What happens when you don’t have a plan for when you qualify?
If the stress of the third-year of your nursing course isn’t enough, how about that of impending qualification and registration to a professional body? I always thought that finding all of my placements and experiences amazing was a positive thing - but now I am coming to realise that I have put myself in a very awkward position when applying for my first nursing job.
What happens when you don’t know what you want your first job to be?
”I’m not the only third-year student nurse who hasn’t known where they want their career to begin - or even where they want to progress to”
I find myself enviously asking my colleagues about their ideas for future employment knowing full well I have no idea where I want to be when I finish. When I began my nursing course I was convinced I wanted to work in the care of older people. Since then I have flitted between secure hospitals, community settings, nursing homes and prisons.
So I should apply for pretty much anything then?
This route has its obvious positives, but trying to explain to my potential future employers that I am not sure what I want to do throughout my career will surely put them off.
I am sure I’m not the only third-year student nurse who hasn’t known where they want their career to begin - or even where they want to progress to - but the impression I’ve had from nurses I have worked with was that although their ideas of where they wanted to work may have altered from first- to third-year like mine, they still had a plan.
”I found myself desperately trawling through 500 positions for a registered nurse to find that only 10 are suitable for a learning disabilities nurse.”
With this in mind, I set off to find out what was important to student nurses when they qualified. Did they want to begin in a specialist area? Were they concentrating on pay, reasonable working hours or the potential to move up the vocational ladder? I only got one reply. With third-year deadlines looming I’m not surprised.
The reply was interesting but it didn’t make me feel any better about my current situation. An adult nursing colleague informed me she was moving to London to get a job in a specialised area with the future prospect of becoming an advanced practitioner. Essentially, she had everything mapped out.
With learning disability nursing being a smaller field of practice, the scope for and opportunities to find jobs is more limited than in other fields. I found myself desperately trawling through 500 positions for a registered nurse to find that only 10 are suitable for a learning disabilities nurse. There is not much room for manoeuvre.
Having felt like I had exhausted the Internet, I chose another route.
”I left feeling a lot more positive if not any surer of what I want to do in the near - or distant - future”
I booked to go to a Careers Fair. Overwhelmed by the amount of free stationary I visited every stand I could, had many an interesting conversation and gave out my details to potential future employers. I left feeling a lot more positive if not any surer of what I want to do in the near - or distant - future.
All I know is what I knew when I first started my journey and what, for me, is still the most important thing.
I would like a job where I can care for people in a way I would like myself or my loved ones to be cared for, and in an environment that’s fit for purpose with a supportive team atmosphere. And this will do for me - for now at least.
Liv Lindsay-Gould is Student Nursing Times’ learning disabilities student editor and a 3rd year learning disabilities student nurse, University of York