New Grad 10 Months Out Needs Help Landing A Job

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  • Columnist
    Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development, Freelance Writer. Has 30 years experience.


Dear Nurse Beth,

I earned my license in January, but delayed looking for a job because I had been told I would be having major surgery in March/April. I didn't want to start a job or further my education and then have to leave right after for 6+ weeks or quit entirely if the surgery had major complications. But by April my doctor had decided he was biting off more than he could chew and referred me to a different surgeon, and the process of planning surgery with her took five more months of repeated delays (but repeated promises for me to go under "in two weeks") on her part and an unlucky COVID exposure on my end.

Now it's been almost ten months since I got my license and I can finally start looking for a job without worrying about any health issues. But I'm not sure how to explain on my resume my lack of nursing experience this long after getting my license. While I dealt with my health problems I worked by helping out in my family's business, but it was pretty far removed from the medical world. I'm worried that employers won't even consider me when they see how long its been since I worked in patient care (I was a CNA for two years before I started nursing school). Do you have any recommendations for what I could add to my resume to help improve my chances of getting an interview?

Dear Worried,

I'm sorry you had such unfortunate timing. Healthwise, I'm glad you're recovered.

To address a medically-related employment gap, keep it simple.The explanation is- you had a medical condition that is now completely resolved, and you are eager to start your nursing career. Most employers are not interested in medical details but do want to know that you are employment-ready and reliable.

List the employment dates of working for your family's business on your resume and   explain in your cover letter/interviews that you did not want to start a nursing job only to leave right away for major surgery. That's most likely all the explanation you'll need.

You are not expected to list nursing skills as a new grad applying for your first nursing job. However, working in non-nursing jobs does not mean you have no transferable skills. Customer service and teamwork, to name a couple. Think from an employer's POV and of soft skills you acquired. Did you have perfect attendance? Reliable. Were you assigned any extra responsibilities? Trustworthy.

The most important thing is, the clock is ticking on your new grad status and it's essential for you to land your first nursing job as soon as possible. Cast your net far and wide. Submit multiple applications and be sure to personalize your resume to each potential employer. 

Activate your network and let them know you are looking for a job. Get in touch with your old classmates to see if anyone knows of an opening and would put in a good word for you. Contact your clinical instructors, most of whom have close ties to local hospitals. Hopefully you asked for letters of recommendation from your instructors while you were still in school, but it's never too late.

Make sure your resume and interviewing skills are on point and game-ready. Your resume, if well-constructed and concise, gets their attention and gets you in the door. Your interview closes the deal.

I have too many examples and tips for you on resumes, interviews, applying and even how to cold-call successfully to list here. They're all in my book "Your Last Nursing to land your first nursing job and your next!" -

It's free right now on Kindle Unlimited and it's written for new grads such as yourself and nurses in general, who were not necessarily taught these skills.

Very best of wishes,

Nurse Beth

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subee, MSN, CRNA

4,405 Posts

Specializes in CRNA, Finally retired. Has 51 years experience.

As someone who has interviewed applicants for Nursing Jobs, I think there is a better explanation for Worried to give.  Something of on the line, I had to have a surgery and wanted to recover from it before I started a job.  Because of needing to change surgeons and Covid, it kept getting postponed but is behind me now and I'm now ready to get going.  When applicants were vague with me, it just sent red flags.  Worried was concientious enough to not put her new employer through a prolonged sick leave and she should get some credit for that.

Nurse Beth, MSN

160 Articles; 2,838 Posts

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development, Freelance Writer. Has 30 years experience.

Thank you for your input. Vague implies hiding something, which I do not recommend.

The key points are 1) a medical condition caused her gap, and 2) it is completely resolved. Nothing to cause a red flag.

She can share more if she likes, or go with the flow if it's indicated the interviewers want more. Although interviewers should not typically ask about a medical condition.

I agree with being seen as conscientious:

 "explain in your cover letter/interviews that you did not want to start a nursing job only to leave right away for major surgery"


Rate your pain

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I’ve interviewed nurses in the past. I find honesty works. I had surgery, it was during Covid, there were a lot of delays, I am 100 percent fine now. I would have been totally fine with that answer. 

I have significant gaps in my resume. I explained them and I don’t believe it ever caused me a problem. Best of luck.