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Golden Rules for New Grads

Program primes students for success in the healthcare workplace.

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With a new degree in hand, a freshly minted healthcare worker can become overwhelmed by the various career tracks available. But by following a few basic principles during the selection process, new grads can ensure that they land in an appropriate setting. Professors at Duke University School of Nursing in Durham, N.C., weave the transition to practice throughout the program, and stress the importance of ambition, instinct and perseverance - all admirable attributes in any healthcare worker in any setting.

Duke assistant professors Anne Derouin, DNP, RN, CPNP, and Helen Gordon, DNP, CMN, CNE, shared Five Golden Rules for new graduates with ADVANCE.

Follow your Passion
If you feel drawn to care for a special population, like infants or patients with cancer, you should pursue that goal. "In my opinion, you will be doing this job many days a week and you want your heart to smile," Derouin said. "If you want to work on a specialty unit, then do whatever it takes to make it happen and don't listen to the naysayers who tell you to follow a certain path."

Don't Settle for an Unsupportive Environment
The first job for a new graduate needs to be in a nurturing and supportive environment. Gordon talks to her students about the signs of a healthy work culture. "Our grads have basic skills, know how to be safe and have evidence to back it up. But the rest happens on the new job," she said.

SEE ALSO: Choosing a Nursing Specialty

Try it Before you Buy It
Did you find a unit that seems like a good fit? Before signing on the dotted line, try it on for size. Derouin suggests shadowing an employee for a few hours to gain a sense of the work culture. "If shadowing is not offered, then ask for it," she said. "It's a good chance to determine if the employees are professional and supportive, if the patients are clean and well-kept, and if the manager is present."

Play the Role of a Professional
Recent grads should remember that they still have a lot to learn when they land their first job. "I tell them they're making a transition into a unit that is already a family," Gordon advised. "They need to ingratiate themselves and build their credibility from the ground up before throwing their knowledge around and voicing opinions. Take it slow."

Patience is a Virtue
Gordon and Derouin agree that students should take their time finding the right place to call their first job. Gordon regularly tells her students: "Jobs are like buses. If you don't get this one, another one will come by."

Once you have landed that job, remember that your former faculty is still there if needed. "Graduation is not the end of our relationship," Derouin explained. "If you're having trouble in a new job or can't decide if graduate school is the right move, we might be able to help. You can trust your previous faculty because there's nothing we want more than for you to find success."

Rebecca Mayer Knutsen is a  former ADVANCE staff writer.

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