Nursing is one of the most rewarding professions there is, so if are you a new RN grad, well done! You’ve already made one wise, life-changing decision by joining the ranks of some truly amazing caregivers.
It’s no surprise that new nurse graduates may feel a little dazed and confused as they enter the workplace; but worry not! Our New RN Grad Jobs Guide will hold your hand as you navigate the job market so that you begin your career on the right foot. Here’s what new RN grads should do after completing nursing school.
Jobs for new graduate nurses
There are so many career options once you graduate nursing school that navigating the job market can be overwhelming. Here is a list of jobs to look for when you are embarking on your job search as a new RN grad.
Critical Care Nurse
Inpatient nursing is broadly divided into critical care and medical surgical nursing. Any intensive care unit, as well as the emergency department and certain specialty areas like the cardiac cath lab, are considered critical care. Often, these units will have a structured new RN graduate program to build upon the fundamentals of nursing school.
Critical care nursing will require an understanding of advanced hemodynamics and monitoring devices. You can have anywhere from 1-2 acutely ill patients, but they will require much more intensive monitoring than a patient on a med-surg floor.
Most larger hospitals divide critical care nursing into three broad categories – adult, pediatric and neonatal. Depending on the hospital and the area it serves, it may also have additional subdivisions like:
- Surgical (may include cardiac or have a separate cardiac surgery unit)
Medical Surgical Nurse
Similar to critical care nursing, medical surgical nursing is further divided into specialties and also subspecialties that may vary from hospital to hospital. Medical surgical nursing is where you will be caring for more patients that are less acute than the patients in the ICU. Medical surgical nursing is fast paced and it can be even more demanding than critical care nursing because you are dealing with more patients, more families, more doctors, and more teams. It is an excellent place to get started because you will be exposed to many different opportunities for learning.
Sub-Acute or Outpatient Facility Nurse
Sub-acute care is comprehensive inpatient care for those who require special services outside of the hospital setting. New RN grads can become a sub-acute nurse with special training, and it is reserved for patients who can not tolerate the more-intensive care received in acute care. This category covers non-acute nursing jobs in several settings, including:
- Long-term care or sub-acute facilities
- Skilled nursing homes
- Respiratory hospitals
- Residential psychiatric facilities
Broadly, this covers any type of nursing job in the community like public health, schools, prisons, or occupational health. This also includes nurses in physician offices. These types of jobs will be more niche and may be something new nurse grads choose to get into if they are specifically interested in them. You are less likely to have a larger, structured new graduate program and will likely be mentored one on one by whoever is training you. These types of jobs also lack the community of many other nurses to connect and network with. Many new RN graduate jobs will start in the hospital setting and then, over time, a nurse can move to more independent settings like these.
Procedure or Aesthetic Nurse
More loosely defined, this encompasses the nurse as direct provider. Job opportunities such as IV therapy, lasers, and cosmetic procedures are roles where the nurse will be providing a service directly to the patient, usually in a privately owned practice. That being said, these jobs are extremely hard to come by if you don’t have any experience. These jobs also tend to be lower paying since there is such high demand for them, even among experienced nurses. So if you’re a job hungry, new RN graduate interested in working in this capacity, be sure to do your research.
Find Your First Job and Get Hired
Once you’ve passed the NCLEX, new RN grads can really begin the job hunt. It also helps to have your state license in hand. Most jobs want you to be fully licensed to work by the state you are in before you get hired.
Now comes the fun stuff – finding and interviewing for jobs. It helps to prepare before you start on your job hunt in earnest. Here’s a shortlist of things to have on hand before you sit down to apply:
- Resume and generic cover letter
- Job information prior to nursing school
- Clinical information such as dates, hospitals and units
- Reference information and letters of recommendation
- Certifications and other specialty information
Stand Out From the Crowd
New graduate nurse jobs are not hard to find. The bigger problem is standing out from the crowd. Once you’ve landed some interviews, it’s time to get ready. The saying goes, you need to dress for the job you want, but you definitely don’t want to show up to your interview in scrubs – business professional is generally appropriate for healthcare interviews. Keep jewelry simple, your hair neat, and wear something you feel confident in. Don’t underestimate the power of a nice suit or new pair of shoes that you feel great in. That confidence will definitely show.
Prepare yourself by reviewing potential interview questions. If it helps, role play with a friend or classmate so you can shake off any pre-interview jitters by going through the motions of an actual interview. Almost every interview ends with the interviewer asking, “what questions do you have for me?” Take advantage of this. This is a key opportunity to separate yourself from the crowd by asking several sharp questions. Here are a few ideas for follow up questions to ask at the end of any interview:
- How will you support me as a new RN working in this unit?
- How do you encourage teamwork in this unit?
- What opportunities are there to get involved in unit based projects?
- What certifications or opportunities to advance my skills are available?
New Grad RN Job Outlook
The nursing shortage continues and will likely be ongoing for the near future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an addition of over 200,000 jobs in the next 8 years, in addition to the over 3 million nurses already employed. As more experienced nurses leave the bedside to advance their careers, leave from burnout, or retire, the need for new RNs to take their place will only increase.
Median pay for registered nurses in 2021 was $77,600, but salaries vary widely from state-to-state. The highest paying states for RNs are California, Hawaii, and Oregon, with California paying nurses an average of $120,000 per year. New nurse grads starting their first jobs can expect to earn less than the average, as most jobs increase pay with years of experience although this is not always the case.
Mentors as a New Grad
You got the job, you’re working as a new graduate nurse. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The first year as a nurse can be incredibly challenging and also extremely rewarding. One important way to keep yourself on track is to find your mentors – this may be a formal part of your new RN grad program or just a nurse that you really look up to.
A good mentor is someone who is a strong nurse in their own right, and potentially doing something that you could see yourself doing a couple of years down the road. This might be someone like your preceptor, a charge nurse, or just a more experienced nurse you feel comfortable talking to and asking questions. Your first year of nursing is challenging because you are on your own. Mentors can help guide you through those learning experiences.
Your job search as a new RN grad will be a wild ride, just like your first year in practice. Nursing is an exhilarating career and it’s all ahead of you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and fail, those experiences will push you forward and teach you many valuable lessons. From passing the NCLEX, looking and interviewing for jobs, and finally working as a new nurse, your first job will provide so many opportunities for change and growth as well as propel you into your new career in healthcare.
If you’re a nurse looking to advance your career, consider Aspen University’s online RN to BSN, MSN, and DNP programs. And if you’re looking to become a registered nurse, check out the BSN Pre-Licensure program.
Alexandra Prabhu lives in Southern California. She has spent her decade-long nursing career in cardiac critical care and loves all things heart-related. She’s currently a pediatric ICU nurse in Los Angeles and has worked in both adult and pediatric cardiac surgery as well as the cardiac cath lab. After getting her degree in immunology and genetics from UCLA, she studied nursing at Mount St. Mary’s University. She is a mom to five in her blended family and married to her firefighter husband. Her house is generally chaotic. When not at the hospital Alex loves traveling with her family, surfing and doing her kids’ laundry.