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An inside job: words of advice from recruitment experts

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Learn from our recruitment experts and soon you’ll have that job in the bag

As Lord Sugar’s epic search for his apprentice returns for another 12 weeks of buttock-clenching declarations of self-love from the candidates, aren’t you glad that getting your first job in nursing won’t involve running around London trying to find obscure items in six-inch heels or defending your ineffectual sales techniques to Nick Hewer in the boardroom?

Newly qualified nurses, though, face a very different set of challenges, which can be just as hard to negotiate.

First – there’s the interview. This means doing your homework before you get there, finding out as much as you can about the trust or organisation before you arrive for interview.

“Do research and go on the websites to learn about the trust, company or department you are applying to,” says Alex Munro, advanced practitioner and director of recruitment agency Hallam Medical.  “The truth is a company may interview five people for a job, so four of you will be disappointed. You have to do a lot to stand out from the crowd and be better than the next person.”

And he recommends that you go prepared to tell them how much you know about them, but also lots about yourself.  “You have to sell yourself and show how well you fit,” he says. “Don’t just make wild statements – say it and then back it up with proof, for example: ‘I have brilliant interpersonal skills because I had good feedback at my clinical placements about how I handled X, or my tutors say Y about my academic work.’ And keep notes of good feedback you have received from patients, mentors and tutors.”

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When it comes to new graduates, Kathleen Carolan, director of nursing, midwifery & allied health professionals at NHS Shetland, is confident about what she is looking for. “Good communication skills, understanding the concept of patient safety and how this applies to their practice, sound clinical knowledge of nutritional care, tissue viability, falls prevention and how these factors influence the overall clinical and care needs of the patient,” she says. “We would also be looking for good assessment, treatment and review skills (care planning and interventions) and an appreciation of the importance of health promoting and prevention in all health and social care settings - working with people to maximise, enable and re-enable their potential and independence.”

Must-haves, she says, are enthusiasm and a drive to deliver excellent nursing care as well as an ability to bring new thinking into the clinical team and be confident enough to challenge practice in a positive way.

Munro says it’s important to get the basics right. ““What employers are looking for in newly qualified nurses is the same thing they are looking for in any profession – employees who are sensible, motivated, upbeat and a good worker. The reality is that because of the financial constraints in many healthcare settings, newly qualified nurses will have to take on greater responsibilities than they would have had to have done in the past.”

If that sounds daunting, don’t worry both experts agree that you won’t be expected to know it all.

“Don’t be afraid to continue to ask other more senior or experienced nurses for advice. You can’t know anything on day one, so education just continues and continues, you have to absorb it. If you don’t know, don’t pretend you know – ask!”

He says that on any nursing course, students will have only just scraped the surface of learning. “When you come across a patient with low blood pressure and elevated pulse rate, they probably won’t know what to do the first time, but keep asking and learning, and six months in you’ll be confident when you see these symptoms again.”

Ms Carolan says that you should make the best of the resources around you to support your learning and development, such asfellow nurses, online networks, and practice development units. She says that in NHS Scotland, in particular, nurses have access to excellent resources available via NHS Education for Scotland (NES) to help develop clinical skills and accessing clinical supervision, mentorship and action learning.

In Shetland, she says that mentors are awarded to every nurse and time is set aside for further learning and reflection.

Mr Munro says he knows it can be tough for students going to their first day as a qualified nurse, after being protected from making decisions while training. He offers some words of wisdom. ““Be prepared for the unexpected. I was a D grade and in my first six weeks after qualification, I had three patients who had cardiac arrests. It was nerve wracking. Even the matron came along and told me it was unusual and didn’t usually happen. I hadn’t had exposure to that sort of thing before, but on the flip side, it did immediately give me confidence to handle that sort of situation in my career.”

She offers reassurance to those nurses venturing out to their first day on the job. “We have all been there! Being a nurse isn’t easy, it is physically and psychologically demanding, but it is very rewarding. Always remember you are part of a team and your colleagues will be there to help and support you in your first job as a qualified nurse. I would suggest you keep a reflective diary and look back every so often to see how you have managed the challenges and developed your skills in that first year.”



We are going to be offering tips and advice on getting a job as a newly qualified nurse in a twitter chat on Friday 26th July at 1pm.

To join in simply search for #SNTtwitchat and include this hashtag in all your tweets so everyone can see your comments.

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