My name is Nicole. I am currently a Registered Nurse working in orthopaedics. I missed out on a graduate nurse program like some of you who may be reading this. But I want to share below some tips that might help land a job.

I always wanted to do nursing however in high school I wasn’t the best student who spent more time working and reading non-related school books that my enter score was non-existent, so I worked as a dental nurse for 10 years which included with an oral surgeon within the hospital on children and adults under general anaesthesia which reignited my interest and passion for nursing so I decided to revisit the idea as a mature aged student and was lucky enough to be accepted into Griffith University in Southport in 2017 and the rest they say is history.

What did your graduate nurse program applications involve?

During my last few placements, students were able to apply for graduate positions within the hospital. The process in 2019 was a medication exam, a progress note and a clinical scenario and then if you were successful in that stage you moved onto the interview stage.

The best tip I can give people for the grad application process is to keep your cover letter short and sweet as the recruiters have thousands of applications to read. My advice for the medication exam and progress note is to use a template for the note and familiarise yourself with the formula’s eg sunrise over sunset for your medication calculations and remember to breath!

Almost got it…

I was lucky to receive an interview however wasn’t successful in gaining a graduate position.

I was extremely nervous during my interview and it showed. I stumbled on my answers and when I think back the ways in which I answered them weren’t very clear, but I did the best I could as a newly graduated nurse.

I applied for both Gold Coast University Hospital and Gold Coast Private Hospital. Due to a large number of applicants at GCPH, I didn’t get a callback.

I wasn’t really sure the area I wanted to get into however I knew I wanted surgical.

What next?

I have been quite lucky with my nursing journey. I applied for a graduate position and missed out, so I applied for an aged care position and was lucky enough to be offered to the job on the spot. I was also extremely lucky to have known a friend on the orthopaedic ward I am currently working in and was able to get the email from the NUM and sent my cover letter and resume to her and was able to start a position of .2 and work my way up to .7

I think the key points for me getting a job was applying for a rural aged care who were desperate for staff and willing to train me. I was fortunate enough to get my hospital job by knowing someone working on the ward where I am currently working.

If you are unsuccessful, visit the nurse unit managers that you may have had placements with and have a chat to them about the possibility of regular nursing positions. Perhaps they only could take so many new graduated nurses but they need nurses they may be able to give you a temporary contract.

I also think if you are willing to travel, willing to do something different to which you thought you would do, willing to try new things, that can look extremely appealing to employers as you are versatile and able to be moulded so to speak.

Application tips?

Cover letter tips I have would be keep it short, succinct and sweet. Only add in information that applies. Interview tips I have would be to dress nicely. A smart shirt and slacks or a skirt. Professional attire.

I also think to be honest during your interview. If there’s a clinical scenario you aren’t sure how you would tackle, then be honest and say ‘I would seek help, or I would be x/y/z as I’m not sure’. Nurses are always learning. We’re always going to come across something we don’t know. As long as you prioritise patient and your safety that’s all your employers want to be sure of.

Recruitment panels are not there to make sure you fail, they simply want to know if you can prioritise patient safety and yours, time management and being able to recognise patient deterioration.

What do you do now?

I am currently working on an orthopaedic inpatient unit at Gold Coast University Hospital. I have been on the ward for 2 years. We see a lot of patients on waiting lists to have routine hip and knee replacements, some minor trauma causes like broken bones from accidents and we often get a lot of what are called ‘outliers’ who are other specialities patients however their wards are full so they come to us with spare beds.

It is good as I get exposure to different specialities such as gastroenterology, gynaecology, renal and plastics patients where some things are a bit different but it’s good to learn.

A public hospital gives you so much variety and options for employment. Operating theatres to outpatients to hospital-in-the-home support.

What support did you get for this hospital job?

I was initially treated as a new graduate when I got my job on the orthopaedic ward. I was given two weeks of supernumerary shifts of AMs, PMs and a night shift. I was placed with senior registered nurses who taught me the routines and flow of the ward and basic procedures etc. I now train new staff and new nursing graduates on their new nursing journeys which I feel really proud to be part of.

I had a lot of communication and meetings with my ward clinical facilitator to make sure I was feeling supported and not over-whelmed and being signed off on all my clinical skill assessment tools such as clinical handover, blood administration, intravenous antibiotic administration etc. This helped me to feel supported whilst I learnt all the skills I needed.

Any final tips or thoughts?

Apply for everything. Even if you don’t think you’ll meet the criteria, apply anyway. You might surprise yourself and the employer be happy to train you.

Be honest on your resume and cover letter. Don’t add things that you aren’t competent in and if you want to do that add that you’re working towards it.

Be open to moving around and trying jobs you think you might not like. I didn’t think I would like aged care however I enjoy it to an extent. Also just be you. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing. Just focus on you and your path and your destination.

Don’t feel too upset or feel like a failure for not securing a graduate position. Graduate positions (while great) are not the only way to be a wonderful nurse. I know many people, myself included who went the long way around to wind up in the hospital but I like to think that I have learnt a multitude of skills and knowledge because of that.