A Day In the Life of a New Grad

Move that tassel, new nurses are arriving. Recall the feeling of being a New Nursing Grad. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

A Day In the Life of a New Grad

6:30 a.m. I wake up, roll over, and look at the alarm clock. There is absolutely no reason to be up this early, but sleeping habits have always been rough for me.

I had the dream again where I'm at my graduation ceremony. It clings to my mind as I try to roll out of bed like a cobweb I walked through in a dusty, dusky barn.

We're all wearing our mortarboards and look so happy just to have made it. The ladies in my class are spending a half hour in the bathroom before we are ushered onstage, primping for the best of reasons: they hadn't really had the time to do so since starting school. Us guys are just standing around and joking about what great jobs we are going to find, the lives we will save, and how our wives/fiancees/girlfriends/whatever are going to be glad to actually spend time with us again.

My mom is there and beaming while chatting on the phone with every nurse she has a number for in her phonebook. She wants the world to know that there will now be two nurses with our last name.

The ceremony itself is a blur. For a second, there is a slideshow. For a moment, a speech. I'm not sure how this paper got in my hands.

After we all get our diplomas, hug a favorite teacher (usually in tears), the whole class shuffles outside for pictures and is full of hope. There are promises to stay in touch, talk about networking for future jobs, scheduling for playdates for kids, and even invitations given out to a wedding. One new grad talks about how she desperately needs cash for a down payment on the house of her dreams, but six months ago, her cousin got a $5K signing bonus as a nurse... HOPE! HOPE! HOPE!

But that's not why I get out of bed. I actually don't have a good reason to leave my apartment today.

Or this week.

Or the foreseeable future.

6:45 a.m. I'm on the treadmill. Angry rock streams through my iPod this morning. I used to work out to happy music, but lately, it has been a steady diet of guys who only know three chords on their guitars and have a severe distortion on their microphone.

It pumps me farther.

I'm pretty well convinced my frustration and anger at five months of unemployment fuels the desire for this crap, not the other way around. Who wouldn't be frustrated?

Lately, I feel like I've been lied to. I turn up the speed of the machine. I need to get back in shape.

I neglected too many parts of my life for school.

7:30 a.m. Shower. With no job to go to and no interviews in the last few weeks, why do I bother? Sure, it feels good to cool down, but who am out to impress?

I guess I need to look sharp and not smell like a lobster's armpit, just in case someone panicking comes pounding on my door, desperately searching for anyone who knows CPR for their kids.

BANG-BANG! "Help! My twins aren't breathing! Oh god! Isn't anyone on this floor a nurse!?!?"

I could make the newspaper! "Courageous Unemployed Nurse saves Congressman's daughters!" the headline would read. And tomorrow afternoon, the CNO of that Level 1 trauma center down the road will call. She'll start barking high salary numbers at me, like some livestock auctioneer on meth.

Better use the good soap today.

8:00 a.m. I used to not eat breakfast. Usually, I had no time with class or work every morning. I must have sacrificed hundreds of good meals, just to get another comma and those letters at the end of my name.

Now, I would trade them for the security of knowing next week I will be able to afford breakfast.

The phone is buzzing. My mom, just like at the dinner table while growing up, seems to know exactly when my mouth is full.

I try to hurry off the phone with her. Rude, I know, but I have the same conversation with her every other morning.

There are lots of jobs back home. I could live with them again until I get set up with the new job I'd surely find. My cousin just got a new job after the private hospital finished remodeling. She loves it! And SHE "only" has her ADN. Of course they would hire me with my BSN! And the family would love to see me again. Every time he comes over, her grandson asks when I'm coming home. He misses his uncle!

The frustration I've had recently has a serious side-effect: it leads to exhaustion.

I'm tired of explaining to my mom that the cousin got hired because she already has experience.

Those jobs she's seeing posted at her own hospital? They want a year of med/surg.

Two years peds.

Two to three years critical care.

I thank her for her help, mumble something about looking into it, and make an excuse to get off the phone.

She's just trying to be helpful.

If the money I saved up in my previous career runs out, I wonder if my pride will ask her to be more helpful.

9:00 a.m. It's Wednesday. It seems most companies post their jobs on Wednesday. I have the website for every local hospital, clinic, LTC, SNF, rehab, and public health saved to my bookmarks.

First step, I call some HR departments. Nursing recruiters must be getting tired of this economy, too. They all go straight to voicemail. I should change what I say from recording to recording so it doesn't sound so dang memorized, but I can't seem to work up much enthusiasm for someone that fields several dozen of new grad and experienced nurse calls each day and, if recent history teaches me anything, won't be returning mine. But being proactive and getting my name out there is important.

Isn't it?



10:00 a.m. A quick check of the ads online in my state shows the new postings are the same as every week since I passed my NCLEX: 1-2 years experience required.

Listing after listing, hospitals insist I'm woefully under-qualified to so much as put a 4x4 on a two year-old boy's scraped knee.

There's a place on the other side of the state that says, "LPN. No experience required! New grads welcome!" Hmmm... it IS honorable work... four hours away... I'm not sure if RNs can work as LPNs... wait, what did my class say the role of the LPN is? Even I don't think I'm qualified for this job.

While checking a website for the university hospital in the area, I notice a job that doesn't require experience! It says only "graduate of a nursing program, XX state license required. ACLS, ENPC, TNCC preferred." Well, that's me! I fit those requirements!

"Internal candidates only." Rats.

I don't know which Peanuts running gag is more appropriate:

Snoopy gets kicked out of a building and the deep, booming voice sings "NO DOGS ALLOWED", or Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy's football.

11:15 a.m. I started checking hospitals out of state after a few weeks of not finding work. I can actually say I'm licensed in 27 states. Even though that includes compact states, that's over half! Well, there's American Samoa and Puerto Rico... but it still sounds impressive to me.

Let's see... Texas? Do you have to wear a cowboy hat with your scrubs? Does it have to match? Does Crocs make cowboy boots? I don't think I'm cool enough to pull off telling people I live in Texas. Nothing really much there for work anyway...

Maybe New York? Nah, I've been hearing the situation for new grads is even worse there than here.

I check the hospitals back in my hometown to ease my guilt for blowing off my mom. Just like last week, nothing.

I really would be willing to move just about anywhere. Except Nebraska. Don't ask.

1:30 p.m. I'm treating myself to the new teriyaki rice bowl place down the street. I liked the sub shop next door to this place, but I found myself last week lecturing the guy behind the counter on singing "Happy Birthday" twice to himself while he washes his hands after using the bathroom. Can you believe I saw him in the john just put his hands under the faucet for, like, 2 seconds and then go straight for the towels? Forget that place!

They don't have to-go orders here, so I take a seat in the corner near the rest of the guys who have nothing better to do in the afternoon. One of the guys is complaining to another stranger because his unemployment insurance benefits ended. He's not sure how he's going to make rent. He was hoping to make it or find a job until his wife graduated from nursing school this December. Then everything will be okay, because, see, there's a nursing shortage on and she's sure to get work immediately.

I'm over being frustrated with the "but, thar be a nursin' shortage" line. After snapping at the 50th stranger who dared to be ignorant, I gave up. It really isn't their fault when newspapers won't say a peep about it and the TV commercials are trying to get more students to enroll. For now, I'm just too tired to tell this hopeful husband what it's really like out there. It would be like having no Christmas money this year, telling a kid that there's no Santa; the little guy will find out soon enough on his own.

2:45 Usually, I study Spanish on the computer in the afternoon. I figure it will be a good skill to have considering the population in the area. Heck, it would be nice if it were a part of every nursing school.

But, it has been two weeks since I applied at the nursing homes and SNFs in the area. I can pull those up again. Maybe this will be the break I need!

These days, most think they can get the kind of experience that would make a nurse an anesthetist, but many don't even bother having a single listing. When I call or visit, nobody is sure to whom I should try talking.

I'm running out of ideas. Two months ago, I started applying at the prisons. That would be a good experience, but all I get back is a letter stating that they have received my application. I followed up once, but I left a voicemail that must have eerily evaporated into the ether.

5:00 p.m.Social networking time.

Facebook and the nursing internet boards only get me more disheartened. New grads complaining about how there is no job. Old grads (as I have heard some taking to calling them) either complain about how nursing schools these days don't prepare their orientees to even wipe someone's nose or gripe about the patient loads they are being forced to work. Please, send some of that bad luck my way!

7:00 p.m. A light dinner and followed by a violent video game to relieve stress. Then, maybe, I'm back to my search.

?:?? p.m. or a.m. Sleeping on your keyboard is bad. Is "QWERTY-itis" an nursing diagnosis or a medical one?

I watch some old stand-up comedy videos on YouTube.

Lawyer jokes.

Dad has joked to me that even an old fool like him passed the Bar examination, so maybe I could go back to school and he would hire me into his law firm.

It seemed funny at the time, but I consider it a few times each day. I'm starting to forget why I got into this career to begin with.

I wanted to help people.

I wanted to be able to support a family.

I wanted to never have to wear a tie again!

Someday (hopefully) soon, I the economy will turn around. On that day, a young man graduating from nursing school will be hired the day Pearson-Vue sends him "The Letter". A respected, experienced nurse will be able to finally afford retirement and be able to spend time with the grandkids. The new grad young man will get in over his head because there was nobody experienced anymore to train him right. And the retired nurse will not get the care she earned because the executives at all health facilities were re-active instead of pro-active to this crisis. There will be a true "nursing shortage". And the newspapers will run stories wondering about the deplorable state of the health care field.

My phone is forever charged and with me, my email is continuously checked, my portfolio is always updated and ready to go, my car is ready to drive me to an interview.

In one of the two interviews I have been able to be honored with, I was asked if I could use my nursing practice to bring glory of god (it was in their mission statement). I had to lie because of my personal beliefs. I felt dirty lying to a prospective employer, especially over something so important.

Really dirty.

And each day that passes uneventfully, I reluctantly admit I would do it again.


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Specializes in ICU.


A discouraging (yet honest) view into the job search reality for many new grads.

Specializes in Adolescent & Adult Psychiatry.

Um, okay, so this is basically my life right now as well! Creepy! Just add in some "shopping for makeup and clothes that I don't need on eBay" since I'm a girl and you've got yourself a "ditto" piece of work!

I'm glad that people are viewing this from the non-ignorant perspective and realize that nothing is in an economy-resistant bubble. It's true that it makes you wonder what you spent multiple years of your life doing, but in the end, reality is reality and all we can do is wait...or ambush Capitol Hill with our picket signs and new pairs of scrubs that we have yet had the opportunity to wear; whichever comes first!

Who knows, perhaps all of this waiting is not in vain and eventually we'll all have the job we've been dreaming of. When that day will come, I don't know, but I do know we'll probably be the first generation of nurses that are actually in shape and practice what they preach since we've had nothing but downtime. Either that, or we'll create another baby boom since there's nothing else to do!

Good luck to you and may this dark scrubs shroud lift one of these glorious days!

NurseThis21, BSN, RN :nurse:

UIC Alumna

AMEN! I graduated in May; still waiting for a job or an interview, or even a response to the many jobs I applied for.

Very discouraging:( Your not alone. :nurse:


I "re-careered" after lots and lots of years, partially because I always wanted to be a nurse, partially because, "be a nurse, you will always be able to work anywhere!"


but, after a moderate (seemed REALLY LONG) wait, and accepting a job TOO far from home, I would do it all again, and again, and again

What is really sad is that I have worked full time and taken classes part time for the last 3.5 years just to finally get admitted to the nursing program, and now I have the stress of nursing school and not knowing if I will even have a job in 2 years when I graduate with $21,000 in loans. The only motivation I have is that I only have to worry about school for the next 4 semesters and I will be done. I better re-think my plans I suppose. What is really sad is that I won't even be able to go for my MSN because I won't have the 1 year nursing experience needed prior to matriculation. :zzzzz

Wow, I guess that means I better stick with the NSNA and hope and pray that I can get some recognition for being an officer. I do appreciate the post from qaqueen though...

I hope that you can hang in there my friend and be able to write a much happier and motivating story for us to read next year talking about what a great job you have and how many lives you have touched! Good luck and keep your head up brother.

Specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.
Um, okay, so this is basically my life right now as well!

I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw myself in that story :)

Very well written...and sadly true. If I had a dollar for everytime someone went on about the "nursing shortage" or who insists "well, you'd get hired where I live, they're recruiting left and right" even after I explain that they're only looking for experienced nurses...well, I'd never have to work again.

Specializes in ER.

I graduated during the last nursing glut. Casual work saved me financially, and I continued with college courses and got my degree while I had the time. I also got some great resume builders with volunteer work. Try your local crisis line, or walk in center, and keep in mind your goal of getting experience. You don't have to be getting paid to get experience.

Actually my casual position came from volunteering on that floor and being a little familiar with their needs and nurses. I aced the interview, and I knew I'd be starting out with some good teachers as coworkers.

Go out and volunteer for experience, then when you get back on the phone you can say why you think you'd be the best candidate, plus you'll have references from the real world, not just instructors. Get a job that will pay the bills, but keep looking for opportunities to stand out. Even a Walmart greeter can stand out as a great employee- you want to be that guy.

Witty and oh so accurate...

Specializes in Ortho-Neuro,labor and delivery, nursery.

well said e non imus,rn and so very true. i've been a nurse for 7 months now and still no permanent work. it gets very frustrating and depressing at times. i too get the "come and move to xx place because they're hiring" or "i don't understand why you're not working when there's such a big nursing shortage" speech. i know people mean well, but it makes you want to scream! like another poster said, try volunteering. i'm currrently volunteering at a clinic and though i'm not getting paid, i am gaining skills...and praying that someone, somewhere will see this on my resume and want to hire me. :lol2: keep your head up and good luck.

Specializes in long term care, psychiatric setting.

I was one of you guys just 3 months ago. I graduated from an LPN program Aug 01, 2008. I passed my NCLEX in october, 2008. I was ready for the world. After all, "there is a nursing shortage". yeah right...to make a long story short...it wasn't till may 13, 2009 that i received employment...9 months after graduation and 7 months after licensure. to make things worse...the only reason why i got the job was because of a friend who was close to the DON. good luck my friends...make friends with nurses and dont give up...that's the best advice i can give you