Nursing Jobs Outside of Hospitals

New grads entering a healthcare job market have experienced significant changes due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – one of the largest changes being a rise in the number of patients receiving care in outpatient/ambulatory care settings. As more people leverage these outpatient centers for treatment, the demand for nurses and opportunities for new grad nurses at these facilities continues to grow.

Outpatient clinics are more open to hiring and training new nurse graduates than inpatient units and can be great places for nurses to gain clinical experience right out of school. Flexibility is key for a new nurse, and even if a new graduate is determined to get a job at a hospital, they should keep an open mind to other jobs available in the current market. Despite the fact that the number of job opportunities for nurses outside of hospitals continues to grow, many new grads overlook outpatient jobs in the search for inpatient or medical-surgical roles.

However, now is an excellent time to consider opportunities outside of a hospital setting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that, while overall healthcare employment will grow over the next decade, employment within hospitals will grow at a much slower rate than hiring at outpatient facilities. This is especially likely to be the case for new grads, who are often the last to be hired in these facilities.

SEE ALSO: Student and New Grad Center

In a less acute, outpatient care setting, however, new grads will have a higher chance of landing a position; furthermore, they will gain exposure to a broader scope of tasks involved in the care process from assessment of patients to care planning to follow-up. Nurses in these settings also tend to have a more manageable patient caseload and a wider variety of patients, both of which can provide valuable clinical experience.

Looking at the Options
To give a better illustration of some of these opportunities and their benefits, here are a few specific areas that new nurse graduates should take into consideration:

  • New graduates are great candidates for ambulatory care clinics. These include family medicine offices, as well as offices that specialize in dermatology, gynecology, or other specific areas. Because the patients who go to these clinics are generally non-acute, there are often opportunities for new grads to take a very active role in patient care and see a variety of cases.
  • Additionally, pursuing opportunities at a group home setting that serves a similar patient population to the one a nurse might want to work with later in their career is a strong strategy. For example, working in a foster care group home can be a helpful stepping stone for nurses who have an interest in working with pediatrics. These opportunities allow new nurses to get hands-on experience with a pediatric patient population, and this experience can be leveraged in about two years down the line to work with the same population in a different setting, such as a hospital or school. Similarly, for those with a desire to work with an adult patient population, taking an opportunity within a rehab facility can help recent grads build the experience inpatient settings look out for in candidates applying to jobs that involve working with that population.
  • Finally, temporary work can be a great opportunity for a new nurse to get a foot in the door. These positions can give nurses experience they can leverage to land full-time positions elsewhere, and temporary work also often offers flexible hours. One good temporary opportunity for recent graduates is working in a flu shot clinic. Nurses in those roles will learn how to administer the injections and handle documentation, so it’s a good first learning opportunity. Flu season generally begins in September and can last through May, depending on the year, so the timing works well for new grads.

Gaining Experience
Even for nurses committed to ultimately working in a hospital setting, working for an outpatient clinic can provide invaluable experience that can boost their resumes and build their skills. The news is flush with stories about the nursing shortage, but this shortage is primarily of skilled nurses, so it’s difficult for new grads to fill these hospital jobs. Working for a year or two outside of a hospital will help a new nurse gain critical skills that are in such high demand at hospitals, setting them apart from the next class of nursing graduates who lack real clinical experience. This approach greatly increases the chances of a nurse securing a job in a hospital after their first or second year in the workforce.

For nursing students who have been accepted into a hospital’s training program, there are ways apart from the traditional medical-surgical training path they can take post-graduation to maximize their chances of securing a longer-term position within a hospital. If a nurse is accepted into a new-grad training program at a hospital, they will automatically get strong clinical experience; however, this in no way guarantees that they will receive an offer at the end of the program. Therefore, as many new grads are focused on med-surg positions, they shouldn’t shy away from other interests they are passionate about. Not only are other areas of specialty less competitive for jobs, but they still give nurses the opportunity to build a specialized, in-demand skill set. For example, hospitals currently have a significant need for OR nurses, so if a recent grad has a passion for surgery and is interested in becoming a nursing specialist, pursuing this path less traveled in the OR can open up many job opportunities that can position them well for long-term success – well beyond their training program and first job search.

Regardless of a nurse’s career goals, there are things they can do to position themselves for success post-graduation. Internships, for example, are great ways for nurses to develop their skills and begin to build their professional networks. As in any industry, nurses need to be professional and make a positive impression on their colleagues by dressing appropriately and being on time. It is also important to maintain a relationship with these new contacts after the internship has ended, so that a new nursing grad has the ability to leverage these connections during their first job search. There are also opportunities besides internships that enable nurses to expand their networks, including joining professional organizations; maintaining and growing relationships with professors, managers, and former classmates; and consulting with staffing firms that specialize in healthcare.

The post-ACA landscape offers new grad nurses a rich variety of opportunities for fulfilling work. With a combination of strategic planning and solid networking, nursing grads can secure jobs that will help serve as building blocks to a long and successful career.

Amanda Bleakney is senior managing director of Health Services at recruitment, temporary staffing, and workforce management solutions firm, The Execu|Search Group.

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