Six Must Know Tips About Life After Nursing School

Six Must Know Tips About Life After Nursing School

 New nurse grads celebrating for life after nursing school.   Photo by Pexel.com

New nurse grads celebrating for life after nursing school. 

Photo by Pexel.com

Thinking about life after nursing school is something a lot of nursing students don’t really think about. These days there is a varying degree of students from all walks of life that graduate nursing school. According to the National League for Nursing (NLN) a third of students in LPN program are over the age of thirty and for BSN nurses almost half of those students are over the age of 30. For graduate nursing programs over half are over the age of 30.  This means there are many graduates of Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN) programs applying for jobs for the first time. When you have never worked as a nurse before or have never worked in general, some knowledge may not be evident. For the new nurse grad who has never worked, or might be on their second career after spending years working another here are six tips you should think about concerning life after nursing school.

1. After nursing school, you might not get that dream job

In a world where it seems like just about every nursing student I meet is trying to avoid medical-surgical floor after nursing school a lot of nurses have taken to seeking out specialty jobs. Even though you might want that sweet intensive care unit (ICU) job or that fast-paced trauma emergency room (ER) job you might not get those positions.

The news talks a lot about how there are shortages of nurses. This is true, but what is not mentioned is that it depends on where in the country you live in. Even though there is a shortage of nurses (keep in mind this varies to a degree depending on the area) keep looking and you will see that there are new grad nurses struggling to find a job after nursing school. In some areas of the country, it might not be uncommon for a new grad nurse to spend their life after nursing school job hunting for a couple of months. In the end, sometimes you have to take what’s available to you. Once you are in a position, start networking to open doors that will get you closer to the unit you want to be in. You might not be able to get into that ICU position you want right after nursing school, but you might be able to get into that step-down position. Some experience in a step-down unit may give you a better chance of getting into the ICU. 

2. Life after nursing school might mean you accept your first job offer

Unless you have prior healthcare or LPN experience, after nursing school you might not be able to negotiate your pay. Let me first say even as a new nurse grad you should always try to negotiate your pay. If you are trying to negotiate your pay it helps if you are negotiating from a position of strength. As a new grad nurse, you lack the experience, therefore it’s unlikely you will be negotiating from a position of strength. Most likely you will get a “no” on a higher starting pay, and that’s ok.

Something else to think about: training a new nurse grad is expensive! I remember a conversation I had with a nurse director for an operating room who told me that for an inexperienced nurse (nurse without OR experience) she required at least a 2-year commitment. When I questioned her on that 2-year commitment she told me it costs her about $80,000 to train a new nurse. I thought it was ridiculous! After doing a little research I discovered that based on a report done by Maragaret Reiter, Ph.D., RN, Anne Young EdD, RN and Carolyn Adamson Ph.D., RN in 1995 it can cost up to $50,000 to train a new nurse. Over 20 years later it’s not far-fetched to think that cost has increased.  

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3. After nursing school, you must continuously show your worth

Even though you might not have a lot of leverage on that starting pay, you will have opportunities to show your worth and life after nursing school demands that you do so. After you get the job it is not time to go on cruise control. As I wrote in "Why Creating and Managing your Personal Brand is Important for your Nursing Career" you have to be about your brand, aka how you represent yourself to others. After nursing school, you are going from showing your professors that you are a competent and good nurse to showing your employer that you are a competent/good nurse and a team player. You now must show your employer that you are not just worth the starting pay that they gave you, but that you are worth a lot more than that. If you want to move up in pay look for reasons to make yourself valuable to the organizations. Is there an extra certification you can get? Can you be cross-trained for a different area? Are you that person that everyone wants to work with because of your work ethic? or personality? Do you show up where you need to be and on time?

4. Life after nursing school is probably full of debt

Be mindful of how much debt you have. Because of the exponentially increasing costs of higher education, many college students take out student loans to pay for their tuition or to make ends meet while attending school. Nursing majors are not the exception to this. You want to keep track of the amount of student loans that you have and when you will have to start paying those loans back. Depending on your situation or what level of schooling you just graduated from it's possible some of you could have a couple thousand to well over six figures in debt. It doesn't help that with the age of social media we see friends taking vacations or buying new cars. I encourage you to be mindful and not fall into envy and let your actions be fueled by it. After nursing school, be diligent about getting that situation under control otherwise you could be shackled with that heavy burden for years to come.

5. Life after nursing school might mean…furthering your education with more schooling

Taking the next step of your nursing career is a wonderful goal!  Keep in mind your debt load and think about how much you already owe when considering going back to school. If graduate school is in your future think about when and how you are going to pay for it.

6. Life after nursing school might mean dealing with “grownup” problems such as…Retirement

If you are young, it's never too early to start and if you are older it's never too late. After nursing school, you need to start looking at where you are at for retirement. If you have already started, keep saving. If you haven’t started saving then it’s imperative that you start.  Most experts would say save about 10-12% of your income for retirement depending on when you start. If your employer matches, take advantage of that free money!

Are there any other things you wish you knew after nursing school?

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