Hey Everyone! I want to congratulate you all on being accepted/wait listed to UCLA! As a recent graduate of the MECN program (2012) I wanted to offer my opinion on the program and finding nursing jobs now that I'm in the "real world". I see that there has been some talk on the merits of the program, as well as wondering about jobs afterward, so here is how it played out for me and my class.
Overall, UCLA is an excellent program. It is fast-paced and you will learn a lot in the 2 years. Most of the professors are really nice and passionate people who really want you to succeed. I would say the biggest downfall of the program is the lack of lab/skills practice before clinical rotations. Nursing is a hands on learning experience, and for me I was frustrated by not being able to practice before actually being in the hospital. Fundamentals of Nursing and Physical Assessment are the only 2 classes that have lab time. Once you get into Med-Surg, etc. and want to practice skills before its a real patient (say starting an IV), walk in lab hours are extremely limited and so are supplies and teachers. (This is in part why my class's graduation gift to the school was additional lab equipment!) Many associate degree programs require more lab time and skills check offs, so this is one difference in programs. However, the MECN program provides a ton of clinical hours so that is a big plus! I had amazing clinicals with great instructors. I was at UCLA for most, but did Peds at CHLA. You have the opportunity to go to Cedars, the VA, Kaiser, Northridge, Torrance Memorial, as well as Good Sam and California Hospital. I did my immersion in L&D at UCLA Santa Monica and it was amazing. I do wonder how now that there are 90 MECNs, placements for clinical and immersion may change, and that would be a concern of mine if I was starting now, since finding quality placements for that many students at once may prove challenging.
As far as the rest of the MECN program - you will write MANY papers and take so many tests. You have to hit the ground running each quarter. The other "downside" of the program, in my opinion, is the Master's aspect/CNL. Once you are in the hospital doing rotations, meeting other nurses, very few people understand what makes the MECN program Masters level and what in the world a CNL is. It was (and still is) frustrating explaining it. Nurses think that since I have a MSN I should be licensed for advanced practice nursing (NP or CNS). And I passed the CNL exam (which is a really weird, strange test BTW) but I can't really use the CNL at this time.
So my experience/my class's with job hunting. The question of being able to find a bedside nursing job was brought up. The availability of new grad nursing jobs is a real concern in nursing right now, especially in California. Finding employment after nursing school should be a realistic worry for everyone. Around 60% of BSNs have not found employment after 18 months from graduation. My biggest piece of advice is to work as a CNA/tech while in school. If you currently have a job, keep it. Or get one. The program is intense, and I felt I didn't have the time to work. I wish I had worked and just found the time. Hospitals really want that previous hospital experience, and being a CNA/tech distinguishes you from all the rest of the new grad nursing students who did the same clinicals as you.
The majority of my class got hired by Cedars Sinai. They do a new grad program in the summer and the interview is one big "cattle call" with managers from all the units. I interviewed for L&D, and the manager really wanted to have new grads for L&D that year, but they ended up not hiring for L&D at all. Most people are in Med-Surg, with a few in ICU and one in Peds. They basically placed you according to what you did for immersion, or just default to Med-Surg. A few people got hired to UCLA, mainly their ICUs. Only about 15 people from my class were even interviewed at UCLA (many of us were very disappointed by this). CHLA hired a few people, mainly those who did an immersion there or in Peds elsewhere (I did not get interviewed there despite having done my Peds clinical there). There are 3 of us from my class who are working in maternal-child health. One is doing couplet/postpartum care and it took her about 6 months after graduation to find that position. Another just started UCSD's Perinatal nursing program. I broadened my nursing job search drastically after graduation. I am currently a Women's Health Nurse Resident at Vanderbilt University in Nashville! So I made a huge move after I wasn't getting many interviews in California for L&D/PP jobs (I did interview with Stanford for postpartum - did not get an offer; and with UCSD for perinatal - which I accepted Vandy before hearing back from them). When I got my job offer from Vanderbilt I had a few other offers for interviews for med-surg jobs, but went with a program that I knew had great training, even though it meant moving 2000 miles away. I just finished 7 weeks of a structured new grad residency where I did classes twice a week and rotations twice a week in L&D and PP. I will most likely be placed in PP, and will have another 6-8 weeks preceptorship before flying solo, and then can train for L&D after 6 months. It's an amazing hospital and the program has been above and beyond what I would of expected. They had 120 people apply for the Women's Health track of their residency, interviewed 10 and took 4 of us. So I feel pretty lucky. Their program is twice a year, and they hire in all specialties, and its very much a new grad friendly hospital.
I know its a lot to anticipate a competitive job search when you all just completed a competitive grad school app process. But new grad jobs are extremely competitive. It took me 5 months from graduation to get an offer - I know part of that was the field of nursing I wanted to be in. And for reference, I had a 3.9 nursing school GPA, was MECN president, and traveled to Uganda for a nursing trip during school and have a MPH in Women's-Reproductive Health. I know I was a highly desirable candidate, but its a crazy job market out there. I echo my advice to obtain a CNA/tech job while in school. You will network at the hospital you work at and its such valuable experience. Also, maintain a 3.5 GPA while in school (Cedars requires it to apply to new grad jobs). I'm sure that's all WAY more than you all wanted to know, but there it is. Feel free to PM me or reply back if you have questions. Good luck everyone!