Student Voices is a blog series written by SMU students. If you have an idea for a story, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is written by Trang Nguyen, ABSN '16 alumnus.
As I approached graduating from SMU’s nursing program in December 2016, I suffered from a normal case of anxiety: Will I get a job?
Much less, will I get my dream job?
Turns out, I landed on my feet at Stanford Hospital on an orthopedic surgical unit. Each day, I’m responsible for taking care of my patients who had a hip replacement, knee surgery, or anything orthopedic related. Pain management and implementing certain orthopedic precautions play a huge role in what I do. Some major complications that can occur are post-op infections, falls, and DVTs to name a few. Another part of my role is to prevent those complications from occurring by constantly monitoring and educating my patients (ex. Teaching patients about the need for early ambulation and blood thinners to prevent clots). I am so grateful that everyone on my unit is extremely supportive and helpful in my transition to a new grad nurse, and excited to continue learning and growing as a new nurse!
Now that I’ve had some success, I can share with you what worked for me, and hope it applies to your career search as well.
Good luck – and hang in there!
1. Network, network, network!
Whether you’re doing clinicals in nursing school, volunteering, or working, make sure to network and be kind to everyone you meet. You never know what connections other people have! I was able to interview at a pretty well known Bay Area hospital through a friend of a friend and while I didn’t get the job, I think the interview experience prepared me and led me toward my dream job.
2. Take the NCLEX as soon as possible
Don’t delay! You really do know more than you think you do. I took the NCLEX within 3 weeks of completing my preceptorship and started the job search immediately after I passed. What’s tricky about these job postings is that they come and go and they don’t stay active for very long (some disappear within 24 hours or less!). I think it’s good to have your application submitted at the very least because it’s all a waiting game afterwards. Also, most jobs require you have your license when you apply so it really limits you if you delay taking the NCLEX. Of course, everyone’s pace is different so do what feels right!
3. Make Portfolios!
Nursing is all about selling yourself. Everyone around you will most likely have the same credentials, so what sets you aside from the hundreds of other applicants? Take initiative and hand out your portfolios as soon as you get your RN license. Go to career fairs, hospital units you’ve done clinicals at, or even hospitals you’re interested in working at and hand them to the nursing managers. Meeting managers face to face can keep you on their radar so be proactive!
4. Get certified!
I highly recommend investing in your future while you’re in nursing school and getting those certifications to put on your resume (you’ll thank yourself later down the road!). ACLS, BLS, and PALS are the common ones that I’ve personally been told looks great on my resume when applying for jobs. The Stroke and IV certifications are also good ones to have. If you want to pursue a specialty like L&D or NICU, there are Fetal Heart Rate monitoring or Neonatal Resuscitation certifications as well. Just do your research, get certified, and make yourself stand out from the crowd.
5. Utilize your resources
Definitely use your resources with SMU, whether it’s for resume building or interview prepping. PREPARATION is pivotal! I cannot emphasize this enough. Ensuring you have a great resume is only half the battle — the nerve wracking but exciting part is the interview! I was fortunate to have my amazing friend, who is also a nurse and SMU alumni (shout out to Annie Le!) provide me honest feedback so I knew what my weaknesses and strengths were. I found this to be extremely helpful and a huge contributing factor to how I landed my dream job!