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'Take your time in deciding where to work'

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Being a third-year student nurse is stressful enough; completing clinical placements, assignments, exams and a dissertation. Perhaps the biggest decision you have to make as a student nurse about your career path, is what area you want to work in and in which hospital or community you would like to be based.

During your final year it is likely that your colleagues on placement will ask you where you are going to work, if you have a job yet and if you want to work on their unit. This pressure can be daunting and cause you to panic, you’ve gone from a second year feeling comfortable to suddenly approaching the end of your training and you’ll soon have to put into practise everything that you’ve learned.

“Reflect on past placements and think about what interests you”

Don’t panic. Some people will know exactly what unit and which hospital they want to work at and they may have known that before they even started their training. Others will have no idea up until graduation and that is fine. There’s no rush in nursing, everywhere is hiring.

It can be helpful and will probably put you at ease to start thinking about where you’d like to work in second year and at the beginning of third year. Reflect on past placements and think about what interests you and what made each area a positive or negative work environment.

Many people for example decide that they either prefer medical or surgical nursing or know that they definitely prefer working in the community or in theatres. There are also options if you have no idea which area you’d like to work in. There are plenty of varied opportunities in general medical or general surgical units.

In addition to this, many large teaching hospitals (and some smaller ones) are offering preceptorship programmes for newly qualified nurses. These programmes vary significantly based on the trust and opportunities available, but they can offer additional support and training to help you adjust to being a registered nurse in their trust.

“If you know the rough location that you would like to work in, it is worth looking at these opportunities for new nursing graduates”

Some preceptorship programmes offer a rotational programme where you may get six to nine months working in different areas to build up your skills, knowledge and so you can find the best work environment for you.

So, if you know the rough location that you would like to work in, it is worth looking at these opportunities for new nursing graduates. Other hospitals may not offer a strict and structured preceptorship programme but may be willing to tailor support or a rotational position to your interests and needs. Get in contact with the recruitment team at the hospital or unit and attend open days to get an overview and any questions you have answered. 

Choosing a hospital or area can be just as difficult as choosing a specialism. Many newly qualified nurses choose to get their first job where they trained as they will know their way around the clinical areas and will be familiar with trust procedures, policy and paperwork.

Despite this, don’t feel pressured to stay where you’ve trained. If you know that where you have had placements is the right environment for you then excellent.

However, as a newly qualified nurse, wherever you go you should receive plenty of training, a thorough induction and a supernumerary working period. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with your new working environment and consolidate skills that you have learnt as a student.

If you know people who are/were in the year above you or at other universities you could ask them for their experiences applying for jobs. In addition, your university may run careers events as well as there being careers events for nursing nationwide.

My personal experience of recruitment events is that potential employers are keen to accommodate your wishes if they can and encourage you to join their workplace. As the news constantly reminds us, there is a nationwide shortage of nurses so don’t feel any pressure to rush into a job. Take your time and find what best suits you.

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