What jobs should new nurses look for? What are the best nursing jobs for a new grad nurse?
Knowing where you want to work is helpful, but all’s not lost if you don’t know.
Please don’t think that if you don’t get your dream job right away that you’ve failed, that you will never work where you want to and that all your effort was in vain. So many of us start in different areas, discover new passions, and our career journeys look vastly different than what we thought in nursing school
The Best Nursing Jobs for New Nurse Grads
Honestly, the best nursing jobs for new nurse grads are ones that give you the chance to grow and learn. As you look for jobs, keep your list of priorities handy and choose jobs based on how they meet them.
New Nurse Grad Job Priorities
These are the most important priorities you should consider when looking for your first nursing job.
Your Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
This is a tough transition. You need a place that will support you through that with a safe culture who is aware of the unique challenges. Look for a place that provides resources for mental health.
New Nurse Support
Ask if they have a residency program or something specific to help onboard newly licensed nurses. You should ask this in the interview or it should be very obvious from the website. Always prioritize a job with a residency program or structured way to support newbies over the ideal unit.
Nothing is worse than an unsafe environment or one that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that newbies need more support. If the hospital plans to onboard newbies the same as experienced nurses, that’s a red flag.
Values the Learning Curve
Work for an organization that values and understands that your first job will be a learning experience for you and give you room to grow.
For example, if you think you want to work ICU and get a job offer at one hospital that doesn’t have a residency program and you get 2 months orientation versus a med-surg job at a hospital with a well-established residency program – go with that one.
Don’t Leave Nursing After One Bad Job
Don’t start someplace toxic and want to leave the profession entirely. Way better working on a busy med surg unit or LTACH with awesome and support colleague than an ICU or ED that you thought was your passion but is sucking the life out of you.
How To Pick A Nursing Specialty
Here’s the thing about specialty nursing right out of school – I only recommend it if you are incredibly sure that’s what you want.
So if you think you want to be a labor and delivery nurse, that means you’ve spent ample time in clinical, maybe worked as a CNA there, did a senior practicum there, volunteered there, etc. or something else and are aware of the challenges of that unit. You know what you’re getting yourself into. You’re passionate about it. You’re not passive.
Saying you like A Baby Story on TLC and that you were there when your sister had her baby isn’t enough.
It is very expensive for hospitals to train newbies, especially in a specialty area. So if you don’t know what you’re getting into, they’re much less likely to hire you for that and take that expensive chance. If it ends up not being for you, you can’t just switch.
My story with NICU
Let me share a personal story with you about a time I really thought I wanted to be a NICU nurse.
I’ve always been interested in helping people in the critical care field and I liked babies. So, when I filled out my new graduate nurse residency application, I wrote NICU as a place I wanted to work. I had no experience in the NICU, it was just this idea I had and it sounded good at the time.
When they asked me why I wanted to work in the NICU, I was honest and told them essentially that it sounded like a place I might want to work. I rightly did not get that job.
In retrospect, there weren’t any reasons why I deserved that job. I never made any efforts to work in NICUs, and I had no idea what the day-to-day in NICU was like. There was nothing about me as a nurse that told them I’d be worth investing in for that position.
I learned after that experience that I needed to have real examples of why I was a good candidate for the position I wanted.
If you don’t recognize, don’t specialize (yet)
If you know you want to work in a hospital but are not sure what you want to do exactly, try for a med-surg, med surg specialty (ortho, onco, cardiac, neuro) or step-down.
Plan to work there for 2 years. Get your feet wet. Learn, feel, see different patient situations. See where you thrive, what gets you excited. Put off choosing a specialty until you have experienced life as a nurse for a little while.
What if you don’t land the hospital job?
Today’s market for newbies is tough. Not everyone gets a great hospital job right out of school. It can feel pretty defeating. So, what should you do?
Thankfully, there are lots of specialties you can do even outside of a hospital. Try one of these.
Like one of my fellow Twitter nurse buds says, “It’s like med-surg, but with more blood.” Outpatient dialysis nurses get a ton of very relevant clinical experience. If you can’t get into the hospital but want to, working in a dialysis center will look awesome on an application – especially if you want to work ICU eventually.
Long Term Acute Care Hospitals (LTACH)
LTAC is another really great stepping stone that looks fantastic on a resume. Essentially, these are patients who are stable but need nursing care. Think of patients who are too stable to really need to be in a hospital, but require too much nursing care and interventions to be at a nursing home
Depending on the level of care, You’ll get comfortable with things like your assessment skills, patient positioning, PEG tubes, etc. You get used to working with CNAs who are a wealth of information and knowledge.
Want to learn more about LTACH? This guide breaks down 7 common myths, it’s a fascinating read.
The difference between. SNF and LTACH can be a little muddy – a lot is related to financial things.
This guide shows 10 differences between them. If you are trying to decide between these two, it’s a helpful resource.
Both are great places to work for new nurses and develop crucial patient care skills – especially if you want to get into a hospital one day.
SNF typically means more of a residential patient experience whereas LTACH is a bit more intense and hospital-like with more specific clinical observation, intervention, and care.
Some LTACs and SNFs have vent units, where they can take patients with even more advanced needs who are dependent upon ventilators. You’d get comfortable with trach care, ventilator management and more like that. Naturally, this includes tube feeding management as well.
You may have patients who are at the end of life or you may have younger patients who were in a car accident, young babies, and neuro injuries among others.
This is a great place to gain invaluable knowledge, especially if you want to get into intensive care nursing one day.
Another nursing specialty that doesn’t work in the hospital is a rehab nurse.
Basically your patient is stable and no longer requires intensive monitoring like on a normal acute care unit, but they need a lot of therapy, whether that is speech, occupational, or physical. These nurses might work in a hospital, outpatient setting, a clinic, long-term care, or assisted living facility.
Home health nurses care for patients who were D/C’d from the hospital but still require follow up care. These are patients with extensive histories or complex problems, but it’s not easy for them to go to the doc’s office frequently.
Home health nurses draw labs, take vitals, do assessments, and provide education and support to people going through a lot. You are going into people’s homes instead of working in a clinical setting.
I know, I know. People write this off, but it does provide a great experience. Once those loan payments start kicking in, you need to get paid and have a job! Make sure you’re asking the right questions (has leadership had a lot of turn over, what kind of experience does the director have etc).
As a nurse in a nursing home, you will most likely have many patients you’re passing meds to.
You will need to be a registered nurse to work in a nursing home. But beyond that, you don’t really need any specialized training.
You’ll build great rapport with your patients and have long term relationships. They become like family to the staff. You’ll learn important meds, how to work with CNA’s, and wound care.
How to Land Your First Nursing Job – The Essential Course
Don’t be overwhelmed or scared of applying for lots of different jobs. It might feel confusing at first, but the first year is all about personal and professional growth.
I have a course that breaks everything down into easy-to-understand concepts. With my videos and sample interviews, you will learn how to successfully land your first nursing job.
Download a Free Resume Template
The last thing I want is for you to spend time worrying about formatting a resume or making the mistake I did – spending hours on a resume builder website only for them to charge you for it. Your last year of school is stressful enough, so I wanted to take a little bit off of your plate by providing a resume template for you.
Looking to prepare for your first nursing job?
The FreshRN® New Nurse Master Class is the first-ever self-guided holistic nurse residency program. This comprehensive program was specifically created for the ambitious newly licensed acute care nurses who want to get ahead of them and build both their confidence and their clinical skills - all while learning how to adjust to the unique lifestyle of a nurse.