I graduated in May of 2009 from a rural nursing school, than moved back to my hometown of Tucson, AZ. During nursing school, I worked as a tech in an ICU for 6 months during my first semester, and worked as a paid extern for a few months during my last year of nursing school in a cardiac cath lab. I also worked fulltime as a LPN in a ltc facility during my last year of school. Basically I got every single ounce of nursing experience I could during my 2 years of school, even though I was exhausted almost always. Upon graduation, I sent out approximately 100 resumes throughout the country, with approx 50% of my resumes going to the banner health system in phoenix and alaska. I did have a few phone interviews here and there, but ultimately was consistently passed up for nurses with more experience. I also applied for several new grad programs throughout the country but was not accepted.
Finally, 6 months after graduation, I called one of the hospitals I did a ton of clinical hours at during school and spoke with the emergency department director personally. She remembered me because my preceptor gave me absolutely fantastic reviews and offered me a job on the spot. The catch was, I had to move to a very rural part of Arizona. I accepted the position and have been in the ED for the last 8 months. Although its certainly not a town that I enjoy living in, I am eternally greatful for my first chance as an RN in a critical care setting and absolutely realize how fortunate I am. I am the ONLY person in my entire graduating class to be offered a specialty position. So, the moral of the story is:
1. Make as many connections in nursing school as you can.
2. Be prepared to apply for every position in every location you can imagine. Even ones you dont really consider ideal.
3. It may exhaust you, but get as much direct patient care experience as you can, even if its only a PRN position as a CNA while in school. It does help.
4. Just keep applying, and applying, and applying, and applying (you get the point here right?) SOMETHING will come along eventually.