How do I find a nursing job in a tight job market?
May 14, 2013 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I’m relocating to Baltimore, MD and looking for a nursing job. I’m fresh out of nursing school, which does not work in my favor, but beyond that consider myself to be a strong applicant...

Strong applicant meaning I have a lot of previous community health experience, got great grades in nursing school and undergrad, am fully licensed, etc. I’m sending out reams of applications to area hospitals and a handful of nursing homes, but so far haven’t been called for an interview. It’s hard knowing where to toe the line with the suggestions HR has on the websites. They ask that applicants not call to check on application status, ask that we not contact nurse managers, say that there is no need for us to contact anyone after submitting an application, as HR will let us know if our resume is being considered. These streamlined online applications ensure that there be no reason HR meets me unless my resume somehow floats to the top of the pile and they invite me to come in. I don’t have any nursing contacts in the area, so my networking options are slim.

So, do you have any ideas for creative ways I can make myself, a strong applicant, stand out without becoming obnoxious to the HR department and nurse recruiters? Do you have any familiarity with the healthcare/nursing market in Baltimore as of late, and if so, any thoughts on where I should be turning my focus?

And finally, I realize there are plenty of places in the country desperate for nurses and I could apply there. I’ve chosen Baltimore because I’m planning on starting a grad program here in the fall, which I would do part-time while I work full-time. But the job is the priority, and if nothing works out within a certain amount of time, then I have to scrap the grad school plans and move to wherever I can find work as an RN. So I’d like to focus on the greater Baltimore area for the time being.
posted by margoc19 to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They ask that applicants not call to check on application status, ask that we not contact nurse managers, say that there is no need for us to contact anyone after submitting an application, as HR will let us know if our resume is being considered.

Unless you already know someone at the organization through some other means, follow these instructions. I think your best option is to try to get to know people at the organizations through other means. Have you considered looking for nursing associations or the like?
posted by grouse at 11:52 AM on May 14, 2013

Maybe this is obvious, but does your résumé have an address on it, and if so, is it in Baltimore?
posted by MadamM at 12:05 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

As a new grad your job options are very slim in a big urban area. Consider, as strange as this sounds, taking a step backwards and getting a CNA certification.

With that in hand, get a job as a CNA on a unit that appeals to you as an RN, and go out of your way to make yourself completely indispensable. Seriously, work your ASS off. Volunteer to take the worst shifts, work weekends and holidays, and do absolutely everything you can to learn from the RNs who already work there. Ask a ton of questions (provided you're not annoying people by asking them), keep a sharp eye on what kinds of medical issues the patients have and what the common nursing interventions are, learn everything you can about the common meds. Listen hard during rounds and look up whatever you don't understand. I promise you'll learn more as a CNA than you ever did as a student during your clinicals, and unlike most new grads you'll develop a realistic sense of what you don't know, which will make you a safer novice nurse.

Make it very clear to everyone that you want a job there as an RN eventually, but don't appear to think that you're better than the other CNAs because you're already licensed. You don't want to give the impression that you're just slumming it; many CNAs make a career of their positions, are very good at what they do, and will save your ass multiple times a day when you're a new nurse. Respect the hard work they do and say thank you all the time.

Whatever you do, do not do anything, not one single thing, outside the scope of CNA practice just because you have an RN license. No passing meds (not even a Tylenol!), no adjusting IV drips, replacing empty IV bags, not even if an RN asks you to do it. If you're not employed by the hospital as an RN, you cannot legally practice as an RN in the facility and nothing will make the state take away your license faster. Also the facility's liability insurance wouldn't cover you for nursing interventions performed while not employed there as a nurse, so if you did something really wrong, you'd be totally hosed.

Avoid being a thorn in the nurse manager's side--never be a problem she needs to solve but rather someone who makes her job easier. No complaining, no slacking, no sick calls (unless you're really ill, of course). You want everyone--docs, housekeepers, respiratory therapists, other CNAs, other RNs--to think you're the best thing that's ever happened to the unit.

When an RN position opens up on that unit, you'll be a known, helpful, valued member of the team that everyone loves and respects, and it'll be no problem to get hired as a nurse.
posted by jesourie at 12:13 PM on May 14, 2013 [11 favorites]

Came to say, get a local address and phone number. There are tons of Mailbox places where you can get a local address, or ask a friend to use his/hers. Buy a burner and get a Balto phone number.

A lot of HR folks won't even look at resumes from out of town applicants.

Go to linkedin and start linking up with recruiters. Also, check out the nursing jobs that are posted in Baltimore. I found 79 nursing jobs listed in the Baltimore Area.

Also, have you thought about working for the Federal Government? Talk about waiting...but, the VA is hiring like mad.

Another avenue is being a telephonic nurse for an insurance company.

Go to the job search engines:,, are the ones I like to use.

Keep at it. Something will click. How about the job placement department at your school?

How about School Nurse for the Baltimore school district?

Lots of weird nursing jobs out there. Trust and believe.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:21 PM on May 14, 2013

Message me via Metafilter and tell me where you've already applied, I'm an RN in Baltimore affiliated with Hopkins. I imagine if you're starting a grad program you graduated with a BSN?
posted by Asherah at 12:40 PM on May 14, 2013

This old thread might be helpful.

Here's how I got a job in this terrible, terrible market:

I dressed up in nice clothes. I took a pile of resumes. I went to every hospital, SNF, infusion center, dialysis center, etc I could think of in my area. I went straight up to the floors and tried to find the nurse manager for that floor. Sometimes I was turned away at the front door. Sometimes the manager wasn't in. Sometimes she didn't want to talk to me. But when she did, I smiled. I said some version of this script:

"Hi! I'm so sorry to interrupt, I know you're very busy, but I wonder if you have a minute to talk to me. I'm a new grad RN, and I would love to work at this hospital because..." [or] "and I'm wondering if you'd be willing to give me some advice about how to make myself a strong candidate when you start hiring new grads again."

I did this at maybe 25 places. As a result of these cold walk-ins
- I got a job in a SNF, which sucks, but is something. It sucked so much I actually had to quit, but I shouldn't have. A year of SNF work can get you an acute care job.
- I got cards for people in a bunch of different hospitals.
- When my local county hospital opened a new grad program, I applied immediately, and then I sent a personal email to the person I had 3 months previously connected with through a cold walk in, thanked her again for meeting with me, explained I had applied, and again asked how I could increase my chances. She put in a word with HR and I got an interview.

Err on the side of being a pest. A polite, respectful pest, but a pest none the less.

Work every connection you have - frieinds of friends etc.

Check the hospital HR website daily - jobs may only be posted for a very short time.

Good luck!
posted by latkes at 12:41 PM on May 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Latkes and jesourie both have great suggestions and I've found those are pretty much the only way any of the new grads I know have gotten jobs. The way I got jobs even AFTER I had a few years of experience were all by showing up somewhere physically, in person, dressed nicely and with resume in hand. When I was a new grad, I also signed up for all those dumb free nursing and healthcare magazines (like ADVANCE Nursing and Nursing 2013 or whatever) as well as kept an eye on my local nursing union's publications even though I wasn't in the union. I'd look them through every month and put all the hospital job fairs and open houses on my calendar and just show up. HR can be a black pit of despair and I found that every hospital ever says to just submit an online resume (which, yes, you should still do) but that even though I applied to pretty much every hospital within a 30 mile range of where I was, I never got a single callback with those. Every time I showed up to an open house, though, I got a card of a manager or two, they saw my face and my bright shiny eagerness and I got some face time with the company. And I got jobs at two of those places.
posted by takoukla at 12:53 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you interested in Home Health Care? I have no specific job leads for you, by MeMail if you would like some information about my company, which always seems to be recruiting nurses.
posted by spaltavian at 1:36 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

With all due respect to jesourie, you need to check Maryland's nursing practice act before you even consider working as a CNA/Tech with an RN license. In some states, regardless of job title, you are still held to your highest license - meaning you are held accountable as if you were an RN even though you are not employed as one. This doesn't mean that you can't work as a CNA with an RN license, just that you would be held to a higher standard without (in your case) the appropriate training (or pay). Call Maryland's state board of nursing and ask them this question before you throw any time or money at obtaining CNA certification.

If you do consider expanding your search to other areas, I'd encourage you to look for teaching hospitals with nurse residency programs. These are typically 12-month programs designed for new BSN grads. An evidence-based research project is usually part of the program. Something like this will look great on a grad school application. Also, is grad school a sure thing? Meaning, have you already been accepted? If not, for the sake of improving my credentials, I'd rather move to get a job at a teaching hospital with a residency program than stay in Baltimore and work at a nursing home or SNF.
posted by pecanpies at 1:40 PM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

pecanpies is absolutely right. Sorry I didn't mention it--yes, nurse practice acts vary from state to state, and I know nothing about Maryland's.
posted by jesourie at 1:44 PM on May 14, 2013

Also, I've got no idea if hospitals in Maryland are unionized or not, but if they are, you probably won't get hired as a CNA if you have an RN license. Union rules will likely set minimum pay grades based on licensure. Nobody's going to hire a CNA if they have to pay them as much as they would an RN. Just one more thing to look at before you go down that road.

On preview, takoukla's suggestion is a great way to meet hiring managers and nurse managers and put a face to your resume.

Are there any local nursing associations or groups you could join in Baltimore? I am a member of my city's Sigma Theta Tau chapter as well as my local AACN chapter. It's a great way to network and meet people.
posted by pecanpies at 1:45 PM on May 14, 2013

Also, on re-read, I missed that grad school was THIS fall. Sorry. Unless you're going part-time (or end up pushing grad school back) ignore my suggestion about the residency programs. I think they're a wonderful way to orient as a new grad, but only if you're planning on staying with bedside nursing at least a year or so.
posted by pecanpies at 1:48 PM on May 14, 2013

When you apply, don't mention that you are going to grad school this fall. You can bring that up after you get hired. A nurse manager will think - 1. she's not interested in bedside nursing, 2. she's going to leave as soon as she can and 3. her schedule will be a hassle because she needs to go to school. So don't put it in your cover letter and don't mention it when you call.
Seconding what others said about going to open houses and job fairs. Getting your face there is really important. That will be hard to do unless you move to Baltimore first.
And hang in there! I wish it wasn't so hard for nurses to find jobs - we need more of them, but there is no money for salaries now a days -just money for buildings and equipment and computers. Its alot easier to get your second nursing job than your first.
posted by SyraCarol at 2:51 PM on May 14, 2013

When I got out of school I moved to a rural area where I got a pretty good med surg job. I was lucky to get it. I'd condider moving to an area where they need people and will orient you. As a new grad you really know nothing - I didn't! You might just plan on spending a year or two working. The money is good, and you will be making a great basis for further study.
posted by sully75 at 6:12 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I commented before on the thread linked by latkes and in that thread said to do what jesourie says to do, which is work as a nurse's aide on a unit until they get to know you and you will be first on the list for the next open RN position.

To address the CNA with RN license thing, I worked multiple jobs as a "nurse assistant" not as a "certified nurse assistant" because I didn't have my CNA but had been in nursing school and had experience as a nurse's aide. Hospitals were cool with this, SNF's and care homes were not cool with this because they have licensed vs unlicensed staff ratios that matter (at least in California and Oregon, which are the states I am familiar with). You have to know the state regulations, but a good registry agency will be helpful here and is where I would start.

I will also affirm what has been said upstream, which is that as a relocated nurse, having a local address and PHONE NUMBER is key. I applied to many positions with an out of town number and got zero calls. I only started getting calls when I got a TracFone and a number set to the local area. It is now my #1 piece of advice to any applicant in any field, have a local number.

Good luck.
posted by artdesk at 6:22 PM on May 14, 2013

Have you asked EVERY SINGLE PERSON YOU KNOW whether they have connections in Baltimore? Especially nursing school classmates and nursing professors (bonus if they are connected with your Baltimore grad program). In my experience searching for RN jobs, professors can be incredibly generous, and are always eager to hook up promising grads. And you may find that the sister or brother of a nursing school colleague has a sister at Hopkins who knows the nurse manager of her unit and can put in a good word . . .

You don't have years of nursing experience on your side, but you do have recent contact with all of your school connections.
posted by citygirl at 7:27 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to look for jobs in clinics, too. I know a couple new-grad nurses who did telephone triage for a year or two (one in an OB clinic, one in a peds clinic) and then switched to acute care.
posted by vytae at 2:41 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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