Newly qualified nurses

Use your power in the job market

Don’t jump at your first job offer – the nursing shortage means you are likely to have multiple opportunities.

Don’t jump at your first job offer – the nursing shortage means you are likely to have multiple opportunities

job options
Think about your strengths and what you are looking for. Picture: iStock

Many students are in a rush to land a job as soon as they qualify. Having spent at least three years with little income, this is understandable.  But the shortage of nurses means that newly qualified nurses are in strong position in the job market and should be able to pick and choose.

Added to this, a nurse’s first job is important for the future direction of their career, so it needs to be carefully weighed up to ensure it is the right move, says Tonks Fawcett, professor of student learning for nurse education at the University of Edinburgh.

‘The first job is very important and they must make good decisions, because they want to flourish and thrive,’ Professor Fawcett says. ‘There are more opportunities at the moment, and having a range of choices is great. But because students don’t always know what they want to do, when opportunities are presented they may think, “I’d better take what I can get.”

‘They often feel so flattered to be offered a job that they take the first one offered. Students need to think very carefully about whether it is the best job for them and ask for time to think it over.’

What they want

When discussing career choices with students or graduates, Professor Fawcett encourages them to talk about their strengths, and what they are looking for in a job when it comes to challenges, geographical location, and clinical area. ‘I ask them what they want, and sometimes find as they explore it they answer their own question. I want them to be in a post where they shine.’

She cautions students not to be too influenced by a good placement. Some students are determined that their first job should be back on a ward or unit where they spent a successful placement, but it is worth considering why it was so enjoyable. Perhaps their mentor on the ward was excellent – but staff move on. And working for someone can be a different experience to attending an area as a student.

Gemma Chilcott, a fourth-year student at the University of Edinburgh who will graduate this summer, has already secured a post on a general medical ward. The nursing shortage meant she had a wide range of posts to choose from, including community posts and direct entry into research, she says.

Hard to resist

‘It can be difficult to resist the first job offer,’ Ms Chilcott says. ‘Even with the high employment rates for graduates of nursing, I worried that I might not be able to find a job in time.’

She gave a lot of thought to taking the post, and felt the wide range of patients and conditions on the ward offered a good foundation for the specialty she would like to pursue.

‘Although the first staff nurse post is important, it does not have to define a person's career,’ she says. ‘Some people will love their first job, others will despise it, and others will appreciate the knowledge and skills they have gained and transfer these to another post.’

Erin Dean is a freelance health writer

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