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New Grad working in SICU


I have read a lot of posts about new grads looking to get a position in an ICU. I was one of them prior to landing my first job in the SICU.

Here is a little encouragement: It can be done!

Some hospitals are very open about the fact that they don't accept new grads in the ICU. That's just their preference. Others will hire new grads so I suggest calling HR of the hospital you're interested in and asking if they hire new grads or if they require experience. If they don't, find a hospital that does.

Honestly, it is all about making connections and showing people that you're passionate about ICU nursing. It's also important to demonstrate that you have the potential and capacity to work in such a unit. I know a lot of people have strong opinions against new grads in the ICU whether its MICU, AICU, SICU, etc. I can see their logic, but I also think it depends on the person, the unit they are entering, and the kind of preceptors and coworkers they will be with. The hospital I work at does a great job at educating new graduates and preparing us by having us go through a 2 month critical care residency. We also have a long orientation and the other RNs on the unit are very helpful and willing to show you the ropes whether they are your preceptor or not.

Here is what I did to get a job in the SICU.

Back in February I started looking for hospitals that offered a critical care internship program, since I had decided I wanted to pursue a position in the ICU. I had heard that it's a sharp learning curve for a new grad in the ICU so I wanted to find a hospital that offered a program to bridge that gap. (I would suggest this.) I found hospitals in the area that offered such programs and did a little research on their organization, patient satisfaction, etc. I found one I was really interested in and called the contact number I found online to inquire about the application process.

The woman who answered the phone informed me that they no longer offered the program and that the person I was trying to contact no longer worked there. I was disappointed to say the least. Then she said, "I'm actually the recruiter for ICU. Tell me a little bit about yourself." I was totally unprepared for that, but I told her a little bit about myself. She gave me her email and told me to send her my resume. I sent it later that week and never heard from her. (I should have followed up and I would suggest doing so if you do get the opportunity.)

After I graduated and passed the NCLEX in May, I applied for an ICU position at this hospital. One thing I have found to be true is that hospitals aren't going to contact you for an interview until after you have passed your NCLEX. I would keep applying before you've taken it, but don't be discouraged if you haven't gotten a call. Actually, I applied to multiple hospitals in a variety of positions (just in case) and this was the only call I got.

After I submitted my application I remembered that I had talked to the recruiter just a few months earlier. So I decided it wouldn't hurt to give her a call, remind her who I was, and reiterate that I am still VERY interested in a ICU position. So I did and it turned into an informal phone interview. After our conversation she told me that she didn't have any open positions in the AICU, but she knew the hiring manager of the SICU was looking for RNs. So she sent him my information and told me he would call me the next week.

He called me the next day and we talked for a bit about the unit and why positions are open, etc. He asked if I would be willing to come in for an interview (of course!) and we scheduled it. I had 5 people interviewing me and it was very intimidating at first. (I'll make a post about interview tips on another page.) After my interview I was asked to come back and shadow the unit for an evening and that would serve as a peer interview and a way for me to see if I wanted to work there. Some very smart nurses I worked with in my previous job as a unit secretary told me that I might be asked back to shadow and to be prepared by bringing scrubs. So I brought scrubs and shoes with me just in case. DO THIS! After the interview when they asked when I could come back, I told them I had brought scrubs and was able to shadow that evening if it worked for them. I came back a few hours later and shadowed. Being prepared made a good impression.

The next day I got a call asking if I would come in for a second meeting. I came in again, prepared for a second interview, but instead was offered the job! Insane as it was, I got the job 1 week to the day after I called the ICU recruiter. (I won't take credit for this! It was a total God thing!) I have been on the unit for a littler over a month and I LOVE it!

So the moral of the story is, make connections. Make phone calls. Reach out and let people know you are interested. There are so many faceless applications coming in daily that it's easy to get lost in the pile. The way to get the job is to stand out by putting a face or a voice to the name. Develop some good communication skills and you're bound to get a job in the ICU! Another new grad I work with emailed the hiring manager on a weekly basis reminding him how much she liked the floor and was interested in working there. It obviously worked. Be perseverant. Most of the time it takes a while to hear back from a hiring manager or HR. Be patient and don't give up or become discouraged.

That's all I've got. Sorry it's a long one! Best of luck to you! =)

Edited by RNatHeart24

Congrats on getting the ICU job! I am in the same position. I was able to have a meeting showing my interest in the ICU with the ICU nursing director and CNO and have a second follow-up interview soon. Did you have any prior ICU experience like CNA/PCA or senior practicum/externship? Also, what kind of questions did they ask you in your 1st interview?

melissa.in.san.diego, BSN

Specializes in ICU/Flight Nurse. Has 7 years experience.

I'm a new grad, and just got offered a position on the Medical ICU. I did not do my senior practicuum in critical care, but I did have 6 years of tech experience on a various units (peds, med surg, vascular surgery). My unit manager told me they were more concerned about new hires fitting in with the culture of the unit...vent settings can always be taught. Not completely sure what she meant by that...but I start September 22. Hopefully I fit in. Lol

nmpBSN, thank you! And congrats to you for standing out to them. It's obvious they like you if you're asked to come back! =)

I did not have any prior ICU experience outside of my clinicals in nursing school. I worked as a unit clerk in an emergency room. So basically I talked on the phone A LOT (communication skills!), especially with doctors, and had good organization and prioritization skills (which I used to show that I was capable of prioritizing and wouldn't be intimidated when talking to doctors.) Although if you do have experience that would be invaluable! I didn't, so during my interview I just talked about the little experience I did have in ICU and how it impacted me and how it made me want to pursue a position in the ICU. They know you are a new grad so they don't expect you to have a lot of experience or know it all. The thing to do is highlight the experiences and skills you DO have already that could easily be applied to ICU and to show that you're not only very interested in ICU, but you would be a great asset to the floor and good member of the team.

In my first interview, they basically went over my resume with me. They asked about my clinicals and wanted examples of times that I had to make a quick decision, times when I was asked to do something I didn't think was right or wasn't comfortable with, and times when I advocated for my pt. They asked about academic achievements, what motivated me, and asked for explanations of what my extracurriculars were. I went on a medical mission trip so I talked a lot about that. The type of questions that you can prepare for and what they asked me about were "What three words would you use to describe yourself and why?" and "Why ICU?" and "Why do you want to work at this facility?" They will also ask you to tell them a little bit about yourself. I was a little silly during this question because I thought they meant professionally, but they wanted to know about me as a person. Also questions like "How do you handle stress?" "How do you handle conflict with coworkers? What would you do if someone on the team wasn't pulling their own weight?" (Always talk to the person first before involving management.) "Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?" and the final question I was asked was "There are a lot of people applying for this position. Why should we hire you?" In my answer, I explained how I would be an asset, how I'm passionate about ICU nursing, how this patient population is fascinating to me and, and how much I wanted it. I don't think there is any shame here and I think this is one thing that stood out to them: I very openly said, "I just really want this job!" To which they all responded by smiling. Don't be too rehearsed. Show you are human and have a sense of humor and aren't perfect. They may ask you about a weakness and be honest about it. The weaknesses that are actually strengths are cliched now. I guess my biggest piece of advice going in is be real with them.

melissa.in.san.diego, congrats!! =) I hope you love it!

I was told similar things. They said "We are looking for people who are a good fit among the other nurses and the culture of the unit." The hiring manager actually went around and asked the nurses already working there what they were looking for and used their input a lot in the hiring process. I was told that you can teach anyone skills and tasks. What you can't teach is personality and common curtesy. I think they realized that there is a lot of animosity among other units (It really is common. We saw it as nursing students!) and really wanted to do something to make a better work environment which then affects the quality of care you give your patients. I love the different approach they took and that they went a step farther when hiring people.

September 22nd is coming up soon! If you got hired, it means they think you will fit in and you probably will. Good luck! :)

RNatHeart24, thanks for all the great advice and insight, this will help a great deal with my upcoming interviews!! 😊