Nursing: How to Pick the Right Job

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    In this article, the author shares some ideas about how to decide if a job is right for you.

    Nursing: How to Pick the Right Job

    Nursing: How to Pick the Right Job


    I watched my cell phone turn black as the call with my friend ended, and I felt my mood dim, as well. She had been excited about finishing up her nursing degree six months prior, and took a job in a step down unit, launching out as a new nurse full of idealistic fervor. Now, just a few months later, she quit her job, felt depressed and wondered if the whole decision to go to nursing school had been one long, expensive mistake.

    I felt bad because I had not been able to help her avoid this common dilemma: a bad match for that first job. As it turned out, her personality did not mesh well with the fast-paced unit and the expectations of the leadership were often expressed with sarcasm and passive/aggressive tones. To further complicate things, the EMR of the particular hospital system did not lend itself well to passing on valuable patient care information, leaving her to spend time trying to figure out where things stood with her patients, sometimes causing her to lag behind in timely completion of nursing duties.

    I wondered if I had a “do-over” what would I have said for her to watch out for?

    What to Look For:

    Look carefully at the leadership of the unit.
    In real estate, there is a saying about what really matters, “Location, location, location.” In nursing, the appropriate way to say what is important in order of the top three things is: “Leadership, leadership, leadership.” A unit and its staff will follow the lead of the manager. If he/she is kind and efficient, the unit will likely reflect those qualities. If the manager is fearful and paranoid, then expect that leadership to bleed all the way down to the housekeeping staff. If the unit’s leaders focus on high quality, compassionate care with a strong emphasis on continuing education, then the schedules and staffing numbers will end up supporting those goals. This characteristic holds true whether you are looking for a job in a hospital setting, in an outpatient care center or in a long-term care facility. Wherever it is, the tone of the leadership is central to ultimate job satisfaction.

    Know yourself when you are looking.
    If you are hard-driving, love a good dose of adrenaline, and are easily bored, then you know you need a job that will match those personality traits. If you are quiet, reflective, more cerebral, more of a student and an intellectual, then a different sort of setting will suit you. While we can cross over and do the extrovert’s job well for a while, the true introvert will find more long term satisfaction in a setting that plays to those innate traits a little better. And no, we don’t all have the luxury of waiting for that “perfect” job to come along. Everyone understands that. But when there are two to pick from, we do well to know ourselves and listen to what feeds our spirits. It is the only way to stay with it for the long haul.

    Ask others how long they have worked there.
    No manager or unit is perfect, but if people hang around for long periods of time, then something is going well. When you interview, take in the general “vibe” of the place. I had a friend that told me that she recently went to a new doctor’s office. While the set up was beautiful, the staff seemed harried and inattentive to the patients. They buzzed with conversation among themselves, and she noted that they didn’t make eye contact with her, that they stared at their computer screens and when they did address a comment to her, it was to complain. It is possible, this was an “off” day there, but if looking for a job, those might be signs to take into consideration.

    Check out the EMR or documentation system.
    In modern medicine, EMRs are a must. But there are real differences in how helpful they are. If you are comparing two jobs, one of the important considerations has to be how satisfied the staff is with their EMR. The EMR can make or break a job!

    Don’t let money do all the talking.
    This may be the most common pitfall. Having loans to pay, dependents to get through school, commutes to consider, we will sometimes pick a job based heavily on how much it pays. But no amount of money can reimburse you for your life. While having shelter, food, and transportation are pretty important matters, the hourly pay should not speak more loudly in our decision making than it has a right to. If we are happy and fulfilled, we will find a way to make things work. If we are unhappy, then no amount of money in the bank will please us, because we will, ultimately feel cheated by our choice.


    After a few weeks passed, I checked back with my friend. She had just landed a great job as a liaison, a position that promised to utilize some of her best skills. As I congratulated her, I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that she was feeling hopeful and that she was looking forward to a much better fit this time!
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    About jeastridge

    Joy is a part time parish nurse and hospice nurse. She enjoys long walks with friends, cooking, and spending time with her grandchildren.

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    13 Comments

  3. by   traumaholic
    I'm in California. I'll just be happy to get a job that doesn't require me leaving the state.
  4. by   rntonp1day
    "But when there are two to pick from, we do well to know ourselves and listen to what feeds our spirits. It is the only way to stay with it for the long haul." Thank you for posting this. I am currently trying to choose between 2 positions at 2 different hospitals for a nurse extern position. This was completely what I needed to read tonight. That whole section helped me! I was trying to decide based on I didn't want to cause bad feelings at another place instead of making the decision based on what I'm going to be the happiest with. I know that I need to be busy the entire shift or I will get bored. I need to choose the one based on this. I'm not going to do well where I do have time to sit and study for school.
  5. by   jeastridge
    Quote from rntonp1day
    "But when there are two to pick from, we do well to know ourselves and listen to what feeds our spirits. It is the only way to stay with it for the long haul." Thank you for posting this. I am currently trying to choose between 2 positions at 2 different hospitals for a nurse extern position. This was completely what I needed to read tonight. That whole section helped me! I was trying to decide based on I didn't want to cause bad feelings at another place instead of making the decision based on what I'm going to be the happiest with. I know that I need to be busy the entire shift or I will get bored. I need to choose the one based on this. I'm not going to do well where I do have time to sit and study for school.
    Great! I'm so glad this was helpful. All the best with your new position. Joy
  6. by   Daisy4RN
    Very helpful tips! I would definitely ask other workers what they think about working there. I have been asked by potential employees and always tried to be as honest as I could about the environment and leadership. It is a good thing to look at leadership but its hard to tell what it is like until you actually start working in that place.
  7. by   CeciBean
    I was in nursing a long time and I learned one thing really well. Leadership lies about staffing all the time. Almost every unit I ever worked on, whether as regular staff or as a traveler, was advertised to me as one thing staffing wise and turned out to be another. Even ICU, which was generally supposed to be 2:1, frequently turned out to be 3:1. This wasn't on rare occasions, it was a constant. And techs? If there were supposed to be techs, they often were pulled elsewhere.

    Yes, there were exceptions. I worked for managers who got right down there in the mud and the blood and the crud with us. I worked for a couple who put lab coats on over their business attire and did baths, even! But sadly, I worked for more who sat in their offices, removed from the fray, while the unit fell apart around them, or locked up and went home at 4:30 and gave no thought at all to those of us on evenings and nights; we could just fend for ourselves. And you don't know that when you interview, because they talk a really good game.
  8. by   jeastridge
    Quote from CeciBean
    I was in nursing a long time and I learned one thing really well. Leadership lies about staffing all the time. Almost every unit I ever worked on, whether as regular staff or as a traveler, was advertised to me as one thing staffing wise and turned out to be another. Even ICU, which was generally supposed to be 2:1, frequently turned out to be 3:1. This wasn't on rare occasions, it was a constant. And techs? If there were supposed to be techs, they often were pulled elsewhere.

    Yes, there were exceptions. I worked for managers who got right down there in the mud and the blood and the crud with us. I worked for a couple who put lab coats on over their business attire and did baths, even! But sadly, I worked for more who sat in their offices, removed from the fray, while the unit fell apart around them, or locked up and went home at 4:30 and gave no thought at all to those of us on evenings and nights; we could just fend for ourselves. And you don't know that when you interview, because they talk a really good game.
    Sadly, there is a great deal of truth in what you said and it happens in every type of nursing job. Integrity is tough to spot, but it will usually shine through and in the end, it makes all the difference.
  9. by   ukuleleCat
    Are there particular positions you would recommend for introverts?
  10. by   jeastridge
    Quote from orangesky303
    Are there particular positions you would recommend for introverts?
    I thought about this and I'm not sure there is a set answer. It would be interesting to hear from others in the community about positions they think would be good. Some thoughts that come to mind include home health, hospice, specialty units, OR, PAC, long term care, rehab...What have you considered? Joy
  11. by   NightNerd
    As an introvert who isn't necessarily shy, I love psych. It can certainly be draining dealing with certain populations and the conflicts that can arise on the job, but I do find that my interactions with these patients tend to be meaningful, and I feel that my work is important. I imagine further opportunities would emerge for introverts in psych as NPs and APRNs as well.

    Other ideas not mentioned before would be informatics, forensic nurse, legal nurse consultant, certain jobs in case management and public health, diabetes educator...

    There is a really good website for this question, actually. Hold, please.
  12. by   NightNerd
    Okay, so I found this page while googling my MBTI score (extra slow night at work), and thought it was kinda neat. There are links from this page to take the personality quiz and then read about suggested specialties for your type. Nursing Personality Types
  13. by   jeastridge
    Quote from NightNerd
    Okay, so I found this page while googling my MBTI score (extra slow night at work), and thought it was kinda neat. There are links from this page to take the personality quiz and then read about suggested specialties for your type. Nursing Personality Types
    Thanks for your great suggestions and for the link! I think this will be helpful to others. Joy
  14. by   ukuleleCat
    This is great thank you.

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