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If you got pinned (virtually, perhaps) during the COVID-19 pandemic, then you’re likely facing a whole slew of challenges nursing school didn’t cover. The fact of the matter is that the pandemic completely rocked the medical world. We watched as our colleagues, coworkers, and classmates were forced to adapt to a massive demand for intensive care, learn a whole new world of protective gear and, worst of all, deal with contracting the disease themselves on the frontlines.

All of this is just one more thing reinforcing the ever-growing nursing shortage. Before the pandemic, the lack of nurses loomed large. With a big chunk of the workforce aging into retirement and a more significant need for nursing than virtually any other field, the experts say there’s a need for over a million new registered nurses to make up for the loss. Indeed, the field is growing and the market is secure. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a growth of about seven percent over the next decade, with over 100,000 jobs available annually.

But just because there’s clearly a massive demand for nurses doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a job as a recent grad. Sure, you’ll probably be able to get a job relatively quickly, but you want to do everything you can to make sure you land within a solid health care system and position yourself to earn top-dollar now and down the road. Here are some things to consider on your job search.

1. Be as Adaptable as Possible.

If there’s one thing we learned in 2020, it’s to never take anything for granted. This is especially true in large, complex health care systems, which had to make do with staff shortages, budgetary constraints, and a lack of space. For these reasons, hiring managers want to see adaptability and flexibility as a feature of any new employee. Here’s how to express in your interview that you’re willing to adapt.

  • Be open to working in the intensive care unit. This year, critical care was, well…critical. The growing number of COVID-19 cases filled up beds across the nation, and nurses who previously had no ICU experience were forced to spring into action.
  • Consider travel and crisis nursing. Another thing we realized during 2020 was that shortages are more apparent in some regions than others, which triggered a whole slew of positions offering hazard pay and crisis pay for nurses willing to travel.
  • Understand the new needs. Hospitals and health care systems as a whole were forced to create brand-new positions and roles for nurses that are likely to linger. Emphasize that you’re willing to learn on the fly and cover whatever is necessary every day.

2. Show Your Tech-Savviness.

In today’s constantly changing world of telehealth, being tech-savvy is a requirement, not an option. You’ll be considered quite a valuable employee to any team if you’re comfortable working in highly digital environments. If you feel that this is one area where you could use improvement, express your ability to pick up new technologies fast and emphasize your commitment to lifelong learning. If you’re comfortable with the idea of working from home, be sure to express this during the interview process. With more and more health care systems offering telehealth services, you may be able to work remotely some of the time.

3. Show Your ‘Soft’ Skills.

In addition to the many key skills we learned in nursing school, success in this career path relies largely on soft skills, like good communication, a positive attitude, and a willingness to be a team player, as well as the ability to empathize, solve problems, and be patient where needed. If the person interviewing you asks you questions such as “What was your biggest challenge in your previous job?” use these questions to highlight your ability to properly communicate and work as a team.

4. Be Willing to Work to the Top of Your Skill Set.

One major trend in nursing involves empowering nurses with full practice authority. To emphasize this, Johns Hopkins recently launched its #ItCantWait campaign to help strengthen the health care workforce and make changes that would allow nurses to practice at the top of their skill set. With a potentially detrimental nursing shortage on the horizon and care gaps all over the country, especially in rural and underserved communities, it’s crucial that you emphasize your willingness to raise the line and be a leader in nursing where needed.

5. Consider Working with a Recruiter.

Make sure your profiles on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job boards are well-optimized and up to date so that nursing recruiters might seek you out. Working with a recruiter can be extremely beneficial because he or she will be able to pair your skill set with a health care system in need. Recruiters have spent the entirety of their career figuring out how to get nurses placed, and that includes over the past year-plus that has been the COVID era. You can always ask your recruiter for tips on specifically how to land a job during this time.

As a new nurse, you’re in an excellent position to help fill an essential need within your community and to follow a stable, high-paying career path that could serve you through retirement. So, start stocking up on some affordable scrubs, and follow these tips to set yourself up for a long, rewarding life as a nurse.

Deborah Swanson
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