Let me introduce myself, my name is Keren MacSween and I am 43 years old. I am married and we have two beautiful daughters aged 12 and nine years. Around five years ago I made a bold decision to change my career direction (much to my husband’s surprise!) and retrain as a registered nurse.
I am a meticulous planner and managed to organise study, work and family and unfortunately, with all the sacrifices that had to be made, it was sometimes my family that came last. But with the support of my husband and my very understanding children we managed to get through four years of study, clinical placements and assignment deadlines along with the stress of exams.
Apart from the emotional sacrifices there have been huge financial sacrifices as well. As a family we have gone without to try and make ends meet. When I eventually had to give up work once I started the degree we had to find other ways to manage financially. While I am thankful that we are able to provide a home for our children the fact that we have not been able to pay any principle off our mortgage has been a strain on our marriage. Also the only way I could go back school and study was to apply for a student loan for the four years of study to reach my goal of earning a degree and a career. At the most recent statement this is around $36,000 and with no job prospects on the horizon there is no chance of that reducing in the near future.
We used to have a credit card, but that got out of hand and we have just recently managed to pay it off. I hated having to choose between getting petrol in the car so I could take the girls to a park or see family or buy milk and bread so they would have sandwiches for their school lunches. We are still living week by week and some weeks are harder financially than others. With my financial management I have been able to keep on top of the bills but that does mean living to a strict budget every week. This also has another effect on our meal planning, some weeks we do not know what we will be having for dinner until that day because I need to be vigilant on food and meat specials and are only able to buy on the day. But I am lucky to have grown up in an era where I have learnt to make or bake from scratch.
While still dealing with all this financial stress I have gained a qualification that I feel is not worth the fees I have had to borrow to pay for it. I am seven months down that track after gaining my nursing degree with no job or job prospects that are visible. Although I feel very lucky to have a casual support worker position within an organisation that provides for people living with a mental illness, this is a casual role and dependent upon regular staff being sick or on annual leave. While this has given some relief to the financial stress it is in no way full time employment utilising my qualification. What I am feeling now is desperation but in the same breath I also feel optimistic that there is a job out there for me, one that I can really shine in and show my qualities.
It’s an amazing thing an interview it’s where you as a candidate can show the recruitment team your qualities and strengths, this is very hard to do in a cover letter but a cover letter is the only way you are able to let the recruitment team know what they might be missing out on. I have had one interview in the last seven months out of more than 60 applications submitted. Also I have to note that not all jobs applied for have given me the courtesy of a reply positive or negative. And I feel that some have not even considered my application as soon as they read ‘new graduate’. I have changed my cover letter to ‘sell’ myself as advised and I have not limited myself to one clinical area or DHB region. Other advice given was to volunteer at rest homes or such places but as soon as they discover that I am an RN they do not want to take the risk. What risk are they taking? I am the one that could do something outside my scope as a volunteer and jeopardize my registration before I get a chance to use it. I am unable to work as a health care assistant (HCA) as DHB policy states this, although NZ Nursing Council stated that as long as I do work within the scope of practice as an HCA it should be alright.
Everywhere I look people want experience, but to gain experience you need to be working in a clinical setting. This is where the NEtP programme comes into play. The negatives to this programme are that there is only one way to get onto the programme and there are very limited spaces compared with the amount of new graduates every six months. Your other options are to apply through health care providers directly, agencies and casual pool nursing organisations. Downfall of this is that they all require proven clinical experience so will not even take your details. Applying directly to private hospitals and rest home with hospitals attached? Once again require 2-3 years proven clinical experience.
If I go back to the cover letter, how can you show somebody your maturity, your compassion and empathy along with your willingness to learn more and that because of the change in direction of career at a later stage in life, which you are in this career for the long haul? How are you able to show your passion in educating young and old about their health and health options that are available to them?
I am willing to travel up to two hours away from my home to make sure I have that experience, but this still does not help. I am getting desperate but am also optimistic there is a job out there for me; there has to be!
June 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm
Keren, your story bought me to tears, and i know in my heart that you will get a job, the saying goes “good things take time” and i have no doubt that the best job is there for you. Dont give up hope. Your determination, commitment and courage will definitely bring forward the results you deserve. Kia Kaha Keren!!!
June 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm
I can totally feel u and empathise with your situation, I think the NZNO as to step in and do something about this .In New Zealand we employ a lot of foreign nurses , were do do big recruitment drives overseas, what about a part of this being put to use in NZ. Making it a must for the public hospitals taking on new grads . I feel for u and maybe soon there is something coming your way.
June 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm
There are positions at Lakes DHB, you haven’t put what area you are in or whether you or North or South Island? Go onto Lakes DHB website and you will see what positions are available. I was lucky enough to get onto the NESP program straight out of qualifying. Keep the faith something will come up 🙂
June 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm
I can totally sympathise with your story… I studied in my 30s and this is my second year out as an RN.
I took a job with medcall which was great but inconsistent and a full time job with the Brain Injury Association as a liaison officer. Although it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, it helped pay the bills and my student loan is way up there from racking up financial assistance for survival of my family. I was lucky enough to get a job at a rest home last year as a casual and have now been employed by them full time in a leadership role. A class friend has also been employed by the same rest home by my recommendation. She was about to give up after a year of not gaining employment.
I can only advise that you apply for EVERYTHING! Take your CV into every rest home in your area and ask to speak to the manager or clinical manager, that way they will see you and speak to you which gives you an advantage for employment. I wish you the best of luck and strongly urge you not to give up! The right job is out there for us all 🙂
June 24, 2014 at 6:24 pm
I have been feeling so desperate for the past year since I graduated. Every where I apply keep reminding me I dont have experience. I spent 3 years training in a variety of settings in one of the biggest dhbs in auckland and everyone says I dont have experience.
June 24, 2014 at 6:44 pm
Hi Keren, Like you I retrained in my early 40’s. When I graduated I had had enough of study and didn’t want to go thru a NetP programme, so I worked as an agency nurse with a local agency and gained experience that way. I gained experience in palliative care and aged care. After 6 months the DHB took me on and I didn’t need to complete a NetP programme. The upside too was that I was earning more than my fellow students who went on to do the NetP training.
June 24, 2014 at 10:25 pm
Hi Keren, I was in the same boat, didn’t get a new grad position, worked night shifts part time in a nursing home for 6 months then got a new grad position….now living near the beach in Aussie, working in a private hospital, getting paid way more.
June 24, 2014 at 11:17 pm
Your story reminds me of mine. Been studying for 3 years and struggling with financial at the same time. I have two young children in my care, my husband works as a cleaner and was our main income support while (myself) studying. Due to my family circumstances at the time we weren’t entitle to any other income support to assist us financially instead we had to survived under my husband’s income who was only earning $600-700 fortnightly then. I must say these 3 years of struggles and emotional stresses are the most unforgettable memories of experience in our family lives. After my degree, I did a lot of job hunting, been to almost every rest homes in the towns, city, and in the locals but no luck. Applied for RN jobs, public, private and agency online such website as trademe, seek, dhb websites etc and yet still no luck. I then decided to apply for any jobs as a caregiver or HCA at all the rest homes, community care, hospitals in regional regardless NZNO’s policy; didn’t really care how far I would drive everyday to work but as long I knew its a job that would support my family. After two months with a degree I got a casual job as a caregiver at a private rest home with attached hospital and distance was not a matter. I was only working in the weekends otherwise to cover shifts and would do the job hunting during the week so the job was not so great especially starting rate at only $13 p/h 😦 Six months later, a work colleague (Mrs D) who works two jobs, rest home in the weekends and full time at the local public hospital as a Pacfic health co-ordinator. My time being at the rest home, I got a long with Mrs D and she never knew I was an RN. I never knew she was working at a local public hospital. Six months was enough for Mrs D to know the type of person I was, hard worker, committed, punctual, eager to learn, skills and experiences and most of all the knowledge and passions I had which urged Mrs D for my C.V and made recommendations to the clinical manager at the public hospital she was working for. A week later after giving Mrs D my C.V, I received a call from the hospital administrator asking if I could attend an interview for a full time staff nurse working for specialty rehab for elderly people services in two days, off course, I agreed. I attended the interview, and I felt confidence and positive after the interview. The next day, I received a call from the clinical manager said these words I will never forget “if your interested, the job is yours” and before I could say something over the phone I jumped up with joy giving a huge smile to my husband who was right next to me eager to know why I’ve gone so excited. To cut story short, told my husband the great news and he began to cry with joy and happiness especially knowing after everything we had gone through. It was very emotional and such relief, trying not to think about the toughest times in the past but it was all worth it. I am proud to say I have sacrificed everything for my family to get to where we are today. I wanted to convince that I didn’t get a job because of the jobs I have applied for but I got the job through “connections”. Yes, it is sad to hear your story and I feel for you. It is an easy thing to do apply for jobs but declined, refused, unsuccessful, shortlisted?? the hardest and are the last words you could ever wanted to hear, why? because those employers who receives your applications with no 2-3 years experience have no idea they are missing out on your knowledge, your willingness, abilities and your capability. Above all, if it wasn’t for Mrs D I wouldn’t have got the job. There this saying that will remain instilled me “good things happen to those who wait.” So don’t lose hope Keren, there’s always a way to get you where you want to be ok. God knows you worked so hard to get your badge therefore you will get that job. Blessings will come your way for you and your family. Nothing is impossible through Christ. God bless.
June 25, 2014 at 3:44 pm
Hi Keren, if you would like to have a chat with one of us at Medcall about potential options to gain experience and clinical exposure, or just about the general landscape of nursing, then feel free to call Jane or Andi. Medcall is a specialist recruitment company dedicated to the health care sector and community /homecare services. Aged care is a pretty incredible clinical environment for RN’s and you gain extensive experience – we may just be able to help! Jane Clements- Medcall 0800314314
June 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm
Give these guys a call Keren, they totally rocked it for me and I got to travel around a bit with work too 🙂 you won’t regret it!! Very supportive and such an amazing team
Pingback: A message to nurse managers | NZNO's Blog
July 9, 2014 at 3:52 pm
This looks like a wonderfully helpful conversation. I wish you a rewarding and happy career Keren. Be inspired by these living and generous women. As they say, the job is there for you. Keep lifting the rocks to find it. Good luck Keren.
July 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm
I feel for you with a family and financial struggles, I am a New Grad EN and there are even fewer jobs than for RN, none in Waikato DHB. I currently work fulltime as Mental Health support worker did this when I first started study, doing same work however know more than some at my work and even know somethings that our experienced RN doesnt and am unable to get EN job.
I do believe there are jobs out there and hopefully sooner rather than later all new grads will have jobs. I believe NZNO, Nursing council and government need to support NZ students to get jobs in New Zealand so that NZ benefits from highly trained NZ RNs and ENs.
July 9, 2014 at 7:17 pm
Keren believe in yourself…….you have the qualifications now use the skills you have been taught…….put yourself out there don’t sit waiting for the email or the phone to ring…….bang on doors…..join groups be pro active……you can do it Good Luck
July 10, 2014 at 4:56 pm
I was trained as a nurse in my 40s, did extremely well but was not selected for NETP. Currently working in a rest home, enjoying my work and receiving good appraisals from colleagues and boss. However my passion lies in ICU and tried to get an interview with my local hospital is anything but hopeful. I changed my cover letter, CV each time but to no avail. If only they are able to see how well I can do my job and give me a chance to work with them. I have so much to offer. Sometimes I even wonder if it is because of my age.