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How to get NICU job without experience?

NICU   (666 Views 9 Comments)
by jo716 jo716 (Member)

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Hi, I've noticed that most hospitals require NICU experience in order to apply for jobs but how can one get into this specialty without any pediatrics/baby/NICU experience?

Thanks!

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adventure_rn is a BSN and specializes in NICU, PICU.

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Cast a very wide net. In all seriousness, the fastest, most direct way to get a NICU job without experience is to apply as many places as you can (in as vast of a geographical area as you can) in the hopes that one of them will be willing to hire you. This route is obviously less realistic if you have a more limited geographical area (i.e. if you have a family that you don't want to uproot). Once you have NICU experience, it's relatively easy to move back to whichever rergion you'd like to live in.

If you have geographic constraints and need to stay in the area where you're located, you may have to inch your way in (i.e. starting with a Level II special care nursery or a peds unit). You can always try for a lateral transfer within your current hospital; you may get lucky or your may not.

Here's the thing about NICU hiring: training a new-to-specialty NICU nurse takes a really long time. Almost all units will prefer experienced hires over new hires simply because they're less expensive to train (i.e. a two-week orientation compared to a four-month orientation). The easiest way to get your foot in the door is to happen upon a NICU that is desperate for staff and is willing to hire people from any background. Unfortunately, since units don't actually advertise that information (for obvious reasons), your best bet at finding a unit like that is to apply to a ton of units.

Now, to be fair, even the desperate units will still say "relevant experience preferred" (or possibly even "required") in the online application; don't let that deter you from applying. Just because they're prefer people with NICU experience doesn't mean that they won't hire new-to-specialty nurses. It never hurts to put in an application wherever you're interested. However, if you consistently find that you're not getting interviews or offers, your best bet is to expand your application pool. In the meantime, you should try to look for jobs that are more closely related to NICU (L&D, peds, mom/baby, special care nursery). The more relevant experience you have, the more competitive of an applicant you'll become.

 

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31 Posts; 1,875 Profile Views

5 hours ago, adventure_rn said:

Cast a very wide net. In all seriousness, the fastest, most direct way to get a NICU job without experience is to apply as many places as you can (in as vast of a geographical area as you can) in the hopes that one of them will be willing to hire you. This route is obviously less realistic if you have a more limited geographical area (i.e. if you have a family that you don't want to uproot). Once you have NICU experience, it's relatively easy to move back to whichever rergion you'd like to live in.

If you have geographic constraints and need to stay in the area where you're located, you may have to inch your way in (i.e. starting with a Level II special care nursery or a peds unit). You can always try for a lateral transfer within your current hospital; you may get lucky or your may not.

Here's the thing about NICU hiring: training a new-to-specialty NICU nurse takes a really long time. Almost all units will prefer experienced hires over new hires simply because they're less expensive to train (i.e. a two-week orientation compared to a four-month orientation). The easiest way to get your foot in the door is to happen upon a NICU that is desperate for staff and is willing to hire people from any background. Unfortunately, since units don't actually advertise that information (for obvious reasons), your best bet at finding a unit like that is to apply to a ton of units.

Now, to be fair, even the desperate units will still say "relevant experience preferred" (or possibly even "required") in the online application; don't let that deter you from applying. Just because they're prefer people with NICU experience doesn't mean that they won't hire new-to-specialty nurses. It never hurts to put in an application wherever you're interested. However, if you consistently find that you're not getting interviews or offers, your best bet is to expand your application pool. In the meantime, you should try to look for jobs that are more closely related to NICU (L&D, peds, mom/baby, special care nursery). The more relevant experience you have, the more competitive of an applicant you'll become.

 

Thanks so much for your time and input!! I found it quite helpful 🙂

Are there any courses online or otherwise that might help prepare me for the NICU setting?

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NICU Guy has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in NICU.

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6 hours ago, adventure_rn said:

Cast a very wide net. In all seriousness, the fastest, most direct way to get a NICU job without experience is to apply as many places as you can (in as vast of a geographical area as you can) in the hopes that one of them will be willing to hire you.

This is exactly what I did as a new grad. I applied for every NICU job on Indeed.com that didn't have "XX yrs of Level II/III NICU experience required". I was fortunate to have had a Capstone at a Level IV NICU which I feel helped a little. I was hired into a Level IV NICU. They hire primarily their Summer Student Nurse Externs and Capstone students. We have cut down our new hire orientation from 12 weeks to 9 weeks due to the fact of the externs and Capstone students already have 6-9 weeks of training through their externships with us. 

I agree that if you can't get into NICU, apply to L&D, Mother/Baby, or Special Care Nursery that is connected to the NICU or any children's hospital job.

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I am in the same boat. I took a S.T.A.B.L.E class and I stayed after to speak with the instructor who was a NICU RN. I asked her this same question and she told me that if all else fails, they like post partum nurses.  This is because you will get experience with "normal, healthy" babies and will know their normal baseline of health. I guess similar to starting in adult med surg and then transferring to adult critical care if that makes sense.  Good luck!

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prmenrs has 42 years experience as a RN and specializes in NICU, Infection Control.

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10 hours ago, strokeRN1 said:

I am in the same boat. I took a S.T.A.B.L.E class and I stayed after to speak with the instructor who was a NICU RN. I asked her this same question and she told me that if all else fails, they like post partum nurses.  This is because you will get experience with "normal, healthy" babies and will know their normal baseline of health. I guess similar to starting in adult med surg and then transferring to adult critical care if that makes sense.  Good luck!

This is a great idea. Not only will you get experience w/"normal" newborns, you will learn a LOT about breastfeeding. That's a really useful skill set. 

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NICUmiiki has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in NICU.

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Apply to big NICUs because they are often new-grad friendly. Be willing to move and apply everywhere. I started right out of school and my unit hires mostly new grads. (Although it is competitive. Each opening gets about 30-100 applications.)

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Nurse Magnolia is a RN and specializes in NICU.

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I was hired directly into a NICU from nursing school as a new grad, but I've come to realize that I was pretty darn lucky.  I had previous experience working with people in crisis as a mental health and crisis intervention instructor and while that wasn't NICU experience, the recruiter thought that it would be a very helpful skill in dealing with parents who are in crisis regarding their ill newborn.  I really highlighted my skills in crisis intervention in my interview.  So not all of your skills necessarily  have to be medical to get into a NICU.  I think highlighting any skills that you might have that would benefit the culture and environment in a NICU can be helpful as well.  At least, it was for me.  

I couldn't move....so I applied to all of the level III NICU's in the region.   

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Wow thank you so much to everyone who replied with great tips and insights!! I've had experience in medsurg and mental health and working with families so hopefully parts of those experiences and skillsets will apply towards the NICU setting. I have actually looked into PostPartum but that's yet another place that mostly wants experienced nurses in the specialty. Nevertheless you all gave me a lot to think about and I feel more encouraged!! Thank you!!

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