You've made it. That last assignment, discussion post, and exam are all on the horizon, and you can finally see the bright light at the end of what seemed at many times, a very dark tunnel. You've sacrificed relationships, time, missing out on events, sleep, and even peace of mind, all to follow your dream of being a nurse. To say that nursing school is challenging, does not even begin to describe what you have gone through over the last few years. But you made it, and here you are! Now what?
Soak in the Moment
I remember walking out of my very last exam, almost bursting into tears feeling a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. The idea that all the excruciating work had finally come to an end, and the sense of pride I felt for accomplishing something that not everyone can achieve, was overwhelming. The sigh of relief I witnessed on each of my classmates' faces, was one that will forever be ingrained into my memory that day. Although I was so ecstatic to be finished with school, I still had the looming feeling hanging over my head that I had to study for and pass, the NCLEX. The exhaustion I still felt from nursing school was taking a toll on me, so I decided that for my own sanity, taking a two-week break from all studying, would be the best thing for me. Allowing myself mental and physical rest, enabled me to find the motivation that I was looking for, and I was then able to dive back into the content and really focus on studying.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Maybe you already have that dream job lined up, and the day you walk across the graduation stage to be pinned, you'll be able to see your future unfolding like the pages of a well-designed map of your life. But if you haven’t found the right job yet or don't have an offer, don't sweat it, take your time. Your newly gained skills are valuable and needed and there are a lot of options out there. There is a link on the landing page to LiquidCompass for New Grad eligible nursing jobs and today there are over 72,000 open positions across the country. Check it out at liquidcompass.com Use the filters on the left to find the specialties you are interested in.
I remember being so nervous to land my dream position with this idea of "what if I fail the NCLEX and lose it before I even start" that I didn't even apply for any nurse openings during school (Side note, looking back, now I know that fear was unrealistic). Most of my friends had committed to hospitals before graduation, but as I spoke to more of my classmates, many of them were still deciding on what area of nursing they wanted to work in. This immensely helped take the pressure off me to secure a position before I graduated.
Preparing for the Interview
You were chosen for the interview! Your first professional interview at the beginning of this new and exciting career. Make sure that you are prepared to help them understand why hiring you is a great decision. You're likely not the only applicant for this position, and if they only have one opening, you need to be able to stand out from the other nurses, especially as a new graduate. You’ll want to explain why you're passionate about this position, and you should also be ready to give specific examples of how you would be an asset to the team. Are you a quick learner, take the initiative often, team player, or all around positive and uplifting person? Highlight the attributes that you believe will help you stand out from the crowd.
I recommend you ask to shadow on the unit after the interview. Two reasons, one, to ensure that that this position is a good fit for you, and two, to decide if you are a good fit for the position. What do I mean by that? Just because this may be your "dream job" doesn't always mean that it's the right, or even best opportunity. You must decide if the unit culture, manager, schedule, expectations and patient demographics all mesh well with your current comfort level and career goals. I personally had an interview for what I would have considered my dream nursing position, but after shadowing on the unit for several hours, I realized it just wasn’t the best fit for me at the time. It’s okay to walk away from any job offer, if it doesn’t feel right. Trust your own instinct.
The Next Chapter
Graduation can be the most exciting, but also the most uncertain of times. It’s the time between what once was, and what will be. It’s a period of winding down from the past season, while gearing up for the next. What is passing isn’t completely over yet, and what is coming, is still on its’ way. My best advice is to just be patient with the process and most importantly, be patient with yourself. You’ve made it this far and you have an exciting career ahead. Soak in this moment, be proud of your accomplishments, and step into the world full of possibilities waiting for you.
Leah Matthews is a Registered Nurse working on a Trauma unit at a hospital system in Dayton, OH. In 2019, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Xavier University with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. For Leah, Nursing is her passion and second career, as she has over seventeen years of experience as a marketing and advertising professional within various roles. Along with her love for writing, Leah’s future goals include obtaining her Masters in Nursing with a focus on Women’s Health.