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Learn from Industry Leaders How to Kick-Start Your Nursing Career

September 2013

Attention all student nurses and new nurses – are you interested in learning how to expand your network, prep for interviews or gain valuable experience in nursing? Or maybe you want to know what to expect during your first year as a nurse. We are inviting student nurses and nurses with less than five years of nursing experience to share your fundamental questions with us on the Nursing Notes by Johnson & Johnson Facebook Page and on Twitter @JNJNursingNotes. Each month, we will pick a few questions to highlight in this section with responses provided by seasoned nurses!

Q. For recent nursing graduates searching for a job, is it more important for them to take any nursing position that might be available or hold out for their “dream job”?

A. Many nurses these days are not content with just taking a job. They often value flexibility, good location and the best hours, and sometimes they want to see all of that right out of school. While those students may be waiting longer to accept a job, holding out can make them happier in the long run. I think it varies from nurse-to-nurse depending on his or her situation.

While I don’t think it always makes sense to be too picky right out of school, nurses should always choose their jobs carefully. Even if your first job isn’t your ideal job – which can certainly be the case for many nurses – it should be a place that has a good mentoring program, and where new graduates are treated with respect. At the same time, some new nurses like to move around and experience different specialties and settings. Keeping an open mind can often open new doors and shine a new light into your passions in unexpected ways.

-Kristen L. Mauk, Ph.D., DNP, RN, CRRN, GCNS-BC, GNP-BC, FAAN, Kreft Endowed Chair for the Advancement of Nursing Science at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., and president-elect of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN). Dr. Mauk has been a nurse for more than 30 years.


Q. What advice would you give to recent nurse graduates preparing for their first interview?

A. Most nursing interviews today utilize a technique called behavioral interviewing, where the interviewer asks for examples of experiences the person has had in a variety of areas. It’s not so much focused on the theory itself, but more focused on actual life experiences that illustrate that theory.

In an interview, it’s important to think about situations where you may have had a really strong connection with a patient, or a time when you may have worked as a team or had to deal with a stressful situation. Those are the types of skill sets we are looking for in nurses. It’s not all about what you know – it’s more about how you work with people and how you provide care to your patients and their families.

-Michelle Camicia, MSN, RN, CRRN, president of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN). Camicia has been a nurse for 24 years.


Q. What advice would you give to new nurses on how to maintain a work-life balance?

A. First, leave your personal problems at home and your professional business at work. Don’t mix the two together. You need the luxury of a personal life that has love and fun in it. Next, “lighten up” – it’s OK to like your work and have fun while still maintaining a professional demeanor. Keep your colleagues close to you. You will always need someone to lean on, especially when you experience a patient trauma or death that is hard to deal with. Remember that you too have feelings and emotions, and talk to your co-workers when you need support.

It’s important that you wake up every morning wanting to go to work. When that feeling is gone, it is time to transition elsewhere. But if you do experience burn-out, don’t leave the profession. There is such a wide variety of settings to choose from in nursing.

-Marie Spencer, Ph.D., RN, CRRN, chief nursing officer at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, N.Y. Spencer has been a nurse for 40 years.


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