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Graduating from your nursing degree without an ensured place in a graduate program can be a daunting prospect, but according to NSWNMA Professional Officer Jo Purdue, there are pathways if you miss out on your preferred work environment.

“It’s not all doom and gloom just because you didn’t get [into] a graduate program,” Ms Purdue says.

An official who has advised early-career nurses and sat on hiring panels herself, Ms Purdue knows too well that the demand for placements often outstrips what is available, and NSW is no different.

By way of example, Ms Purdue mentions an interview panel at one NSW Health district where 450 graduate nurses interviewed for less than 200 positions, adding that the overall situation isn’t much better.

“At least, 10, 20% possibly don’t get a grad position, or are quite delayed in getting them,” she explains, noting that this is taking into account both public and private sector placements, and that the flow on effects to their employment prospects are significant.

“The longer they’re out, the harder it is for them to get a position, because they’ve just got no experience.”

However, speaking to the ANMJ, Ms Purdue stresses that opportunities abound, if you’re willing to embrace the twists and turns of a situation that isn’t what you expected.

“Just because what you think now is what you want to do, doesn’t mean that that’s not going to change as you go,” she says, adding, “There’s so much out there on offer that you’re really limiting yourself if you close it to… one thing.”

With this in mind, here are some key tips that will help you make progress if you haven’t received a placement.

  • Be proactive during the hiring process: “If you can approach the Nurse Unit Manager or the contact person listed in the advertisement [and] make a really good impression, they may be willing to take that risk that you haven’t got the experience… [but] that if they’ve got the staff to support you, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t [succeed],” Ms Purdue says.
  • Be willing to practice in different areas: Ms Purdue says that graduates should be looking to practice in areas where greater opportunity may abound, including mental health and rural/remote practice, noting that the latter area can be particularly dynamic for learning.

“I always promote [rural/remote practice] because it has such great learning experiences,” Ms Purdue explains. “You have limited resources [and] you have to rely on your critical thinking, problem solving and all of those type of things.”

  • Don’t be “picky and choosey”: Ms Purdue says the most important part of your first 12 months of professional practice is simply to get into your work place and start getting on-the-ground experience.

“You can change career pathways a million times and still be in nursing,” she explains. “It is important to actually just get out there and put that theory into practice, it doesn’t matter what the context is. The longer you’re away from that practical part of it, the harder it is to come back to it.”

  • Look for environments with support: Ms Purdue says that while a willingness to adjust to different professional environments is important, your workplace should be one that will be supportive to you in your early career journey.

“If you don’t have good support, it can be detrimental, and I’ve seen that through notifications against new graduates,” Ms Purdue says, adding that graduate need to be comfortable to speak up about any challenges they face.

“If they feel they’re struggling in any position, they need to speak up early and look for that support.”