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Starting in a Specialty as a New Grad

*Original post release 2/21/2020

In my opinion? DO IT! Med Surg can be a great starting place if you aren’t certain as to what you’re career goals are. However, doing so may help you get to your end goals that much faster (Ex: NP, CCRN, CRNA, etc.). It also makes you more marketable should you have to move or want to consider travel nursing. In a specialty unit, you’ll be cultivating a priceless skill set and foundation of critical thinking early on in your career.

If you’re strongly considering taking on a specialty unit (ICU, NICU, ER, L&D, etc.) as a new grad, I suggest joining the appropriate nursing organization for that specialty. This shows future employers that you’ve taken the time to research the unit’s area of practice and have the initiative to look for additional resources. The longer you’ve been a member, the better it looks when applying to jobs. These organizations often have heavily discounted student memberships, provide monthly journals, and access to CEs. Here’s a link to a list of such organizations:

I would also suggest beginning your job search as soon as you begin your final semester of school to give you the best chance against the other new grads you’ll be competing against. This might just give you the edge you need. Plus, securing a job offer before graduation provides you with quite a bit of peace of mind as you head into finals and the NCLEX.

Finally? If you’re worried about being able to handle the specialty as a new grad, take this into consideration…the orientation period may be longer for these units depending on the facility. Mine was about 3 months (2 months on day shift and 1 month on nights) before I was “on my own” on nights. Also, try to find a facility that offers a new grad residency program because this will make sure the facility invests more time/resources and offers more learning opportunities for you to grow professionally. Hope this helps any of you on the fence!

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