Need easy ideas for how to network with other nurses while in nursing school? Hoping to get into a highly competitive specialty as a new grad? Here are 4 tips that you can (and should!) be doing while in nursing school to make it even easier to get the nursing job of your dreams…even as a brand new grad.
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Links from Episode 68:
Special Podcast series for new nursing students (including info on how to deal with nurse bullies!): https://www.YourNursingTutor.com/experttips
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Transcript for Episode 68
Today I’m going to answer another question for one of my today I’m going to answer another question from one of my VIP tutoring members Chaneille.
She asks, how can we as students network with other nurses, are there groups we can join or places we can go to start to create a network that may help us with securing employment and getting the real deal on what different floors and specialties are like? Chaneille…
And for those of you who are not VIP tutoring members, you know, you get way more than just tutoring support by becoming a VIP tutoring member. I provide mentorship, encouragement, just helping you figure out what’s going on, when you’re in nursing school and things seem a little bit crazy. Like I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to students that, you know, it’s really not you, it’s them. A lot of times it is the nursing school, but when you don’t have a professional who’s been there done that to tell you for sure, then you start to feel like something’s wrong with you. Like, can I say that? Sometimes it’s like kind of like a form of gaslighting. Is that too strong? I don’t know. I’m not saying that your instructors mean to do that. I’m just saying that unfortunately, that is still a large part of the culture of nursing. It’s something that a lot of people are working hard to change, myself included. But it’s still out there. And we need to talk about it. And you need to have somebody normalize that for you. So you don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you because there’s probably not. And you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle just by having a trustworthy mentor. Like myself. If you’re a VIP tutor, remember to let you know when things are just crazy. But it’s not you. And it’s not because of you. So let’s talk about Chanel’s question.
I love this so much, because she is really being forward thinking, I will tell you right now, Chanel will have no problem getting the nursing job of her dreams when she graduates, she’s still early on in school. So she’s got plenty of time to be working towards this and thinking about it. And I know she’s gonna do a great job. So I actually have four suggestions that her she has Chanel and anybody else who’s listening to this I can use to help you to network while you’re still in nursing school. Even if you’ve already graduated, some of these things can be very helpful. But they will help you first figure out the real deal of what different floors are like what different specialties are like, even with different hospitals or like because different hospitals can have wildly different cultures, I mean, different floors within the same hospital can have wildly different cultures too.
And you do want to work hard to find a specific type of culture that you’re working at, that’s going to be a good fit for you, that’s going to be a really good positive working environment. The other thing that this will help with is making your resume look really, really competitive. Okay? Especially because Gone are the days where you have to, quote, do your time on med search to write as soon as you graduate, right, you might still find instructors that try to tell you that that’s the case. But let me promise you that it is not. There are so many other options for new graduates nowadays. And really, if you define nursing, simply by being a med surg nurse, you’re just completely wrong. Okay. That might be what the common concept of what a nurse is and what a nurse does, but a nurse really does so much more nursing is really very much about a way of thinking like thinking like a nurse within the context of the medical knowledge and within our sphere of practice.
So that being said, what are the four things you can be doing to prepare yourself to network with other nurses so that you can get the best job the job of your dreams? When you graduate? Number one, use who you already know. Okay, do you know any nurses? Most of us already know, at least a couple at least one or two, right? You might not even know that you know them. So I was fairly new to my area when I decided to go to nursing school. Okay, thinking back I was brand new. So I we basically my husband was military, we moved to a new area. And that was an I had already decided to go to nursing school. But I wasn’t going to start until we were settled in a place that we were going to be staying for at least three years. Because you know, military likes to move around. Sometimes we were lucky we never actually had to move again. But I did not know that at the time. And so I wanted to make sure that we were going to have a high chance of staying in the same place for At least long enough for me to finish my prerequisites and complete nursing school. So I didn’t have to try to transfer because that stinks when you have to transfer nursing schools.
So I didn’t really know a lot of people. But I was very vocal about my plans to go to nursing school, I talked about it with people, I shared my hopes and dreams, I was kind of public with it. I was lucky, I had a lot of supportive people around me, but, but even if you don’t just choose who you share it with now, what happened for me was in my church, you know, people started to learn that I was the girl going to nursing school. And what I found is that there were a handful of nurses in my church, who sought me out and would talk to me about it and ask me how things were going, they were willing to go out to lunch with me, and talk about what it was like, they told me what their floors were like, they told me their experiences.
Basically, I just picked their brain, I asked them all the different types of nursing they had done over the years, they had both lived in the area longer than I had. So they could tell me, you know, the ins and outs of the different hospitals. And ultimately, one of those nurses even hooked me up this really amazing shadowing experience where I got to observe an open heart surgery. I can’t even tell you how cool that was to this day. That is like one of the top five best experiences in my life. I mean, let’s just love the birth of my six children as one experience. So I don’t look bad. But outside of that, this was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life was watching that open heart surgery, because even though I later went on to become an operating room nurse, and I didn’t get to see anything like that in the pediatric hospital I worked in. But being able to see that person’s chest wide open was absolutely amazing. And I never would have had that opportunity.
If I hadn’t just been vocal about telling the people around me what my plans were, what I was doing what I was hoping to do one day. And because of that she just offered, she just knew me. She knew I was respectful. She knew I was responsible, she knew I was a go getter. And she basically came to me and said, Would you like me to introduce you to the nurse educator at the hospital I used to work at she didn’t even still work there. But she had friends who still did, and one of them was the nurse educator. And so she just put in a call. And that grease the wheels to get me set up to be able to observe that open heart surgery.
So that’s why my number one tip is to just think about who you already know. And if you don’t think you know, anybody, just start talking about your nursing school plans because people will come out of the woodwork. Nursing is such a helping profession. People love helping others who are interested, people love sharing their experience when they know somebody is interested. And that’s no different in nursing. In fact, I think it’s even stronger in nursing since nursing tends to attract people who are helpers by nature. So I would also add to that caveat, be a good listener, do a lot more listening than you do talking. And just soak it all in, you know, ask questions that are turning it back on them so that they can share all their experience with you. And then just file it away. Okay, you never know what what experiences will come out of that opportunity.
Number two, somewhat similar, but it’s in your school, I would say as much as you can make friends with your instructors and your professors. Okay. Now, a lot of my VIP tutoring members, Chaneille included, are what we call non traditional students. So these are people that like me, when I went to nursing school, I went to nursing school as sort of a second career, okay, I had already lived a life. I had gone to school for something else. I was in a second degree program. I had my master’s degree in clinical psychology when I decided to go back for nursing school. And so I had a bit of a different perspective on school than a lot of my classmates did. I was accustomed to treating faculty like colleagues, because that’s what you do when you’re in graduate school. Yes, there you’re in your, you know, advise research advisors and things, but you’re both grown adults, and you’re both working on the same research projects.
It’s just that one is a little bit further along on that particular journey than you are. And so when I turned around to go to nursing school, I realized in hindsight, I didn’t realize at the time, but I realized I really approached my professors with that same perspective, and it paid off. Now, not all of my professors were very receptive, were completely receptive to this method. But a handful of them were, and some of them I’m still friends with to this day and it’s been, you know, more than a decade. Since I graduated from nursing school, how do you go about doing this? First of all, always, always, always be respectful. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Okay, being a professor is hard, especially in nursing, I would cringe every time I would hear one of my classmates get upset in class and make some, excuse me, silly comment about how they paid their professors salary. And so their professors should do XYZ, well, I’ve got news for you, professors don’t get paid that much. Okay, especially for the amount of hours they have to put in. For the nursing program. It’s even worse than a lot of other academic disciplines, the pay your professor, chances are, could get paid way more if they quit teaching and went back to work for the hospital. So understand that the money they’re getting per hours worked is embarrassing, really, for their amount of experience. Most of the time they do it because of the care factor, because they really care about you as nursing students, they care about the future of the nursing profession. However, I understand that they don’t always portray that to you.
Okay, there’s a lot of very bitter, very hurt nursing professors out there, and they share it with you, and they kind of bully you in return. They make snide comments, please just be patient with them. Understand that hurt people hurt people. And you can learn more about this on another podcast episode I did with my guest expert, Kimberly probis, where she talks a lot about nurse bullying and how you can handle that. So I’ll refer you back there and not talk any more about it here. If you do have a professor who’s a bully, there’s things you can do, that’s probably not going to be the person that you’re going to connect with, with what I’m talking about for networking. But look for the other professors who are more receptive to that a little bit less bitter, more friendly, okay, go to their office hours.
Even if you don’t have a specific question, go to their office hours anyway, they set those aside for a reason. And if you go to their office hours, you can get to know them, you can show them the hard work that you’re doing firsthand, they can help you identify knowledge gaps that you might have that you don’t realize, they can give you a little more of the extra hand holding that you might like. However, again, this is super, super important. Don’t expect them to teach you the information in the office hours. If you want to impress your professor, then go when you go there to their office hours, start by telling them what you’ve already done. Okay. And I’m talking about specifics. Not I studied for four hours, say, well, these are the topics I reviewed, I found this part, insert a specific detail here. Very interesting. But how do you think this applies to nursing?
Could I talk this through to you and you can give me feedback. That would be an excellent way to impress your professor, because you are the one doing the heavy lifting. With your studying, you really do have to wrestle with the information. If you walk into your professor’s office hours and be like, can you help me ready for the test? They’re gonna be like, Where do I even start? Okay, because it’s too broad. You have to show them, you have to make the extra effort to show them that you are doing the work. Okay?
If you do that, most professors are going to be impressed. And here’s the benefits of making friends with your professors. One someday, you might need a reference. And let me tell you, not every professor is going to want to give you a reference letter period. But if you have spent that extra time developing that relationship, if then they have something to say in a reference letter about you. Okay, and if you can get your professor to be a referral, then that’s going to go that much further when you apply for your first nursing job. Also, it can help for scholarships. If you are applying for scholarships, then a lot of times they want a faculty member to give you a reference number to if they’re going to give you a reference.
You want them to know something to say about you and not just be generic. I asked one of my first nursing professors for a reference. And when she sent it to me, it was horrible. She hadn’t even included the correct class that I had been in for her. It was so embarrassing. I was glad I had read it before submitting it, because there was no way that I was going to be using that particular reference for the thing I was applying to. After that I always made sure to only ask professors that I had developed an extra relationship with when I wanted a referral. Another benefit of befriending your professor in a respectful way is that sometimes you will get some behind the scenes dirt on what’s going on in your nursing program. Okay, you will know what professors to stay away from, you will know which ones are the ones that are bitter that you’re not going to be able to do anything about. And you’re going to learn which professors are the ones that actually do care, and that you should go to them when you need help. And then thirdly, you are going to find out who.
And then thirdly, you’re going to find it a lot easier to advocate for yourself, when you already have an existing relationship that’s been respectful with and collegial with your professor. So when you do need to advocate for yourself, you’ll know that she probably already does have your best interests at heart. But you can go to her respectfully, she will give you the benefit of the doubt because she knows you’re just not a whiner. complainer, because you’ve invested in that relationship before you needed her for something. And you will be more likely to get the outcome that you desire, or at least to have an acceptable compromise. So that’s why my second tip is to make friends with your professor.
My third suggestion for how to network with other nurses is one that I think is overlooked a lot of times for nursing students, even though it’s pretty easy thing to do. And that is to join a Nursing Association. Now, there’s a lot, there’s, like so many, it’s an overwhelming number that you can join. So I would recommend that if you think you know what kind of specialty you want to go in. Or at least if you haven’t narrowed down to two or three, maybe four, then I would focus in on those handful of nursing associations and see how much it costs to join them. Now, I will say that nursing associations can be expensive, when you’re already in the specialty and expensive is relative, I should say. But when you’re a nursing student, they feel expensive.
However, when you are a nursing student, they almost always will offer student rates for membership. And this could be as low as $30 a year. Okay, and the benefits you can get from this is totally worth that price. Usually you will get maybe a monthly or bimonthly journal that are related to research topics on that specialty area, you might get access to special trainings, you will be invited to their annual conference. And if you’re able to attend that that’s an amazing resource for attending and getting to know more about the speciality and meeting other nurses in that area. You can also get involved in your state association. So most of these national or international nursing associations also have state chapters. So those are the really good ones to get involved in because they’re going to be more nurses that are local to your area.
Now when I was in nursing school, I was interested in both operating room nursing, and also emergency nursing. And when I was still in school, I was not sure which one I was more interested in. So I joined a both associations to learn more about them so that I could help decide now ultimately, I decided to become an operating room nurse. But having the information from the Emergency Nurses Association was helpful in making that decision too, because it gave me just a perspective. From that that gave me more information to make the decision.
Now what are the things with the Association of perioperative registered nurses, AORN, when I joined is that they also had local chapter meetings. Now, I actually didn’t know about those when I was in nursing school, I found out about it after I graduated. But if I had known I totally would have gone because what better way to network and get to know the dirt and the lowdown on all your local hospitals and positions, then finding out from the nurses who work there. And not only that, but if you can make friends with them and get to know them then you’re going to find out who’s the real person who makes the hiring decisions. How can you name drop, how can you network, how can you get the position? What are they looking for? So that you know how to maybe they even look at your resume for you so that they know what their hiring manager is looking for.
They can give you hints and clues so that you are known on the floor before you ever apply for the job so that they are eager and wanting you to come work for them. You might even find people competing to get you to apply for their hospital if they really like you. So joining a Nursing Association and getting involved in your local or state chapter is definitely a great way to network to help secure employment for when you graduate, especially if you’re in a particularly competitive area. Like if you want to get into labor and delivery, you probably can’t get a job there unless you’re doing some networking like this. Now, the fourth and final way that I recommend networking at right now is just calling randomly to hospitals, and asking for shadowing opportunities.
When you’re in a nursing, when you are a nursing student, you’re in a unique position where you can get away with that really easily. During COVID, it was a little bit harder to do that, obviously. But that’s easing up, you can give them a call, tell them you’re a nursing student, you’re interested in this particular discipline or you’re interested in working at that hospital after graduation is there any way you could set up a shadowing opportunity to learn more about that position or that hospital, most of the time, they’re just going to be so impressed that you are taking this initiative that they are going to love to work with you and help you out. And it also looks good for them because they get a chance to feel you out and see what kind of potential future employee you will be as well. So this is one that not a lot of students think about. And not a lot of students do, because you have to kind of put yourself out there a little bit. But honestly, call the nurse educator, call the manager call HR even and they can put you in touch with the appropriate person, but just call around.
And if you get even if you get a no answer, you know, first call back to different places, different hospitals, different locations, and until you can find one that is willing to work with you and do that. And I think you’ll find it easier than you expect. But that’s a great way because this is going to put you in the way of meeting even more local nurses and you know that those nurses are going to tell you the dirt on the floor when the managers not around that you’re not going to hear just if you apply and are in an interview setting. And so and they will also get to know you so that they are going to want to put in a good word and they are going to want to make sure that when you apply to that floor later on that their manager is going to be on the lookout for your application so that you will get an interview.
Those are my four biggest suggestions for how to create a network that may help you with securing employment and get the real deal on what different floors and specialties are like while you’re still in nursing school. So I hope that helps Cheneille if you are a nursing student who are pre nursing students who would like to get this kind of mentorship and get your questions answered, so that you can get through nursing school more confidently more calmly, and with better grades that actually reflect how hard you work that I would love to do that for you in the VIP tutoring membership and you can find out more information by going to your nursing tutor.com forward slash VIP. Until next time, good luck on your nursing journey.
One more thing…if you’d like to find the link for anything of the resources I mentioned in today’s podcast, or if you’d like to join my FREE FB Group where I do a once-a-week FB Live to answer all your nursing school questions, then you can find all that information on the show notes page at www.YourNursingTutor.com/episode68.
Before we end today, would you mind doing me a 30-second favor? Would you go to Apple Podcasts and write a 2-sentence Review for Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor? For the first sentence, simply tell me where you’re at on your nursing journey. Then in your second sentence, let me know why you like listening to this podcast. It’s one small way that you can support the mission of Your Nursing Tutor by helping other nursing students discover that it IS possible for “normal people” to get through nursing school without completely sacrificing your family, your job, or even your sanity.
Until next episode, good luck on your nursing journey!
Nicole Whitworth is the founder of Your Nursing Tutor. She has a BSN and an MA in Clinical Psychology, and has been a professional nursing tutor for over 12+ years. Nicole specializes in getting nursing students through school confidently and calmly so that everything finally “clicks”. She is also the creator of the Silver Bullet Study System, an easy-to-follow study method that automatically trains your brain to become a nurse at the same time that you study for your normal nursing classes.