Who will be your guide? Where will you land?

The moral of the story? Find an organization that has leaders who aren’t afraid to push you ahead. Be open-minded always. Build trusting relationships. Believe in yourself. Enjoy the journey!

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

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Patricia Blair
    July 19, 2020 10:12 am

    Great advice to new graduates as well as experienced nurses. The value is in the partnerships of support from leaders and the willingness of the caregiver to stay curious and nimble.


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