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Advice re: references for grad school


Specializes in Medical/Surgical.

I am a new RN grad with just a few months of working experience. However I am planning on going back to school soon. I just have a question for everyone who has or is applying to grad school right now. I am planning on applying within the next 2 years for an MSN program. The school I am applying to requires that there be 3 references who all must be RNs with at least a Master's degree.

My concern is that I am not sure who I can ask to give me a good reference. I have a nursing instructor that I really liked who I can ask to be my reference. I plan on shooting her an email soon to ask because I have not seen her since graduation in May. And she was my theory and clinical instructor during fall of last year. I did mention to her during that time that I would someday ask her to be my reference and she was fine with it. I am just worried that she may forget me in the sea of many students she has taught since. The second person that I would ask used to be my manager at the unit that I work at right now. She hired me when I was a student tech and then proceeded to hire me as an RN. However, right before I started working as an RN on the unit she retired so she never managed me while in my new position. Now there is a new manager but I don't know her well enough to comfortably ask her. I am thinking maybe within another year...if I choose to wait to apply, then I can ask her. But if I choose to apply sooner, I cannot think of another person to ask as a reference...help!!

Can anyone share where your references came from? I was a good student and always did well in clinical but never was very close to any of my instructors (whom some I personally did not really like). I feel like I should have worked harder to stand out during school so that I would feel more comfortable asking my past instructors to be my reference. I don't want to email someone out of the blue asking for a reference and they don't even remember who I am. That would be horrible!

If anyone has any advice or suggestions I would appreciate it so much...Thanks!! :balloons:

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

You seem to be on the right track in planning for your references. Here are a few tips to help you along.

1. Don't be afraid to ask your former instructors, managers, etc. Anyone with an MSN knows what you are going through and probably gets that sort of request on a semi-regular basis. For you it is a big thing ... for them it is not. Take a deep breath and make those phone calls, send those e-mails, or whatever. Keep in touch with them periodically so that you will be remembered and so that you will know how to reach them when the time comes.

2. Cultivate new relationships with the nursing leaders in your current job -- managers, staff development folks, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitions, infection control nurses, etc. Get to know those people. Join a committe or two, etc. Impress them with the high quality of your work. They will be you can ask in the future, people who can write about your current performance on the job and not just your past performance as a student. Once again, if they have an MSN, they have been through the application process themselves and will understand your request for a reference.

3. Maintain a professional portfolio that you can pull from should you want to discuss your career with someone. For example, if you are requesting a reference from someone unfamiliar with your work from the last 2 years, you might want to bring them up-to-date with what you've been doing and how you've been performing on the job. Providing them with that information will help them feel good about recommending you and may stimulate them to write a stronger letter on your behalf. For example, you might want to share that glowing employee evalutation with your old instructor who will appreciate knowing that you are doing well on the job since she last observed your work herself. The portfolio doesn't have to be complicated or fancy: it can simply be a big manilla envelope. Just put everything in there related to your career that you might want to refer to later and/or include on your resume at some future point. Then it will all be kept together availabe for your review and use when you need it.

Good luck!

llg, PhD, RN

incublissRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in CVICU, PACU, OR. Has 10 years experience.

Hi there! I am getting my application ready for grad school and having a similar problem. I need three references and one letter of recommendation. My current manager wrote the letter for me. I think I will ask my old manager to be a reference. I am having difficulty thinking of a third person! I think I will ask the clinical nurse specialist on my old unit. I just hope she remembers enough about me. I will give her a little update. I thought about using a past nursing instructor but I'm afraid none will remember me and they don't know how I am functioning as an RN.

Good advice from llg about getting to know the leaders on your unit!

What are some good ways to cultivate these strong relationships with nurse leaders we work with? I was never good at the ass-kissing stuff.

My past manager I liked okay, but was actually diverted into a CNS position. The current manager is just temporary. I am wondering if I should try to talk to the CNS (past Mgr.) some more. How do you form these good references?

Thanks : )

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