One of the most consistent questions we receive is, “How do I prepare for life as a New Grad?”
. If you are lucky, during your final semester of nursing school, you will have a day in which one of your professors will go over what you need to do. This is not a dis at them, but a lot of time the information is incorrect, outdated, or incomplete, leaving new grads shuffling around trying to gather everything they need. We figured it was about time, we wrote out exactly what you need to do in order to get all your ducks in a row. In addition, we will be discussing some ways for you to stand out as an applicant as well.
To start, you need to know where to begin. The beginning starts with a list of everything you need to create, gather, and complete. In no particular order, these are the items you need…
- Cover Letter
- Letters of Recommendation
- Unofficial Transcripts
- Educational Classes
Let’s first talk about resumes. No matter where you apply, you are required to submit a resume. For many of you, this will be your first job and as such, have never created a resume, while for others you have previous work experience, but have never created a new grad resume. When creating a resume, it is important that you do not pay someone $150
for a professional-looking resume. These are often non-ATS friendly, cluttered, and take two minutes to read. Your resume should be simple, clean, and easy-to-read. When all of these are taken into account, a hiring manager can read your resume in 6-8 seconds (that is the average amount of time a recruiter and hiring manager spend reading a single resume) and pull out all the pertinent information. If the hospital has a specific format they would like you to follow, FOLLOW IT! If not, we recommend you head over to our resume page
and download (free for all subscribers) one of our templates. All of these templates have been checked with hospital recruiters and hiring managers to ensure they meet the requirements. When should I create my resume? If it were up to us, you should be writing your resume during your last semester of nursing school. You will have almost all the information you need, and if you don’t, you can easily add it in later such as your RN license, final GPA, and a brief description of your senior preceptorship. With your resume now completed, you can move on to the next item and everyone’s favourite, the dreaded cover letter.
Nurses are not poets. Nurses are not writers. I say this as a generalization, but it’s the truth, which is why cover letters give new grads a lot of trouble. This is why we recommend you do not wait until the last minute to create a cover letter. It is going to take time to create exactly what you want, so give yourself plenty of time. You do not need to create an entirely new cover letter for each application. The only things that need to be tweaked are a few sentences when discussing the hospital and program you are applying to. Apart from that, once you have created a cover letter, you can continue to use the same one, time and time again. Although this is not an article discussing how to write a cover letter, we do want to give you some advice. First thing you should do is create an outline of what you are going to say. This will save you a great deal of time and allow you to frame the cover letter in a way you want it to be framed. Next, and this cannot be stressed enough, write your first draft knowing it is a rough draft. Don’t think you can sit down and write a perfect cover letter the first time around. Even if you think you can, don’t do it. Write a rough draft and then start to refine it. It may take you several drafts, but that’s ok. Your finished product will be much more polished. Ok, that’s it, done with the advice. Next item on the list, Letters of Recommendation
Believe it or not, there are plenty of new grads out there who have no letters of recommendation, and on top of that, they have no idea that they need them. Now, Letters of Recommendation (LOR) are not required for ALL programs, but they are required for a large percentage of them. If you are in nursing school right now, reading this article, start asking for those LOR. If you have graduated and don’t have one or only have one, go back and get them. How many LOR should you have? As many as possible, and I mean that. Why do you need all those LOR if the application only requests two or three LOR? Well, not all instructors write good LOR. Even if you are an A+ student and the best student in your clinical rotations, you can still come across an instructor who will not put forth quite the effort you are looking for. This is why it is important you have options to choose from. We won’t spend too much time on this topic as we have already discussed it in another article
, but it is important that you have your LOR completed and ready to be sent out.
Almost every school nowadays has an online portal where you can go and download your unofficial transcripts. Head there right now and download your unofficial transcripts. Even if you are in your last semester and you don’t have all your grades in yet, you should still go to your student portal and gather this information.
Next on the list is certifications. Since you are a nursing student, you should already have your Basic Life Support (BLS). Although it costs extra money, more and more hospitals are requiring Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) before you submit your application. There are even some Nurse Residency Programs that will give your application extra points for completing your ACLS. If you are planning on going into paediatrics or neonates, be sure to have your PALS and NRP. Don’t forget about your NIHSS as well! Once you have completed these certifications and have a hard copy of your card, scan them and upload them into a document. Be sure to keep the originals in a safe place as well. Even though all of these require you to attend a class (virtual or in-person), they do not count as additional educational classes, at least not in this context. If that’s the case, what are some examples of classes I should think about taking?
Despite completing nursing school with lectures, skills lab, and clinical hours, there are still extra-curricular classes you can take that will help benefit you. One of the best classes you can take, that sometimes comes with certification is an EKG course. The courses themselves are a great way to brush up on your skills and will provide you with an added layer of confidence almost every new grad needs. In addition, almost every nursing job you get from here on out will require you to take an EKG test prior to starting and just like the ACLS, there are some Nurse Residency Programs that will give you extra points if you have completed one of these courses. Ok, so that’s one course, what are some others? Almost every nursing school out there requires you to take pathophysiology and pharmacology, however, there are some schools out there that do not require these courses. If that’s the case, and these courses are omitted from your transcripts, I would highly recommend that you take these classes. They can easily be taken online and once completed will highlight the fact that you took extra time to go the extra mile.
Ok, so now to recap what we have discussed so far. You are going to need…
- Cover Letter
- Letters of Recommendation
- Unofficial Transcripts
- Educational Classes
What else do you need to do in order to prepare? You need to know where to apply! As crazy as it might sound, not every hospital accepts New Grad Nurses or has a Nurse Residency Program. This is why we have taken the time to create a database that lists EVERY hospital across California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Colorado
that either has a Nurse Residency Program
or accepts New Grad Nurses. Head over to our website, subscribe, click on the programs page and get to searching. When searching for hospitals, you should use TWO of the three criteria. We find it best to use STATE and AREA CODE (NOT zip code!). You will now be able to see what hospitals accept new grads. Now that you have access to all these programs, you should apply to as many as possible! Why? It’s simple math. The chances of you getting an interview from applying to 30 programs are greater than applying to 5 programs. Apply everywhere, land interviews, secure offers, and then make a decision.
If you have noticed, and I’m sure you have, we have not discussed taking the NLCEX. This is its own ball of wax and we have faith that you can carry this out to completion. Have questions about what you need in order to prepare? Head over to our website and ask us a question through our Contact Us page. We are happy to lend a helping hand should you have any questions. Congrats and good luck on starting your journey as a Registered Nurse!