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Where to Begin Your Nursing Career?

How Do You Decide Where to Work? Many nurses had an idea of the exact type of nursing they wanted to do before they even began nursing school. Sometimes they stayed true to this choice, and sometimes another rotation during nursing school opened their eyes to other possibilities and stole their heart. Some nurses had no idea what choices were even open to them until they went to nursing school. As they went through each rotation, they thought “this one is the one for me” until they began the next rotation and fell in love all over again. So how do you decide whether you want to be a newborn nursery nurse, or work in the NICU? Or do you want to be in the delivery room? Perhaps you like the challenges of the ER, or the ICU? Want something a little less hectic like an orthopedic unit or rehab? How does oncology appeal to you? Do you want to work in women’s health? Or do you see yourself working in a cardiac cath lab or in the OR? You don’t have to make those decisions right away. You could opt for a general med/surg experience first. This is especially useful if your nursing program has been a little light on offering you lots of hands on experience. Med/surg is an essential background if you want to go into home health nursing. You need at least a good solid year of med/surg first. This would be recommended before jumping into ICU and ER as well. Try a Teaching Hospital If you have an opportunity to work in a teaching hospital with med students this would be a great opportunity. You’ll see a wider variety of patients, illnesses, treatments and procedures. A Preceptor is Essential Look for an opportunity to have a preceptor or mentor for a minimum of three months. Six months to a year would be optimal. Some facilities also offer internship programs for new grad nurses which provide rotations through various departments in their facility. This can be a great way to learn more on the job and see how different departments run in the facility. Give yourself a good year to become comfortable in your skin as a new nurse. Then think more about where you’d like to spend some time. Some self-assessment questions you may want to consider in looking for your first or second job in nursing include: What clinical rotations interested you the most in school? And which the least? Do you want to work with babies, children, adults, the elderly, women, families? When do you want to work? (How many days, weekends, etc?) What are your salary requirements? Do you need benefits? Which ones? Are you going to continue your education and when? Do you aspire to be a manager or nurse educator eventually? By setting some goals and realistically looking at some requirements such as salary and benefits, you may narrow down your choices. The nursing shortage offers a unique opportunity to new nurses. Take time to explore your own needs and goals, and make the best package for yourself. This isn’t a lifelong commitment. You always have choices and options. Give an opportunity a fair chance, but if it’s not working for you, move on. If it is… grow with it. — Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN has had over 30 years experience in nursing, primarily in home health care. In addition to being a nurse, and mother of three, she is a webmaster, freelance writer, desktop publisher and researcher. She enjoys writing for patients and health care professionals as well as other professionals such as engineers, real estate agents, and financial planners. She has recently completed The Everything New Nurse Book for Adams Media. It will be available March 30, 2006. Her next book is in progress. It will be The Everything Guide to Careers in Health Care for Adams Media as well. It will be available January 2007.

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