Making Yourself More Competitive

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    Hi all, new nursing student here. I start at the end of the month. In two years I'll be in the job market and was wondering what I could do between now and then to make myself a more desirable hire - especially since I have no prior healthcare experience. Here are a couple of things I have identified, but would like to hear what others have to offer. * Get as many of those funky letters (certifications) out of the way as you can. For example, I learned that I can get the BLS cert right away and I feel comfortable about not being overwhelmed with the BLS coursework at my stage in training, so why not get it? My college only requires CPR certification to remain as a student. The BLS covers that and more (as in employers require it across the board). * The same seems true for ACLS for many specialties and there seems to be no reason why I cannot get this cert sometime after the BLS course (and probably some more time in school). * Experience. Yep, go pull the local help wanted. Many positions are 1 year min exp. So, how do you get it if you do not have previous time in healthcare? I am thinking of volunteering as a form of extended clinicals if I cannot find something that pays. At least I can probably negotiate which areas I will be able to spend time in. If all that entails emptying bedpans and retrieving used lunch trays, I figure any time is better than no time. Plus, I will be caring for the patients and that is my goal. Any other advice? Those two years will come sooner than one may realize. Thanks
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    hi clodhopper.

    i must compliment you for thinking ahead, as you are going to want an edge two years from right now when you are searching for your first nursing job. i am a second career new nurse grad (graduated 3 months ago w/my bsn for a local university outside chicago) who just landed her first nursing job a week ago today and is still watching many of her classmates suffer each day. while my search only lasted five weeks, which i attribute in part to my age and experience, it was the five most frustrating and disheartening weeks of my nursing journey. let me share with you what i would do differently (especially if i were 22 and competing with the other 99% of 22 year old graduates) to gain the best advantage once i graduated.

    1. become a cna (and if possible, do it at the hospital you want to work at once you graduate). a lot of people will dismiss this, but the very first people hired in my class were cna's already, and most of them had a job prior to graduation. not to mention how it will help you become comfortable in the hospital setting and pick up knowledge just by being there.

    2. be very very nice to your instructors; all of them. nursing is a very small world and you not only want these professors (and clinical instructors) to write you letters of recommendation when you graduate, but some of them may have connections that could help you greatly. one of my classmates buddied up to an instructor, who wrote her an amazing letter of recommendation for a scholarship. can you say 10k off your tuition? or maybe one of them has a best friend who hires at the hospital you would kill to work at.

    3. get good grades. with good grades and instructor recommendations, you may be able to get accepted to a student nurse extern position between your junior and senior years. there's a bunch of them across the country (such as mayo clinic's which is called summer iii program) that you can apply to, which you would start looking at/applying to around christmas of your junior year. with good grades you can also get accepted into new nurse graduate programs after graduation.

    4. be involved with the national student nurses association (if on your campus) and any other service organization (first and foremost being any nursing related organization) and when i say be involved, don't be just become a member, run for office.

    5. when at clinical, make connections and go out of your way to shine above everyone else. this will also help you get to do skills that you may have missed. if your nurse has a patient you are not assigned to, but they need a foley, and they like you, they may come find you to have you do it.

    well, i think those are the biggies i would highly recommend doing, so that you stand out after graduation. in more general terms of just being a sucessful student, make sure you read the assignments at least once. i know it seems like a given, but the vast majority of my classmates didn't read and struggled because of it. also at clinicals, show up early, show up prepared, and be active. help the cna's, help your classmates, whatever the job.

    best of luck to you! work hard and reach for the stars.

    k

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    Community Service: Get involved in campus organizations that do health screenings and such. Volunteer at a hospital.

    Grades: Get the best grades you can. There's no shame if you don't have the tops grades, but as long as you do your best and pass you can hold your head high.

    Get whatever experience you can: Some hospitals take nursing students in as ER techs or NAs. Some hospitals consider you to be at the NA level after satisfactorily completing one clinical and will hire you on as part time or per diem.

    Certs: CPR is a must. BLS is the school standard where I'm at though so it doesn't really make you stand out as most students will have it. ACLS is good and so are PEPP or PALs for peds if that is what you are trying for. But honestly I'd say don't go and grab every cert you can just yet as they are kinda expensive. Ask around as some employers will pay for the necessary certs and the nurses in your area would best be able to tell you what certs they are looking for.

    Get letters: The best way to do this is to be involved in class. Be prepared homework-wise and show up on time. Don't miss classes if you can help it. Be a go-getter when it comes to clinical. What I mean by that is don't be the one talking with your buddies in the hall or hanging out at the nurses' station. Answer the call bells even if they are not yours if you don't see someone responding, spend time with your patients and if you don't know an answer look it up or give an educated guess. Most instructors will give you a letter if you ask for one and you are a model student.
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    Only thing I can add is to 1)work as a nurse tech if you can. That will get you in and you can evaluate the hospital and they can evaluate you as an employee.
    Also, community service! I volunteer for many different things I am inerested in(March of Dimes, St. Judes, and my 2 favorite passions-DART(programs for domestic abuse) and I am a CASA volunteer(advocate for foster children) as my 2nd passion is child welfare.
    Find volunteer work that is meaningful and something you are interested in.
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    You are going to be a great nurse for sure. You ready using your critical thinking skills! Awesome!
    Most definitely start looking at teaching hospitals that hire nursing students to work as extra help and will pay. If not look into getting your CNA license after certain courses are fulfilled
    I worked as a Student Nurse at a county hospital for a year before I graduated. During that time I took advantage of the hospital's education department and received :
    BLS
    ACLS
    PALS and
    Basic Dysrhythmia. I also took advantage of their lack of staff and asked my manager to train me as the Unit Secretary and also as the Telemetry Technician. It was fun learning all these different positions and working with the team. This also helped me advertise myself to my manager and help me get an RN position after graduation. Definitely get familiar with your professors and join professional organisations such as NSNA (National Student Nurse Association) and get involved.. Keep up the great enthusiastic attitude!
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    As far as all those certifications go, there is an entire alphabet of them available. Sometimes you can get them for free. Talk to your local hospitals and nurses, nursing instructors, EMS agencies, etc. I was able to take Advanced Burn Life Support for free just because I applied and asked for the scholarship. Just last week I noticed a sign in the break room at a hospital for a free STEMI class, capnography class and an Advanced Medical Life Support class. Basically all you had to do was sign up and show up. The STEMI class was a walk in class with registration at the door. My area's EMS for Children offers monthly classes on various topics that give you continuing education hours. Since I'm a paramedic, most of what I happen to see is EMS related, but there are lots of classes out there specifically for nurses too. And nurses are almost always eligible and welcome to those EMS-related classes. We love to have nurses learn what we do in the field. Some of the in-hospital classes I've taken are ACLS, PALS, NRP (neonatal resuscitation). The list goes on and on and on. I guess you could take several of these classes and see what you like or you could wait and see what you like after you've been working for a while. I would highly recommend taking a few of them if you're planning to do ER. ACLS and PALS are usually required and a trauma class of some sort would be awesome, plus a medical class would really help as well. Anyway, good luck to you! Sorry for rambling.

    Christina


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