It is frightening how quickly you find yourself in the final stage of your nursing training where the daunting task of hunting down that initial job begins.
My plan when I started my children’s nursing course was to go on to become a health visitor, and at the time I couldn’t imagine I would have ever be deterred from this path. I got as far as filling in the application form to apply for the top-up public health nursing qualification before I decided that I had completely changed my mind.
I was fortunate to have an elective placement at an adolescent mental health hospital, which was a new opportunity the university offered to a small number of children’s nurses. My interest was held and maintained from the outset. The team were supportive and the level of experience was highly specialised so I felt I was learning from the best. The patient group was diverse and interesting and it was enlightening to be caring for teenagers having focused for such a long time on working with under 5s. I enjoyed getting to know the young people, discovering what they hoped to achieve and exploring how they would get there. Before my placement ended I seized the opportunity and asked the matron if they had any vacancies and fortunately enough, they did.
Placements are perfect for networking and ruling areas ‘in’ and ‘out’ of your list of potential future workplaces. Bravely asking about job availability in a role you have enjoyed as a student may prove fruitful. Following a successful interview, the post may be held for you until you qualify. It can’t be a bad thing that they have met you and seen you in action rather than just read about you in a CV. It further demonstrates commitment as you have tried the job as a student and want to return as a fully fledged nurse.
I discovered that placements can also give you a heads-up on where not to apply for your preceptorship year. The support for newly qualified nurses does seem to vary. Being thrown in the deep end has urged me to learn quickly but I don’t want to be out of my depth with no one to throw me a life ring. As a newly qualified nurse it’s all about consolidating your knowledge and improving your skills and the idea is that someone supportive is there to guide you through this process. Asking about preceptorship programmes and levels of support for new nurses before applying for posts is a useful way of finding out which environments are the most nurturing and value their junior staff.
So not only is it about what you know, it is about who you know. I found my placement in mental health won me over and I have been able to secure a position in advance of qualifcation. This has taken away the stress of hurriedly applying for any job just to ensure I would have something to go to. Even if placement areas aren’t where you see yourself working there is usually opportunities to network with other departments and get your face and name known. There are jobs out there for newly qualified nurses and a little ‘hob-nobbing’ on placement could be all it takes to find your ideal first one.
Chloe Alden-Dennis is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for children’s branch