Your First Job at a Hospital Can Mean More Than You Think

Nurse leaning over the bed with a child male patient laying down and a female child sitting on the bed holding a teddy bear smiling. MEDIjobs

When you think of your first hospital job, it’s not uncommon to be focused on getting your foot in the door. However, your first hospital job can mean more than you think. Not only does your first job grant you experience in that department. It also sets the tone for future opportunities. 

Choosing The Hospital 

Are you thinking of getting into pediatrics? You’ll want to be persistent when applying at local children’s hospitals. If you’re able to secure a role within this niche, you’ll have a much easier time transitioning up the ladder and over to other hospitals. Do you currently have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher? If so, you may want to consider applying only at Magnet hospitals first as you’ll be more likely to be hired due to their hiring standards to keep Magnet status. 

Choosing Your Department

When first starting out, it’s most likely that you’ll get placed on one of the least desirable floors – the Medical-Surgical Department. Most commonly this is due to lack of experience. As well as not having the additional accreditations needed for the desired unit. This is why having externships or any past experience in your desired department is critical. Looking to get into the Emergency Department, ICU, or maternity?

You’ll want to secure as many CEU hours you can, obtain your Telemetry Certification, and secure your perspective additional certifications dependent on the department you wish to spend your career in. 

Playing the Long Game 

Much like any other career, the longer you can hold a position with your employer, the better. With that said, you’ll want to make sure the hospital you’re hired at meets your needs. Does the hospital offer room for growth, how does it pay, how is the culture? Making sure all of your needs are met will ensure that you’re happy long enough for the position to be valuable on your resume. 

Exceeding Expectations 

When starting your first job in a hospital, you’ll want to make a lasting first impression. Not only is it important to exceed expectations with your daily duties. It’s also important to exceed expectations when it comes to working as a team.

Hospitals are all about working together to ensure patient safety and satisfaction. This is done by helping out other teammates rather than taking a break on down-time. Also finding other ways to contribute however you can. Not only will this show you’re a team player, but you’ll also prove to be valuable to the department. 

Asking Questions 

Not sure about something? Just ask, but be conscious of how often you need to and who you’re going to with questions. Although everyone is new at some point, it’s up to you to retain everything you’ve learned and to learn quickly. Working in a hospital means you need to be quick to think, respond, and move.

It’s common that when you first start you’ll get lost, forget where the med room is and how to get to your floor. However, you don’t want to be the R.N. that is continuously lost, forgetting things, or doing something wrong. If you need a mentor, get one.

Catching yourself forgetting things? Study on your off days as frequently as possible. Your career is ongoing, and how you perform in the early days sets the tone for how quickly you can advance.

Some R.Ns are let go, and others remain in their departments for the life of their career due to missing the above notes. Those that are quick work as team players and don’t need assistance quickly advance to charge nurses or are transferred to higher-paying departments. 

Making Friends

Your hospital is your second home. You’ll have a work mom, brothers, and sisters, and depending on your age, co-workers will feel like children. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll watch each other get married and have kids.

It’s vital that your co-workers are treated as such from the beginning of your tenure. Start by bringing in your favorite dish on your first day, celebrate someone when there’s a birthday, and hang out after work with the team. This will make your life easier on your unit and much easier when you have to work those dreaded set holiday hours that you were pooled for. 

Making a Difference 

One of the most satisfying things about getting into the medical field (and likely the reason you’re reading this article) is making a difference. When working in a hospital setting, you have the opportunity to see it all.

You’ll hear the chimes of babies being born, you’ll listen to codes called, you’ll see patients take their last breath, you’ll inspire people, and most importantly, you’ll help save countless lives. Patients will walk in years after you’ve cared for them, remembering you by name. You live in their hearts forever. 

Hang in There 

It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. That’s why you have to take a moment, pause, and remember why you got into the medical field in the first place – to save lives. The long 16 hour overtime shifts. The high census days, the days you lose a patient, the holidays away from family. The tough doctors, and everything else that comes along with it can be tough. It requires thick skin, but it’s all worth it in the end. 

Your first job at a hospital not only sets the tone for your career. It also means more than you think to all the people and lives you touch along the way. 

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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