You Just Graduated from Nursing School: What Comes Next?

NursingApril 17, 2019

Congratulations! You have not only run a marathon, you have passed the finish line. You are a winner, by any measure. But what comes next? Obviously, your goal has been to become a registered nurse (RN). To achieve your ultimate goal you will need to jump a few final hurdles. 

While you time at nursing college will have resulted in a degree you can be proud of, only by passing the national licensure examination, called the NCLEX RN, will you earn your RN license and be ready to practice as a nurse. Accordingly, you will need to apply for, take, and pass the exam.

Apply to Your State’s Board of Nursing and Register for the NCLEX-RN

The first step is to apply to your state’s Board of Nursing for licensure/registration. You must also register for the NCLEX through Pearson VUE. Fees will vary by state, but expect to shell out several hundreds of dollars. To be safest, it is probably best to plan ahead for this process, even before you have graduated. Registration and confirmation can take time. Allow yourself plenty of time to complete these final, necessary steps.

Apply for Jobs Early

As your graduation date looms on the horizon, it can make sense to begin thinking about applying for jobs. Doing so is one of the best ways to ensure you will be able to transition relatively smoothly from graduation, to licensure, to a new job, without a lot of lost time in between. This can mean applying for desired positions up to three or four months before graduation. Hiring is often a slow, ponderous process; best to get a head start if you are anxious to begin working — and earning — as soon as possible.

Of course, if you land an interview, your potential employers will move forward with the understanding that you must first obtain your degree, and then pass the NCLEX. Just don’t think you need to have completed all these steps before you can apply. Employers understand how the system works, and are often eager to hire freshly minted nurses.

Interview Prep

Once you have been contacted by a prospective employer, you will probably be contacted for an in-person job interview. Do not underestimate the importance of making a good first impression. Hiring personnel will be making judgments about you from the moment you first meet. Do not let this daunt you, but do take it into consideration when you prepare. How do you look? Are you dressed professionally, but not flashily? Are you wearing appropriate footwear? Are you on time? Do you seem prepared?

All of these are factors that can be assessed within minutes of first meeting. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Prepare accordingly. Depending on whether you have undergone the job interview process before, you may wish to prepare in advance by reviewing common interview questions and thinking about how you will answer. While there
is seldom a strictly right or wrong answer to many of the open-ended questions
you may encounter, it is best to say something in response, rather than nothing. Approach you interview(s) with confidence, but not arrogance. You know the material, but you are probably inexperienced. They will know this. Do not give the impression that there is nothing more for you to learn. On the contrary, professional nurses spend their entire careers continuing to advance their skills and knowledge.

Consider Taking an NCLEX Review Course

Numerous options are available. Some are online, others are lecture-based. Choose one that seems most appropriate for your schedule and learning style. These courses often focus on either material covered on the exam, or strategies for taking NCLEX-style exams most successfully. Choose which one is most likely to benefit you, to enhance your chances of passing on your first go.

Plan Your Study

Ideally, you will have been reviewing new material as you have gone through school, hopefully every day. Leaving your review until the end is unwise, as it is much more effective to absorb and digest so much information in small segments. But a final review/study session will certainly be helpful. Many students find it helpful to study for at least one to two, or up to four hours, per day in the days and weeks after graduation and before you exam is scheduled. Plan accordingly.

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