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When you come home from your first day at a new job, will you be energized by its possibilities or feel slightly sick to your stomach and anxious that you’ve made a big mistake? If it’s option B, you may be able to trace that nauseated feeling back to something you overlooked during a nursing interview.

An organization with a job vacancy spends a lot of money advertising for the right person to fill an open spot while marketing itself as the best workplace in the U.S. So, as you’re headed into your interview and prepared to present yourself as the world’s most fabulous nurse, keep one question in the back of your mind: Do I really want this job?

Whether you’re a new or experienced nurse, you should know something about the job you might take and the organization you’re considering joining. Neither exists in isolation from the other. You might not have time to ask questions about every aspect of the job during a nursing interview, but you might have time during subsequent pre-employment meetings with your prospective boss and staff. You can always research the employer on your own through an Internet search, social media and colleagues with whom you can network. Here are key discussion points to explore during pre-employment meetings and areas to investigate outside of the formal hiring process.

5 Areas to Investigate Before Taking the Job

Staffing — Every unit has a budgeted staffing plan. Does this organization connect budgeted staffing to an acuity system? If so, is the acuity system routinely used? Are budgeted positions filled or left vacant because of a difficult local job market, because the unit is an unpleasant place to work or because the organization is trying to save money by not filling positions?

A well-managed unit will strive to fill positions so scheduling is consistent and projected for weeks in advance, incorporating workers’ vacations and unexpected emergencies.

Scheduling — You should know the basics that come with the job, such as shift rotation, weekend scheduling and call policies. Find out if scheduling is accomplished electronically or by personnel. Is the schedule generated by a centralized office for the whole department or created on the unit, as in self-scheduling? And what does self-scheduling mean on your new unit? Are the self-schedulers a small cadre of staff who have been cranking out the schedule for 10 years, where new hires have little chance of getting any requested time off or counting on a regular schedule that allows time to go back to school?

Management — Never take a job without interviewing your prospective manager, because management styles vary. For example, if you want to work for a maternalistic or paternalistic supervisor, you can find managers who treat their staff as children, doling out rewards and punishments commensurate with behavior. Some nurses want that. Other managers view their staff as vibrant professionals who, like race horses, need room to run and opportunities to win. And if this will be your first job, know that your initial manager may likely influence your socialization and how you view yourself as a nurse for a long time, so choose that person as carefully as you select your job.

Co-workers — They are equally important in influencing your self-perception as a professional nurse are the staff around you. If you spend 40-plus hours per week around enthusiastic coworkers, then you’re surrounding yourself with positivity and your career may benefit from these good examples. If you hang out with Negative Neds and Nellies, your career may not have as good of a chance to prosper. Make sure you interview as many staff from the unit as possible. Some organizations allow for a group interview, and at the very least, you should be able to network via social media with some of the people with whom you will be working. Find out what sort of teamwork goes on, and get a bead on the culture of the unit.

Shared governance — Many organizations have or aspire to Magnet accreditation or Pathways to Excellence status, and you should seek them out. A requirement for these designations is not necessarily something labelled “shared governance” (or shared leadership, decision-making, or whatever combination of sharing is used as a label), but any program that empowers caregivers to make meaningful decisions about their practice and the resources that support it. But shared governance makes this happen.

You need a firm understanding of what shared governance is, so you can evaluate whether it has been successfully implemented in both the unit and organization in which you are considering employment.

If you thoroughly investigate these five areas of human capital, you will be an informed potential consumer for your next nursing interview. You will be ready to prepare for second and third interviews, accept the forthcoming job offer or move on to other prospects. It’s good to know about a job before you take it, but it’s even better to know everything about the organization — the good and the bad — before you join the ranks.


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