Getting a job in nursing – How do I do it?

There’s more to getting a job in nursing than simply completing a degree. Read on for advice on breaking into the profession.
Elliot DE
Elliot DE
Medical Doctor, Law Graduate & current PhD Student
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This blog will tackle the question of how to secure a job as a graduate registered nurse, following the completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Many years ago, vocational jobs such as nursing were practically guaranteed for recent graduates from training. For example, in 2007, over 95% of graduate nurses found full-time work within four months of finishing their studies. Then, 2012 was the first year a national nursing graduate job crisis was declared, when 30% of nursing graduates did not have a job. Rates of employment then improved slightly, so that by 2014, the percentage of graduate nurses with jobs rose to 80% (though 60% of Tasmanian, and 72% of Queensland graduates were unemployed); but by 2015, the percentage of nursing graduates getting a full-time job within 4 months of graduation again declined to go below 80%.

The head representative body of nurses in Australia, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have been holding emergency meetings about this situation since 2015, and several problems have been identified as contributing to the ongoing job crisis: budget cuts, the growing impact of a migrant workforce, global economic unrest, a lack of planning by health authorities and a breakdown in communication between hospitals, universities and government ministers.

Evidently, the belief that completing a course will immediately qualify one for a career, especially when it comes to vocational jobs like nursing, is simply quite wrong. It is growing increasingly difficult to find a post-graduate job in nursing, and it is vital to be prepared when trying to find work post-qualification.

The first thing to mention here is the process by which nursing graduates have to go through in order to secure employment post-study. The various hospitals and health districts across Australia do use unique hiring processes, though many graduate programs use a panel interview to determine the successful applicants. It is very worthwhile to check with the hospital or health district that you are applying to and see if they run practice interview sessions.

Importantly, research the hospital you’re applying to, making sure you know their core values and how these might influence the answers you give in an interview. Find out what their graduate program has to offer and if applicable to a question, use this information to highlight why you chose to apply to their program.

The scope of questions, and the structure of the interview, is quite profound across different sites. For example, the QLD Mater Health Services graduate recruitment is a four-pronged approach, which includes a team activity, a role play activity, a one-on-one interview and a paper-based activity.  Whilst nursing recruiters at Victor’s Epworth HealthCare centre, as a not-for-profit private healthcare provider, ask questions about customer service and the values of the organisation.

Meanwhile the Metro North Hospital and Health Service in Queensland focus questions on working within a scope of practice, where nurses are asked to talk about tasks that they are not familiar with, and how they would prepare performing these. In order to apply to graduate programs, this does vary state-by-state, but some jurisdictions, such as the postgraduate medical council of Victoria offer a computer matching process for public hospitals.

Private hospitals don’t participate in computer match but offer graduate positions directly. These facilities are usually smaller than the major metropolitan hospitals and may provide more personalised support, and it is important to check their website to find out information on how to apply or phone their graduate program educator/coordinator.

Finally a few tips on making yourself the best candidate that you can be is below!

  • Curriculum Vitae: Take on as many extra training and study opportunities as possible to improve your CV and make your application stronger. Examples include stroke certification and blood withdrawal.
  • Student clinical placements: It is vital to take advantage of these, as impressing on a placement could increase the chances of finding work at that institution after graduation.
  • Portfolio: It’s useful to be able to show an interview panel a portfolio, as well as a CV. This should include letters of recommendation, details of courses, certificates, and reports from volunteer placements.
  • Work: Working as an assistant in nursing (AIN) or personal care assistant can help you develop skills in building therapeutic relationships and time management. Many hospitals now employee undergraduate AINs, so keep an eye out for advertised positions, especially any in the local healthcare district (LHD) you are planning on applying to for a graduate position. If you are not working part-time, look for volunteering opportunities, particularly in a health-related field, or any leadership or mentoring positions within your university.

Elliot DE is a current PhD Candidate, Medical Doctor & Law Graduate. He is also a Humanities Tutor at GradReady Preparation Courses.