Your Guide to Choosing the Best New Grad RN Jobs

new graduate RNs standing together
Written by
Laila Ighani
Reviewed by
Miranda Kay, RN
April 16, 2024

There is so much that goes into finding the ideal job. The first step is simply deciding what you want. 

You can decide based on the highest-paying nursing specialties, but high pay alone does not determine the ideal career path. Furthermore, you might be tempted to start with an easier entry-level nursing job, but that won’t necessarily help you develop the skills needed to advance your career path.

In short, this article is about helping you land the new grad RN job, one that will help you grow professionally in a supportive environment—one that you won’t want to leave the moment you start.

How Quickly Do New Registered Nurses Find Jobs?

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) conducted a survey in August 2023 to collect new graduate employment data. The 643 schools that responded to the survey had either entry-level Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs (84.2 percent) or entry-level Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs (14.6 percent). The job offer rate at graduation was 84 percent for BSN graduates and 82 percent for MSN graduates. In other words, 82–84 percent of new RN graduates had jobs upon graduation.  

Interestingly, the type of institution didn’t significantly affect the rate of job offers upon graduation. In other words, graduates of private and public schools, large and small schools, etc., all had similar job-offer rates. However, the factor that made a significant impact on the new grad job rates was location. The following were the RN job offer rates by degree and region:

Job Offer Rates for BSN RNs upon Graduation:

  • South and Midwest: 90%
  • North Atlantic: 77%
  • West: 72%

Job Offer Rates for MSN RNs upon Graduation:

  • South: 85% 
  • Midwest and North Atlantic: 83%
  • West: 71%

What was the outlook for new graduate employment four to six months after graduation? According to the AACN survey, the job rate four to six months after graduating was 96 percent for BSN graduates and 95 percent for MSN graduates. For context, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that the employment rate across disciplines six months after graduation was 55.3 percent in 2021. 

In other words, the employment rate for RNs six months after graduation is approximately 40 percent higher than for all disciplines—talk about job security. Again, the AACN survey didn’t find significant variation in employment rates based on school type, but it once again found variations based on region.

Job Offer Rates for BSN RNs after Four to Six Months:

  • South: 98%
  • Midwest: 97%
  • North Atlantic: 95% 
  • West: 91% 

Job Offer Rates for MSN RNs after Four to Six Months:

  • South and Midwest: 96% 
  • North Atlantic: 93% 
  • West: 90%

What Type of RN Is in the Highest Demand?

Firstly, RNs are in demand. Period. 

However, if we go into the fine details, the AACN survey found that RNs with BSNs had a slightly easier time finding jobs both immediately after graduation and four to six months after than RNs with MSNs. Additionally, the same survey found that 25 percent of hospitals and other healthcare facilities require new hires to have at least bachelor’s degrees in nursing, and 69.8 percent strongly prefer BSN program graduates. 

This preference for graduates of Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs is no coincidence. There has been an international shift toward baccalaureate education as the preferred pathway into the nursing profession. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine called for 80 percent of the nursing workforce to have at least BSN degrees by 2020 since nurses with this level of education have been linked to better patient outcomes, including lower failure-to-rescue and mortality rates. 

Although this goal hasn’t been met yet, in April 2023, the percentage of registered nurses with BSNs or higher degrees in the US workforce exceeded 70 percent for the first time, reaching 71.7 percent. This figure indicates that 28.3 percent of RNs still hold only diplomas from hospital nursing programs or Associate Degrees in Nursing, also called Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AASN) degrees.

Which Are the Best New Grad RN Positions?

You may have heard that the best way to enter the hospital setting as an RN is to start in the medical-surgical (Med/Surg) unit. You may have also heard you can start working at assisted living (AL) facilities or other long-term care settings without work experience. Both these statements are valid, and yet perhaps they miss the point. 

First, you may be able to land a job at an assisted living facility straight out of nursing school, but if your end goal is to work in the intensive care unit (ICU), your AL experience won’t be very useful.

Furthermore, it is true that Med/Surg offers experience caring for a diverse patient population with a variety of health conditions. It is also true that you can develop nursing skills that apply to other settings and specialties. However, if you already know what area of nursing you would like to specialize in, it is ideal to start working in that specialty from the get-go. 

This advice is especially valid with the current and increasing demand for registered nurses, which makes entry-level jobs that were unheard of in the past a reality. For example, residency programs allow new grad RNs to pursue the careers of their dreams straight out of nursing school. That said, remember that 25 percent of hospitals and other healthcare facilities require new hires to have at least BSN degrees. In other words, you might have a better chance to land an ICU or other specialty position as a new graduate nurse with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

What Are Transition-to-Practice Residency Programs?

Transition-to-practice programs offer support for new grad nurses as they enter new jobs. These programs typically receive newly graduated registered nurses, but similar programs also provide professional support for experienced nurses entering new areas of specialization. If you enter a transition-to-practice program, you will be part of a cohort training and working in a specific unit or specialty, such as the emergency room (ER), the operating room (OR), or telemetry (TELE). Although this may sound like a continuation of nursing school, it is employment. In other words, you get paid to further your nursing knowledge and skills in addition to caring for patients. Here are some typical features of transition-to-practice programs:

  • New nurses typically work with experienced preceptors throughout orientation.
  • They attend live specialty track classes, simulation sessions, and peer support sessions. 
  • They may participate in shared governance meetings.
  • They may shadow members of the interdisciplinary team. 
  • Residents are proactive members of interprofessional healthcare teams and ensure that patients receive individualized, high-quality, and safe patient care.

These programs typically last a year, but some facilities offer flexible timelines so registered nurses can transition to independent practice as soon as they are ready.

Why Are Transition-to-Practice Residency Programs Important?

Nurses want to provide safe, quality care to their patients. However, new nurses are caring for increasingly sick patients in complex health settings and are, understandably, reporting more negative safety practices and errors than experienced nurses. This situation leads new nurses to feel increased stress levels. This increased stress, in turn, is a risk factor for patient safety and practice errors. 

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), approximately 25 percent of new nurses leave their positions within their first year of practice. 

Some leave the nursing profession entirely. This high level of turnover negatively impacts patient safety and healthcare outcomes. However, health institutions with transition-to-practice programs have seen a significant reduction in turnover rates as well as improved patient outcomes. 

In conclusion, new grad RNs should look for jobs in the settings and specialties that interest them the most and prioritize opportunities that will offer them support through training and mentorship until they develop the skills and knowledge to practice more autonomously.

New Grad Nurse Resume and Cover Letter Tips

Even though RNs are in high demand, you still need to go through an application and interview process—probably with multiple institutions—before you land your first job.

You can search “new grad RN jobs near me” to find hospitals and other healthcare facilities currently hiring. You can also research organizations with transition-to-practice programs in your area. Make a list of the organizations you are interested in and keep track of application deadlines and requirements.

Before applying for jobs, you should create your nursing resume. The following are standard guidelines for creating a professional RN resume: 

  • Summarize or prioritize your education, work experience, and other qualifications to fit in one or two pages. 
  • Prioritize readability. There is no need for different colors or fancy formats. Some facilities may even ask for a plain Word document. 
  • Add your relevant educational background, licenses/certifications, clinical experience, work experience, hard and soft skills, and additional qualifications, such as languages. 

You will probably be able to use the same resume to apply to multiple jobs. However, you should write a unique cover letter for each institution to which you apply to show your genuine interest in the facility and showcase how your strengths and interests align with their mission statement and values. 

Additionally, if you want to enter a particular specialty directly after school, you should ask a college professor, mentor, or supervisor working or teaching in that area for a letter of recommendation. Make sure you ask well in advance—ideally when you are still in school—because you may want to apply for jobs before graduation. You also can follow up more easily on a cover letter if you still routinely see a professor. 

Interviews Can Help New Nurses Find Their Ideal Jobs

After sending out your resume to your top choices, you will likely receive interview invitations. Remember that interviews are as much for you to determine whether you want the job as they are for hospitals and other facilities to determine whether they want to hire you.

Of course, you will want to choose a setting that offers career advancement opportunities and an attractive RN salary. However, you also want to consider the organization’s values, practice environment, and culture to determine whether the job is the right fit for you.

Remember that one-fourth of new nurses leave their jobs within the first year. Allow yourself to devote the time and energy needed to find a job you can see yourself staying at, learning from, and enjoying long term. 

With this purpose in mind, you can determine whether an organization is taking steps to improve nurse retention by using the American Nurses Credentialing Center Pathway to Excellence® Interview Tool. This tool can help determine whether an organization has a supportive culture and positive work environment and is committed to its staff’s well-being and professional growth. 

Here are some sample questions from the Pathway to Excellence® Interview Tool that you can use or adapt in your job interviews: 

  • Has your organization achieved the Pathway to Excellence designation, or is it on the Pathway to Excellence journey? If not, how does your organization support creating and sustaining a positive practice environment?
  • How would you describe the culture of your unit/organization?
  • What is the onboarding process for a new hire?
  • What is your organization’s retention rate for new graduate nurses and employees?
  • What programs or services does your organization have to support nurse well-being?

Another way to know more about what to expect on the job as a nurse is by knowing what type of ratio to expect. Find out what type of RN-to-patient staffing ratios you can expect in all states.

What If I Don’t Like My Job?

Despite having followed all of the previous advice—choosing a setting and/or specialty, researching hospitals and other facilities that align with your interests and goals, and asking questions during your interviews to help you find your ideal fit—you may still not like your job or decide that it’s not right for you. There are many reasons why you may choose to leave your job. 

  • You love your job but are starting a family and need a better work-life balance.
  • You don’t regret your previous career decisions but are ready for a change. Perhaps you moved to a new state and feel like, since you need to find a new job, you’d like to experience a different work setting.
  • The job affected you in ways you didn’t expect. For example, you thought you could cope with losing patients but find you simply cannot.
  • You worked in the position to gain the necessary experience to change to a different type of setting or staffing model, such as PRN jobs.
  • On the other hand, you may have lost a loved one yourself. This loss has led you to have a newfound appreciation for hospice care, and you decided to become a hospice RN

Each registered nurse is unique. Life experiences and circumstances vary; the only constant is change. Don’t be discouraged or embarrassed in any way if you decide to change your job, specialty, or even chosen profession. Every crisis, obstacle, and hardship is an opportunity for growth and new beginnings.

If you find yourself ready for a change and eager to experience different work settings, Nursa offers RNs the chance to find per diem or PRN nursing jobs. 

Are you curious to learn what PRN nursing jobs are about? Discover whether this work model is the right fit for you.

Sources:

Blog published on:
April 16, 2024

Laila is a contributing copywriter and editor at Nursa who specializes in writing compelling long-form content about nursing finances, per diem job locations, areas of specialization, guides, and resources that help nurses navigate their career paths.

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