Hello friends! I just graduated with my BSN in May 2011. I know the job climate is arduous, if not impossible in so many parts of the country, including mine, and wanted to share what I think helped me land a great position before I graduated, without having any real "connections" in local hospitals.
1. Be an exceptional student. Develop positive, professional relationships with your instructors. Take time to show them your interest. Your instructors, whether you enjoy them or not, are your number one link to advocate for you in the classroom and clinical setting. Participate in classroom activities and discussion, put extra effort into clinical paperwork (no matter how arduous and pointless it seems). If they have the opportunity to respect you as an individual and a student nurse, you may find yourself learning skills and information that will help you stand out during your clinicals. Not to mention, many of your instructors have long lasting relationships in acute care setting, and they will be more willing to pull strings and make some calls to their friends if they are rooting for you!
2. Treat EVERY clinical experience as a job interview. Not only are you making a lasting impression of yourself, but for your whole school. One person acting poorly sends a negative message about your whole university, which could make getting hired difficult for everyone you go to school with. Also, especially in your senior year, floor managers know you will be looking for a job, and if they see excellent skills and behavior, they will want you on their floor.
3. Put yourself out there. Especially in your last clinical semester, introduce yourself to your floor manager and express interest in working there. Establish relationships with as many people as possible. Remember people's names: RNs, doctors, NP's, techs, janitorial services, etc. All of these things get back to managers ! Make yourself apart of the family. Show that you want to learn more, take every opportunity that you can.
4. Be appreciative. Write thank you cards to ANYONE who helps you along the way, makes an impression, or makes a difference.
6. If possible, try to schedule your clinicals at one hospital from the beginning. To a manager, they see 4 years of orientation to a "culture" and a "community", also extra time you've spent learning charting systems, and other unique facets to an acute care setting. If you know what hospital you want to work for, try not to skip around... you'll show commitment from the get-go. It may be beneficial to be able to compare, but in this climate "shopping around" isn't realistic, and many new grads are lucky to get an offer from anywhere. You might as well get a head start.
7. Be a community leader. Participate in some organization, or lead an initiative that takes your nursing skills outside of the hospital. This gives great material for interviews.
8. Use key words: EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE, PATIENT ADVOCACY, COMMITTEES, TEAM-WORK, LEADERSHIP, DILIGENCE, PATIENT SATISFACTION. Managers' lives are run by some of these key topics, know them, use them, and show that you can act them out!
5. When you apply, don't just fill out the electronic application. Bring a professional folder with your cover letter, resume, letters of recommendation, and copies of certification/ accolades directly to the interviewing manager.
6. Be genuine in your interview. Talk about REAL experiences and technical procedures unique to the unit (i.e. working with Arctic Sun or RotaProne machinery, manipulating IV drips, etc.). Show that you've practiced the real
workings of a nurse (communicating with physicians, assisting in codes, entering orders, completing discharge procedures). Some of these things aren't the most exciting, but to a manager, they are very important, and add a new facet to nursing that many grads don't realize are an integral part of the day.
Good luck! And happy and fulfilling jobs to everyone!