While I am not an LPN, nor did I have any experience prior to nursing school, I am five months into a nurse residency program (NRP), and thought I'd chime in, though I am afraid that I may be a bit long-winded. I did not start nursing school until I was 32, and I entered an accelerated BSN program that had me done pretty much a year and change later. That said, I have a ton of life experience from my prior career of 13+ years. Also, the residency programs in my area (Nashville) are highly competitive. Since healthcare is the Nashville region's primary industry, it's tough to spit without hitting a nurse, nursing student, or aspiring nursing student. The big three companies vying for nurse residents in my area are TriStar (HCA-largest private hospital corporation in the world, headquartered in Nashville), Vanderbilt, and St. Thomas (Ascension-largest Catholic hospital corporation in the United States). I only mention all of this so that you can know where I am coming from with my experience in the process, which ultimately led to me being successful in securing a position in my preferred specialty area.
It is important to determine a couple of things:
First, what is your absolute, number one choice? Mine was ED. It seems that you are set on L&D, and that's awesome! I know that L&D is one of the most sought after specialty areas in the big three nurse residency programs in my area; further, this is probably true in most programs across the nation. I hope you get it, and it makes you as happy as my choice made me.
Second, and much more
important than your first choice, since many NRPs require your top three, what other two areas would you be okay with working in for at least two years (the minimum time contract commitment to an NRP) to gain experience before working toward your preferred area? In my case, the other two areas I really liked from nursing school were psych and perioperative. HOWEVER
, the two areas that I put down were perioperative and ICU.
You might be asking why I didn't put down psych as one of my two, and if you aren't then you should be now, because this is an important strategy. There is a large need for psych RNs all over. If I would have put down psych as one of my top three, when the application reviewers got together I would have immediately been sorted to that specialty just because there are so few applicants. I know this because one of the HR recruiters thought they heard me say I liked psych, and they were still calling me after I had accepted a job in the ED at my current facility. Yes, this happens- the directors sit and divvy up people before and after interviews, and they do it by their need, not by your heart-set desire. Choose two areas that would be acceptable to you; two areas that you could live with waking up and working the 36 hours a week required of you for as long as two years before you could transfer. If you don't want Med/Surg and you put it down, guess what there is a good chance you're going to get? Exactly. If you can research the needs of the facilities in your area to which you are applying, you can play this part of the game.
Now we can get to the next part of things, which I believe is your original question, the cover letter/essay. I used to be a manager that did a lot of hiring and firing in my previous life, and I've read my fair share of cover letters from prospective employees. All of those things they taught you about structure, grammar
, and word choice are all true, and the cover letter can influence the hiring team's opinion of your commitment to the application process without ever meeting you. Introduce yourself, and absolutely talk yourself up- but don't misrepresent your experience and credentials. Everyone knows there is a little stretching going on, so make sure you toe the line there. Talk about your experience, both in healthcare and outside, and why that helps you to be ready as a new RN in their specific NRP.
More importantly than why you'd be a good RN, since nursing school and the NCLEX are fairly standardized across nursing education, make sure the reasons why you would be a good member of their team are clear. The NRPs and department directors want good team members that are going to collaborate, get along, and work together. The letter should be customized to each individual NRP/facility, and discuss why you think that their specific program would be a good fit for you. In other words, do your homework and don't just pump out a generic cover letter.
The interview process is typically pretty structured across programs, and should include a peer interview as well as a management interview. My particular peer interview at the facility I received an offer in-specialty to was not with ED nurses, however my manager interview was with the ED manager (the other was a med/surg manager)- that is how I knew they were serious about my application, because the ED will only take residents if one of the managers from the department interviews. This is why it's important to know what your other two areas are, and be okay with getting a spot in one of them.
The bottom line is that this is a tough decision, but you have to measure your desire of specialty area over your desire to start gaining some experience in the NRP regardless of specialty area. I went into things knowing that it was more important to me to work at the facility I am at than in the area, and it was just icing- yes, tons of tasty sweet icing- when I also got offered the specialty, but nothing was certain. The cover letter was absolutely one of my strong points- I know because my manager told me. Don't underestimate the importance, and utilize the myriad resources and examples out there to help you craft the letter that works for YOU.
Whew, I told you it would be long-winded, but hopefully there is something helpful to you in here based on my personal experiences. If not, I had a fun time reliving the process through this journaling. If you have any questions, aside from "couldn't you have made that shorter" (No), feel free to reach out, and best of luck to you!