Decided to take a break from the travel posts to hit something a little more personal. I have a lot of followers that are still in nursing school and I often get asked questions and advice on applying to jobs and how I first got a job in the NICU.
Instagram shows the highlight reel of the lifestyle I now get to live as a result of becoming a travel nurse, but the road to get here, especially my first RN job, was far from easy. They tell you in nursing school that pediatrics is the most competitive specialty to go into, and NICU is even more-so. I’m not one to let anyone stop me from achieving a goal so I put a lot of time into making sure I had as much pediatric and NICU experience as I could get while in school. My entire senior year consisted of my capstone/preceptorship fall semester with a float ICU nurse in the children’s hospital. I put together with the help of an old clinical instructor an internship in a level III NICU for my spring semester on top of my community clinical in a school district.
When it came to applying to jobs I knew I wanted a NICU residency within a children’s hospital. My goal was to head out to California but job postings typically didn’t start rolling in till mid summer since the CA licensing takes a bit longer than most states. At UW Madison where I went to school, the majority of my classmates took jobs at the UW Hospital. Job offers are handed out in February so I was one of a very small few that did not have anything up until even graduation. Not the most comforting feeling, but I had a dream to get out of the Midwest and I was NOT going to settle for any job.
After graduation and while waiting to take the NCLEX end of June I had my first interview at Colorado Children’s. This is one of the top residency programs in the country, talk about stressful. I thought I was prepared for the interview but boy was I mistaken. I walked into a fishbowl room and sitting at a large oval table were eight individuals there to ask me question after question. I sat at the head and each took a turn going around the table asking me situational questions such as “give me an example of a time you displayed customer service, or give me an example of a time you had a dispute with a coworker and how you overcame it.” Following the interview I took a competency exam consisting of six or so short answer questions. I walked away from that experience knowing I bombed it. Sure enough, about a week or so later I was told I did not get the job. Thank you, next.
Passed my NCLEX, and waited on CA applications to come out. They want you license in hand at the time of application, and what I will find out later is that really means your CA license. I took my NCLEX in Wisconsin so I could have the compact license in case I went somewhere that was not CA, and my parents still lived there giving me residency within the state.
Middle July is when I saw the posting at CHOC (children’s hospital orange county). Perfect, I have family there, its a top children’s hospital with an amazing residency program, sounds like a perfect fit. I filled out my application and about a day or so later I got a call directly from a CNS phone interviewing me on the spot. Apparently I did well because she wanted to set up my next interview. Typically, they want to do an in person but they didn’t want to hassle me with flying out from Wisconsin so I was lucky enough to do a Skype interview the following week. This time I prepared questions and prompts in advance and rocked my interview. At the end they asked me the status of my CA license application and I said it had been submitted about a month prior, and the wait time is three months minimum. That put me end of September/October for receiving it. The program started October 8, and full license not temporary must be in hand.
The manger suggested i fly out to CA and talk to the Board of Nursing in person because she heard it speeds up the process. With the help of my amazing mother, we flew out to Sacramento a few days later, full typed up application in hand again and went to the BON.
**Let me just say, getting ahold of the CA BON is utterly impossible. Do not call or email, you won’t receive an answer. All questions really do just need to be done in person if you can, Also, do livescan fingerprints, it will make your life 10000x easier in the long run.
Anyway, the BON said there was nothing I could do to speed it up, they did check to make sure all portions (application, fingerprints, transcripts etc) made it there which I know can hold up the process, so that was helpful to hear.
Middle August I received the call from CHOC that I got the residency program spot and I was ecstatic. A dream hospital in a dreamy state in my dream specialty. Now began the wait for my license to decide if I was going to go or not.
I googled and googled personal testimonies on how to get your CA license in hand faster and what I did find was a local congressmen within the government does have some pull. *This may not work for everyone, just seemed to help with me. My sister in law won teacher of the year for the state of California a few years back and I had her contact her local congressmen and their office was able to speed it up a bit and get me updates that I could not get from the BON website.
It was middle of September, about two weeks before I was set to move out to CA that I got the call from the department of consumer affairs. My application had been denied due to the fact I was missing Microbiology and the lab. At UW Madison, microbiology and biochemistry were equivalent courses. I took Biochem when I was at UW Eau Claire my freshman year before transferring to Madison. I was told that I could take microbio but it wasn’t necessary, and it also was not required to take the microbio lab at Madison like it is at other schools. California is the one state that has a specific requirement for Microbio AND the lab, and would not take my transcript and I was forced to give up my residency position.
Truly at a loss for what to do next I started contacting hospitals around the country. Duke was having an open house to interview in October, so once again my mom and I set off to go see what we could do. We drove out to North Carolina and I interviewed the following day. An open house is interesting, I talked to the NICU manager and the CVICU manager but ultimately ended up shadowing in the NICU after my interview. Based off the interview I thought I had the job in the bag. The shadow experience was going well until the nurse I was with asked me something about my pay they had previewed me in an email. She made it very known that it wasn’t fair compared to what they started out with and from that moment on I felt like she had a bad taste in her mouth towards me. A few days later I got a call from HR that I did not get that job. I tried to reach out to the manager just to get an idea of what I could improve on to get some sort of information on what possibly happened between my solid interview with the manger and then not getting the job offer but she never responded and I knew it had to be something to do with the nurse I shadowed. SO, NEVER discuss pay with people, it really just doesn’t go over well. Welp, new grad probs am I right lol
At this point it was nearing the end of October, I still didn’t have a job and most residency programs would not accept me because I had been out of school six months. I was working as a CNA on the floor I had throughout college, while my classmates were working as RN’s on the same floor in their residency program. Definitely a defeated feeling working under your own classmates.
And then I got an email from my old clinical instructor. She was a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and just had been to a conference in California. She had spoken to a nurse educator at a hospital down in St. Louis about me and they wanted to offer me a chance to come down an interview for a spot in their NICU. The following week I drove five hours down to STL and interviewed. The following day I received a job offer and I FINALLY had a NICU position. Missouri is a compact state so I had nothing to worry about this time when it came to the license.
I started my residency program in January and worked there for a year and a half and now here I am living the dream as a NICU travel nurse. The point of this whole post is I had a goal that I never lost sight of even though I had to jump through obstacles and have multiple rejections, things ended up working out in the end and I am where I am because I never gave up. Have patience. I know that’s easy for me to say looking back, but just have faith in yourself and if you want something go after it!