3 Steps to Your Dream Nursing Job

Nurses may disagree about which specialty is the best, but most agree on this — finding your first nursing job out of school can be challenging. It can be even more challenging when you have your heart set on a particular specialty or type of facility and all of the open positions require a year or more of experience.

Rachel Coughlin, career services advisor at Chamberlain Columbus, says the best approach is to view the path toward your dream job as just that – a path, with multiple steps that get you closer to your goal.

“Many students worry about being pigeon-holed with their first job out of nursing school, but it’s really not the case,” she said. “You have to open yourself up to learning experiences in that first job.”

So, how do you get to that dream job in nursing? The secret lies in reaching for the stars while keeping your expectations a little closer to earth.

Work backwards

Chart the course from where you want to be back to where you are now. Recognize that you may need to take multiple steps. For example:

  • If you want to work in a hospital, try a higher acuity long-term care facility with a rehab or sub-acute unit if all the med-surg jobs in your area require experience.
  • If you want to go into critical care, try a med-surg unit or higher acuity long-term care facility with a rehab or sub-acute unit.
  • If you want to work in labor and delivery, try post-partum nursing or a medical-surgical floor in a rural hospital.


Think transferrable skills

“Many jobs ask for one year of experience, not necessarily one year of hospital experience,” said Meggan Swierkowski, career services advisor at Chamberlain’s Addison campus.

Look at things from the hiring manager’s perspective. Make a list of the skills that are needed and look for other positions that might help you gain them. Therapeutic communication, for example, is a skill that you could gain from work in mental health nursing and later transfer to any number of other specialties.

Keep an open mind.

If you get called in for an interview, even if it’s not for your dream job, take the opportunity to check out the facility and the staff. The unit might end up being a good fit for you as a new nurse.

No matter where you land, remember to look at that first nursing job (or, in fact, any job) as a learning opportunity – a time to build the skills that will take you another step closer to where you want to be.

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