10 secrets to success for recent college grads pursuing nursing careers

10 secrets to success for recent college grads pursuing nursing careers was originally published on College Recruiter.

Compassion, patience. A willingness to help. A desire to continually learn. Those are all important traits of a successful nurse, say Dr. Kim Hudson-Gallogly, head of the University of North Georgia’s Department of Nursing.

“The medical field is constantly growing and changing,” says Hudson-Gallogly. And recent college grads pursuing a career in nursing or nursing jobs must be prepared to adapt now, and in their future. Especially when it comes to landing that entry-level nursing job.

Those pursuing entry-level nursing careers should “try and expose yourself to many different areas of nursing so that you can know where your interests truly lie,” says Hudson-Gallogly. “That way, you can have at least a couple of areas you would like to work in, in case your first choice is not available.”

According to the American Nursing Association “Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations.”

To succeed in a nursing career, college students and recent college grads pursuing nursing careers need excellent people skills with the ability to listen, observe, and communicate with others, says Rhonda Bell, Dean of Health Sciences at San Jacinto College North.

“A nurse is a team member in an ever changing dynamic health care system,” says Bell. “He or she must have the ability to work as a part of a multi-disciplinary team in order to achieve the best outcomes for the patient and family receiving care.”

Nursing can be a stressful career, says Bell. But also rewarding. A nurse must be able to manage stress and deal with emotional situations, as well be flexible and adaptable on short notice. What it comes down to is, a nurse must have a passion for caring for others, says Bell.

Nurses are taught to be unbiased and non-judgmental when caring for all cultures, ethnicities, socio-economic groups, genders and age groups, says Dr. Janet Mahoney, Dean of the Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies at Monmouth University.

“The profession is guided by the code of ethics,” says Mahoney. “Nursing is a highly respected profession and one that the public highly regards as one of the most trustworthy.”

Nurses portray calmness in a sea of chaos, adds Mahoney. As new nurses join the field, they quickly learn how to multitask and delegate appropriately. Each patient’s care experience brings nurses to a new level of knowledge, competency, and confidence. Each experience builds on the other to form a firm foundation.

What are some other skills and traits of a successful nurse? What does it take for current college students and recent college grads to succeed in a nursing career? Nursing industry educators and leaders provide these 10 secrets to success for recent college grads pursuing nursing careers:

1. Be flexible: You likely won’t get the exact hours and position you want right out of college, but if you show that you are willing to be a team player in a position other than your preferred one, other opportunities will come along. “Recognize there will be shift and holiday work,” says Hudson-Gallogly. “You likely will not get your preferred job right out of nursing school.” So try to find variety in the work you do, early in your career. Nurses should be open to obtaining experience in various settings and specialties. For example, if you worked in critical care and it wasn’t for you, consider working at a health clinic, where you will have much more involvement with active patients in this environment, which will help round out your skills and give a different perspective on the variety of nursing job opportunities. Be flexible early in your career.

2. Communication skills are crucial: As a nurse you will be communicating a great deal on the job — with other nurses and techs, doctors and mid-level providers, patients, friends and family of patients. “Ensure that your written and oral communications skills are proficient,” says Hudson-Gallogly.

3. Math skills are important: Understanding dosing rates for medication, administering meds, reading prescription orders and labels, reading reports, charting, reporting, and documentation all require good math skills. This is a must to succeed as a nurse and to passing any nursing licensing examinations.

4. Find a mentor: If you don’t already have an experienced nurse or someone else in a similar position who can encourage and support you, find one. A mentor can be an invaluable resource as you learn the ropes. “Despite surviving a rigorous curriculum, a new graduate needs mentorship,” says Bell. “Don’t be afraid to ask to be mentored by someone with experience or ask for advice.”

5. Invest in yourself while you wait: Don’t be passive as you submit resumes and talk with recruiters. Volunteer somewhere that will keep your skills honed. Consider a mission trip, or getting a part-time job in healthcare to add professional experience and build your resume and gain nursing experience.

6. Take care of your own health: Nurses often work long and sometimes difficult hours. “Get your mind and body prepared and in a routine that will keep you healthy and sustained when you adjust to your new role,” says Hudson-Gallogly.

7. Time management: One skill every nurse needs to master quickly but never gets much training in is time management, says Maelisa Hall, a career counselor and licensed psychologist, whose husband is also a nurse.  “As a nurse, you’ll be treating many different patients and some will make frequent requests of you,” says Hall. “It can be easy to forget what people need and difficult to prioritize the needs of your various patients. As a new grad or student nurse, ask your preceptors and professors what tips they have for managing hectic days and take notes so you can have a plan of attack when you start on your own.”

8. Become a lifelong learner: College nursing students and recent college graduates pursuing nursing careers shouldn’t stop learning once they graduate and complete a nursing program. Whether one is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), or Registered Nurse (RN), there are always additional degrees and career paths nurses can take once they graduate from a two or four-year college or university. Nurses who are constantly learning and taking continuing education classes or pursuing advanced degrees and training will put themselves in position to move up the nursing career ladder. This can pay off in big ways in terms of pay and salary, leadership, and making an impact as a nurse or nursing leader.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $67,490 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $46,360, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,630. According to nurses.org, these are the 10 highest paying nursing jobs:

  1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  2. General Nurse Practitioner
  3. Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
  4. Pain Management Nurse
  5. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  6. Certified Nurse Midwife
  7. Family Nurse Practitioner
  8. Informatics Nurse
  9. Clinical Nurse Specialist
  10. Nursing Administrator

The article on nurse.org stated: “To really thrive however, many RNs earn additional certifications, go for an advanced degree, and specialize in one particular area of nursing. This increases their earning potential by helping them qualify for positions at more prestigious hospitals.”

9. Continuing education is a must: Even if a nurse isn’t pursuing advanced nursing degree options, keeping current in the field of nursing is important, and required, says Mahoney. Most states require a mandatory number of continuing education (CE) units to maintain one’s nursing license. For example, the CE requirements for registered nurses in New Jersey, is a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education during the two-year period preceding renewal. In addition, every RN must complete a one-hour CE course that covers organ and tissue donation and recovery designed to address clinical aspects of the donation and recovery process.

10. Learn how to network: Aspiring and current nurses should learn how to network with other health care professionals.  Meeting new people and exchanging ideas can lead to new information and opportunities for career advancement. Attend industry events. Join industry associations. Consider volunteering with organizations that can keep you connected within the nursing profession.

“Always remain professional and ethical, and serve as a role model for others,” says Bell.

Tips for college students pursuing nursing degrees:

College students know this: Nursing education is like a full-time job. Between classes, studying and labs, many nurses put in 40 to 60 hours a week of time dedicated to getting a nursing degree, and especially as they prepare for the to prepare for the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination), a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States.

That’s why it’s important for nurses still in college to balance their work, school, and personal lives.

“Set priorities, make lists, delegate when possible and keep the refrigerator stocked with nutritious foods,” says Mahoney.

Take nursing classes and training serious. It’s a reflection of what you will be like as they move into a nursing career.

“Nurses are held to high standards by the profession and the community,” says Bell. “This includes nursing students. Students can make lasting impressions and start building networks during their clinical rotations. That impression needs to be positive.”

Sharon Starr, PhD, RN, Associate Professor and Dean of the Hunt School of Nursing at Gardner-Webb University, says recent college grads pursuing nursing careers should learn to be flexible and adaptable.

“Be prepared to work with a variety of people and care for a variety of patients,” says Starr. “Remember that the first job out of school may not be the job you have for the rest of their nursing career.”

Nursing jobs are in demand. Follow these tips to successfully launch a career in nursing. To learn more about nursing careers and other health care opportunities, stay connected to College Recruiter. Start by registering with College Recruiter to have job alerts emailed to you. Then visit our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

By College Recruiter
College Recruiter believes that every student and recent grad deserves a great career.