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It’s Graduation Season, but now what?

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Were you one of the proud graduates making the trip to the stage for your diploma? No matter what degree you worked for, it’s time to wonder what’s next.

Many graduates are surprised to learn that very little changes after graduation day. If you are a nurse working with an ADN, your world won’t turn upside down tomorrow with a BSN. Remember, many nurses come out of the gate with a BSN, so your peers are likely a mix of ADN and BSN-prepared nurses.

You are looking at the long game here. Having a BSN helps prepare you to take on management roles or may open the door for things like nursing informatics, care coordination, or quality roles. It can help you take the next step away from the bedside if that’s your goal, or it may help you be a better, more well-rounded nurse for your next patient. But, of course, it’s a nurse’s market right now. Still, it may also give you an edge for hiring, especially in Magnet hospitals, where a high percentage of staff members are required to have a BSN.

The door may crack open, but you will still have to walk through it.

If you graduated with an MSN, it depends on what route you took. Obviously, if you set your sights on nurse practitioner, it’s time to belly up to the bar (and by the bar, we mean desk) for some studying. You’ll need to pass those boards before anything changes. You will likely have to work as a nurse until you pass and get hired. 

If you graduated with an MSN in something else like informatics or education. It’s time to start putting your feelers out. Can you teach clinical to get some experience? You’ll want to secure an adjunct role before the fall semester, so start putting yourself out there now. Your MSN or MHA may also help you get leadership roles, but getting the degree isn’t the only thing you need. Did you function as a charge nurse on your floor? What about as a facilitator. Both roles let the people in charge know you have what it takes to manage a department.

No matter how you look at it, education doesn’t make opportunities fall in your lap. So it’s time to brush up your resume and put it out there. A few hints when using online job applications:

  • Take your time. It doesn’t matter how monotonous it is; you will make a mistake if you go quickly. Make sure the dates are correct, double-check your spelling, and make darn sure you submit the right cover letter.
  • Answer honestly. Nursing is a small world, and someone on the other end is likely to know you or know someone who does. 
  • Your resume shouldn’t be 13 pages, and it should be updated. No one cares what your tasks as a nurse were. At this level, you don’t need to add 6 bullet points about your ability to take I&Os. Look at the requirements of the role you are applying for and make sure you add your relevant work history and experience based on those items. Make sure you add that new degree and be prepared to explain any gaps in history. 

Finally, throw your net wide if you are really ready to go, and cast one or two lines if you are happy where you are. Just because you have a shiny new degree doesn’t mean you have to leave your job tomorrow. There is nothing wrong with being a bedside nurse with a BSN or a bedside nurse with an MSN who teaches clinical one day a week. Every job has its ups and downs, so don’t expect a move to fix all your problems. Take the jobs you want, not the job you think you are expected to have with your degree.

Congratulations graduates!

Here’s to your next big steps (whenever you decide to take them). 

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN


Amanda is an ER nurse with 10 years of healthcare experience. She currently works as a nurse educator and as an adjunct professor for several schools. She also works as a freelance healthcare writer in her spare time. Amanda thinks the greatest thing about nursing is the endless possibilities and opportunities to learn. What have you learned today?


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