Options other than med/surg for new nursing grads in major Canadian cities?

  1. Hello all,

    I just graduated with a BMSc and I'm going to be starting a compressed nursing degree this fall. I am in Ontario, but I come from BC and I would love to move back, especially to Vancouver (I absolutely can't function in cold Ontario winters, and I prefer big-city living). I am interested in working as a nurse in a public health unit or in L&D, but almost all of the nursing jobs I've seen in Vancouver and area require at least 2 years of clinical experience. The only ones that seem to be open to new grads are med/surg (in fact, when I went to the Vancouver Coastal Health's job website and selected "jobs for new nursing grads", it automatically searched for "med/surg" only), with the odd job here and there in pre-anaesthesia care.

    I looked with PHSA too, and although their applications said "New grads welcome to apply!", they also required 2 years of clinical experience or education + experience as a requirement, which seemed a little contrary (they said that courses in breastfeeding/etc were preferred but not required, but the 2 years of experience seemed to be an absolute requirement). I've noticed that nursing jobs in fields other than med/surg are often open to new grads in smaller cities/towns, but Vancouver seems to have the highest standards (more competition I suppose).

    Are these "2 years relevant experience" requirements just a wish-list and the jobs are possible for new grads to get, or are they stead-fast requirements? Since I did a BMSc first, I would have 6 years of med/health science education rather than the standard 4 years for nurses, would this perhaps fulfill the requirement for some of them? Also, should you do your final practicum in the same area that you will be working? If these jobs are exclusive to experienced nurses and med/surg is basically the only field that will accept new grads in Vancouver, should I do my final practicum in a med/surg-like area or could I do it in public health or something and still get a job in med/surg if that's all that's available?
    Last edit by Nurse2bSophie123 on May 20
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    9 Comments

  3. by   Fiona59
    It's an employer's market and they can ask whatever they want.

    Final Practicum? Often you submit a wishlist of where you would like to go and the school does their best but there are no guarantees. Nearly everyone in my class wanted Women's Health, but there were only two preceptors. Some wound up in sub-acute and LTC>

    You could try for a placement in a specialty area but again, those spots are dependent on the number of preceptors that semester. Think OR or Dialysis.

    I did my final preceptorship in Geriatrics, first permanent job was on a surgery floor and I loved it. I've worked in many areas but those years as a staff nurse on a general surgery floor made me the nurse I am today (and I work in a very specialized area now) It was the LTC and general surgery experience that got me there.

    Time on the floor working with families, patients and honing your skill set can not be replaced by extra education.

    Some people get public health right away. But in my area, the unions are strong and you'd have a very hard time getting a foot in the door. Public Health is much desired because of the regular hours and limited amount of evening shifts.
  4. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    As Fiona59 says, employers right now have their pick of dozens of applicants for every position they post. Vancouver is one of the most in-demand locations for nurses, both Canadian-born and foreign-born (it's the climate, of course) so getting a foot in the door there as a new nurse will be VERY challenging. Both public health and L&D require some nursing experience; they're specialized roles and not usually something a new grad will be hired for. And although you'll have 6 years of post-secondary education, BMSc education isn't specifically or even remotely linked to nursing education. Nursing is a totally different professional path from medicine and the focus is also very different. So although you'll be given some credit for that degree, it won't be enough to substitute for specific nursing education in either public health or L&D. Then too, nursing education is only the foundation upon which you build your experience. Most people graduate from a 4 year nursing degree with only very basic nursing skills and develop them into more specialized and versatile abilities through learning on their first job. Being able to write a good paper with a perfect APA formatted bibliography will not provide you with the necessary knowledge to predict the onset of respiratory failure or help you teach a new mom to care for her baby. If you truly want to become a strong L&D or public health nurse, you will need to build some skills and gain some practical experience first. Med-surg will give you that. If you remember that it's another stepping stone on your path to your dream position and make the most of it, you'll learn a lot and be a very strong candidate a couple of years down the road.
  5. by   Nurse2bSophie123
    I'm the kind of person that's pretty amenable to different types of jobs, I think I'd enjoy med/surg fine enough and I'm certainly not opposed to working in it. I'm just wondering if it's at all possible to get jobs in non-med/surg fields as a new grad in a big city like Vancouver or if it's pointless to even try (my mum was very insistent that many jobs list higher required qualifications but will accept applicants with less if they have good stats otherwise, and I have seen that happen before, but I wasn't convinced this was the case for nursing). I was also pretty confused about how PHSA says they welcome new RN graduate applicants but still says they require 2 years of experience for those same jobs, that didn't really make sense.

    The thing I'm most concerned about is, in a competitive place like Vancouver, is having your practicum in a similar field to the job essential? I had guessed that med/surg or pre-anaesthesia care would be the field I'd be most likely to start working in since that's what's open to new grads (unless I decided to live in one of the smaller cities, which I noticed tended not to require clinical experience or specialty certificates to work in areas like public health or L&D), but does that mean I should avoid public health practicum options and stick to something more similar to med/surg? Do employers require or strongly prefer having a practicum in that same field, or is the quality of your practicum work that matters most even if it's not the same type of work?
  6. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    What do you have to lose by applying for jobs where you don't quite meet the requirements? Not a thing! By all means, apply for everything that remotely interests you. Just be prepared for no response if you're not remotely being considered. I applied for more than 150 positions before I got an interview.
    You can't win if you don't stay in the race.

    There are a few areas where the location of your preceptorship will matter. They tend to be areas like pediatrics where they want you to have at least some exposure to what the job will entail. The job posting will say something like, "New graduates welcome to apply. Preference will be given to those with a experience or preceptorship on a ___________ unit."

    One caveat: If there are lots of open positions on a unit, or they're encouraging new grads with no special training to apply, there might be a big problem with the unit itself. There are lots of units out there with very poor working environments and low morale. They're desperate to fill their vacancies and don't worry too much about fit. They just want a name attached to the line on the schedule. You can bet that the unit-specific education will be limited, the attitude of others on the unit is one of "every nurse for her/himself and management allows obvious favoritism to run rampant. Those are about the most toxic places a new grad can work.
  7. by   companisbiki
    Here is my advice. My friend from Ontario was able to do her consolidation/clinical preceptorship at BC children's hospital. Some schools may be able to offer some sort of a opportunity like that. Try to get your preceptorship here and it will be easier to get a job here. L&D is a different field but my family friend was able to get a casual job and a line as a new grad fairly easily without having preceptorship in that field. BC is short of a lot of nurses especially with Metro Vancouver as experienced nurses are moving further inland in search of affordable housing when they start a family. Nursing (RN especially) shortage is real here and it will get worse and worse. Even if you start out in Med Surg just to get an easy foot in the door as a new grad, you can earn some seniority hours and always switch fields.
    Last edit by companisbiki on May 21
  8. by   companisbiki
    Quote from NotReady4PrimeTime
    As Fiona59 says, employers right now have their pick of dozens of applicants for every position they post. Vancouver is one of the most in-demand locations for nurses, both Canadian-born and foreign-born (it's the climate, of course) so getting a foot in the door there as a new nurse will be VERY challenging. Both public health and L&D require some nursing experience; they're specialized roles and not usually something a new grad will be hired for. And although you'll have 6 years of post-secondary education, BMSc education isn't specifically or even remotely linked to nursing education. Nursing is a totally different professional path from medicine and the focus is also very different. So although you'll be given some credit for that degree, it won't be enough to substitute for specific nursing education in either public health or L&D. Then too, nursing education is only the foundation upon which you build your experience. Most people graduate from a 4 year nursing degree with only very basic nursing skills and develop them into more specialized and versatile abilities through learning on their first job. Being able to write a good paper with a perfect APA formatted bibliography will not provide you with the necessary knowledge to predict the onset of respiratory failure or help you teach a new mom to care for her baby. If you truly want to become a strong L&D or public health nurse, you will need to build some skills and gain some practical experience first. Med-surg will give you that. If you remember that it's another stepping stone on your path to your dream position and make the most of it, you'll learn a lot and be a very strong candidate a couple of years down the road.
    Actually due to the shortage here it's not as competitive as you think to land a general nursing job. I have seen new grads get into l&d. Most RN new grads are able to land a casual job very easily right now in a med surg field in the lower mainland (BC) and they usually get some seniority hours and switch their field. I am seeing more new grads from Alberta and Ontario in our units as well.
    In terms of foreign nurses it takes them 2-3 years to go through the license transfer process and the refresher course (only offered in 2 universities in the province) only allows limited number of students per year. A lot of foreign nurses, instead of transferring their RN license, are going into the lpn program as well, so it doesn't affect the competitiveness for RN jobs that much. For Lpn however, it is a bit more difficult to get jobs as a new grad here
    Last edit by companisbiki on May 21
  9. by   Nurse2bSophie123
    Quote from companisbiki
    Here is my advice. My friend from Ontario was able to do her consolidation/clinical preceptorship in BC children's hospital. Some schools may be able to offer some sort of a opportunity like that. Try to get your preceptorship here and it will be easier to get a job here.
    That's a good idea, but unfortunately I'm at UWO and I already asked them about this, they said they only let you do a practicum in Southwestern Ontario (sole exception is the Sick Kids hospital in Toronto). Pretty irritating since many other Ontario nursing schools allow out-of-province practicums and the UWO final practicum functionally costs $4000 for the tuition and they don't even pay for your travel, but c'est la vie. That was my plan otherwise.
  10. by   Parrhesia
    You can also be a community health nurse in big cities and get to do public health-related works.
  11. by   gerinurse777
    Apply anyways! Me and my classmates as new grads got hired anywhere we wanted from ER ICU to med surg

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