There are many resources which provide information on getting into nursing school, studying for and passing boards, getting into new graduate employment programs, summer exploratory programs, etc. But for traditional nursing work (bedside nursing) in a hospital or long term care facility (traditionally known as a nursing home), it really would do some good if you had a reality TV type experience. Reading books and articles exclusively, won’t prepare you for what the profession is like.

During my first nursing clinical rotation, I knew instantly that I didn’t like hospital nursing. However, I loved research, collecting data, writing papers, and so forth. Since I had a science background and had worked in various laboratory settings (e.g., a dairy plant testing milk to biotechnology company testing, human sera, a county environmental health lab testing water sample on a mass spectrophotometer, a food plant testing spaghetti sauce), going into nursing research seemed like a natural progression. The rude awakening: No one ever told me about the 5-6 years of med-surg hospital experience needed, before an employer would even look at me. It was not anyone else’s responsibility to tell me this. Clearly, the lesson is to do all of your homework.

After graduating from nursing school, I combed the Internet, help wanted ads, journals, and even enlisted a network of friends to be on the lookout for any nurse research employment opportunities. Positions in nursing research were scarce. My diverse science background, along with my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Rochester, weren’t a powerful enough combination to hurry me into the interviewing seat. Hence, I never landed an interviewing spot for any nursing research positions.

Contact your local hospitals and other employers that hire nurses, and ask to speak with the human resources or personnel manager. The manager will be able to provide you with information on nursing and may be able to connect you with one of their employees who would speak with you about the profession.

The last task you need to complete is to try to volunteer at a hospital or nursing home. You don’t have to commit to a lifetime of volunteering; many organizations need volunteers to sit with patients or residents as companions. Volunteering in the mail department of any facility won’t help, so concentrate your efforts on volunteering in a patient care setting, and then you can have a direct visual of the nurse-patient interaction. This experience will be invaluable for you.

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