The Dog Ate My Care Plan…

Just a mom/wife/nursing student extraordinaire trying to make it in the big bad city…

GUEST POST: The Warriors Guide to Landing Your First RN Job

Posted by isntshelovlei on October 15, 2011

This is a guest post by Caleb Christenson RN. He is a med-surg nurse living and working in southern California, read more tips from Caleb at A site dedicated to the success of you, the student and new grad nurse. Sign up for his newsletter to get exclusive material and resources.

It has been said that “war is hell.” Well, so is hunting for a job, especially your first nursing job.

Times are tough for new grad RN’s. Older nurses aren’t retiring and schools are pumping out new grads at an ever increasing rate. Google “nursing schools” and see how many career colleges and online programs are preparing nurses, in addition to traditional ADN and BSN programs.

So, as you prepare to graduate nursing school, It is crucial that you adopt a warriors mentality to land your first job. Cannons will be blazing in the form of endless rejection letters and you have to be prepared to win the fight (get hired). You won’t lose a leg, but you will probably get a headache.

Lets look some of a warriors traits and habits and apply the principles to landing a job.

1. Center thyself.

As a warrior enters battle they must be mentally centered. In the face of gunfire and artillery they must control their mind, emotions and inbred preservation of self to achieve the goal of absolute victory over the enemy. They are mentally prepared to die for their cause.

As a new grad you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to land your first job. You cannot casually apply online and expect results. Accept the fact that you might have to make some sacrifices for your first job.

2. Make battle plans.

No warrior just wanders around the battle field waiting to be shot at. They have detailed plans of how they are going to attack the enemy.

So too you must systematize your job search. I created an excel spreadsheet with columns for hospital/department, point of contact, date of first contact, outcome of contact (face to face, msg, phone call etc.), thank you letter sent, follow up notes.

From there I did a search of all hospitals within a 100 mile radius. I would call the HR dept. and ask who was the nurse recruiter. This info was plugged into my spreadsheet.

If that hospital had a specific new grad program as many do, I would plug deadlines and details into that hospitals column.

I now had my battle plan on where and who I was going to attack in a systematic manner.

3. Attack

Go Ape S***

My dad was formerly an insurance salesman. He said that for every one hundred calls, he would make three appointments and one sale. Landing your first job is no different, it will take multiple contacts to see results. You have to go ape S***, be persistent, bold and relentless. You must present yourself as the only reasonable option for hire for their opening.

Before you go nuts, get your paperwork in order (resume, cover letter etc.) Click here to see my resumes for formatting examples.

-print your resume on textured document paper.

-Use a copy machine and shrink it to a quarter page, double-sided. Carry this around as a “business card”, or place into your follow-up thank you notes.

The hospitals that were within driving distance I would put on a suit and go hospital to hospital, floor to floor and speak with nurse managers and call the nurse recruiters. One time a manager fed me chocolate cake 🙂

Hospitals that were to far away to just drive I made phone outreach to nurse recruiters.

Phone script:

Hi my name is Caleb Christenson, I am a new graduate RN in your area. I would like 5 minutes of your time to discuss and learn about employment opportunities at your facility.

Face to face script:

(As I shake the managers hand, give them my resume and make eye contact)

Hi my name is Caleb Christenson, I am a new graduate RN in your area. I would like 5 minutes of your time to discuss and learn about employment opportunities at your facility.

After a phone call or a face to face I ALWAYS mailed a thank you letter on custom stationery with a picture of me and my family (I also enclosed a mini-printed resume in the note). I thanked the recruiter/manager for their time and asked them to keep me in mind for this or future openings.

Forget applying online. If your job application strategy boils down to this then you are just a name and credentials against 300+ others. I spoke with one RN recruiter in Southern California who says that for every posted opening she receives over 300+ applicants.

This same recruiter hired me on the spot in her office for a full-time med-surg position. Why, I made a face to face appt and she liked me. Its alot harder to say no to a human face than to an email application.

Make a personal contact first, then go through the online application or whatever specific instruction they give you. This way you’ll waste less time on forms and spend more time building relationships with the ones who will actually hire you.

4.If you can’t find Bin-Laden, kill Sadaam.

Not to get too political, but after Sept. 11th America was pissed leading to the war in Afghanistan as we hunted for “terrorist evildoers”. After a couple of years America wasn’t seeing the results they wanted and then we started poking around in Iraq, we killed Saddam and America was re-energized to keep hunting for Bin-Laden.

There is a good chance that your job hunting will lead you to many dead ends. If you efforts fail to land you your dream job, or in the town you live then is when you must make some sacrifices. Remember when I said that you must be willing to make some sacrifices? Do not be discouraged. There are 50 states and thousands of hospitals. Heres my nursing employment timeline.

Graduation-First job as LVN in long-term care (4 months of solid work with the system above). I was working below my pay grade, but I was still nursing.

LVN job to first acute care job (7 months of solid work with the system above). I was getting no traction in Northern California where I lived. I had some friends in Illinois, so I applied for an RN license there and began applying with methods above for 3 months. I got hired.

Illinois back to California (1 year worked, last two months in the application process). Because I made the necessary sacrifices to get some experience I was no longer considered a “new grad”. This put me in a different resume stack. I called recruiters in San Diego and told them I was going to be in town for a three-day window. I asked for a 10 minute appt. to learn about their hospital. I got four appts, two formal interviews and was hired on the spot once.

Don’t be afraid to move, or take a less than desirable position. Use one experience to parlay your win into a greater one.

Now go crazy and get hired.

Get more tips, tricks and advice from caleb by subscribing to his newsletter.



9 Responses to “GUEST POST: The Warriors Guide to Landing Your First RN Job”

  1. […] The Dog Ate My care plan. […]

  2. Attn. Readers: If you have questions or comments, please comment here, I’ll read them and reply.

  3. MA said

    Caleb, I had no idea of which direction this post was heading at first. But, you had my interest highly peeked less than half way into the reading. Thanks a lot for the advice and sharing your experiences. I am a recent RN grad with no nursing experience other than my clinical rotations. But, i have at least 7 yrs of med-billing and clerical experience. So far, the employment hunt has been nothing to right home about but im not going to get discouraged. Im in the process of revising my cover letter and resume, hoping that will elevate my odds. Thanks again!
    RN M.A.

  4. A lot of warrior plus a little bit of aspiring actor/actress in hollywood. I feel like when I am getting my resume out there I am running down producers with my screenplays in between auditions.

  5. […] I found some cool blogs in october. If you are still in nursing school, or are considering nursing school check out “The Dog ate My Care Plan”. The author gives you great tips on surviving school and practical advice like what NCLEX review course to take. While your browsing her blog check out my october guest post on “The Warriors Guide to Landing your first RN Job”. […]

  6. Devi said

    nice guide…

  7. Nikki said

    I know this is an older post, but there’s so much that’s still relevant. Love #4 lol!

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