NCLEX Practice Exam | What if my First Nursing Job is Not a Good Match for me?

So you have passed your NCLEX-RN and landed your first nursing job. You are excited and eager to succeed in your new position. You show up early with a positive attitude and are ready to become an essential team member. Perhaps this is your dream job or maybe a job you decided to take as a stepping stone to your dream job. But it soon becomes obvious to you that this job is not a good fit for you. Now what do you do?

Struggling During Nursing Orientation

Many new hires start to doubt their abilities when they first start out. Take a step back and look at the entire situation. Speak with your preceptor, nurse educator or manager and ask them how they think you are doing. It takes time to adjust especially for new nurses. In a very complex unit, it may take a nurse 6 to 12 months to feel confident, so don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are truly unhappy and confident that this will not change even with more training, speak honestly with your manager. While many hospitals require a certain time frame before allowing transfers, often times the hospital prefers to see a nurse who has been trained by them to transfer rather than leave.

Identify Why the Job is Not a Good Match

You must identify exactly why your current position is not a good fit. Is it the unit politics, the institutional practices, your personal feelings, the population you are caring for, the stress, the acuity, or something else? Identifying why you are unhappy will assist you in making decisions about future positions. You should not feel like a failure — it is impossible for someone to know exactly where they belong in nursing without any experience. As a child, you likely tried numerous activities or sports before you found the one that you wanted to truly pursue; nursing is the same for many. While I knew I wanted to work in pediatrics, I thought I would pursue a career as a neonatal nurse. But my path lead me to pediatric oncology, hematology, and blood and marrow transplantation.

Discuss with your mentor or educator about where they think you would most likely succeed and be happy. As a clinical nurse specialist, I have been involved with nurses’ training for many years, and I often meet with them to help them if their current position is not satisfying them. Sometimes this is a new hire who is totally overwhelmed while other times, it is an experienced nurse who is in need of a change. I will help them locate other potential positions and support them through the process. As a nurse, you should feel like the care you are providing is having a positive impact on your patients and gives you a feeling of satisfaction.

Try Finding Another Nursing Position

Don’t feel defeated because one job did not work out. Try and stay focused and apply for other positions. Perhaps consider working in a different setting or with another population. Some nurses learn that they are better at research, teaching, sales, or some other aspect of nursing. The benefit of being a nurse is there are so many different opportunities available and a nurse mentor can often guide you in the right direction.

For example, I spent the first part of my career as a bedside nurse primarily in pediatric, but also as a flight nurse in the United States Air Force Reserves. Later, I transitioned into a clinical nurse specialist role where education became my priority. I also spent time teaching as an instructor, and most recently am working with the nursing informatics team to convert paper chemotherapy templates into electronic versions and per diem from home as a pediatric triage nurse. Be willing to try various opportunities and you will find your ideal position as a nurse. But remember to reassess the opportunities that are available over time. You should never be afraid to try something new.

What to Say to Potential Employers

If possible, stay in your current position while you are seeking out a new job. If this is not possible, don’t panic. Just be prepared when you go on your next interview. Know that the interviewer will likely ask why you are looking for a new position so soon. Keep you answers short, concise, and positive whenever possible. For example, I initially was not able to find a position with the population I desired to work with, but felt that I could still gain a great deal of experience while I waited for a position to open. Perhaps you can explain some of the skills you have gained from your prior or current job. Employers want team players, so be careful not to say negative statements about a prior employer, Instead, explain how working for this new employer will offer you more opportunities to grow and advance within your field.

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