Monthly Archives: December 2011

Use FaceBook to JUMP START your nursing career!

This is part two of my blog about social media and how it impacts your search for a nursing job.

We don’t need Sherlock Holmes to investigate you.

Yesterday I wrote to alert you that your potential employers were conducting internet research on  you before they even decided to interview you. It’s true, and I got a comment on the blog from somebody to whom that happened. Keep reading to find out what happened in that case…..

Have you ever looked at somebody’s profile?

The whole premise of FaceBook is that people are nosy.

More young nurses are internet savvy. When they join the workforce, they are just as clever at doing a websearch as you are, and they are transforming how the web is used to supplement the hiring process. Yes, maybe the manager of the nursing floor is older, but it’s common practice to allow current staff to participate in the interview process, and if they decide to include some young nurses on the committee, I guarantee that every candidate will be Googled and checked out on FaceBook. We have HIPAA to protect the patients, thank God, but there is no HIPAA to protect you – FaceBook is free speech, sort of……

How will you do?

There are two sides to this, and they are every bit as important as writing a good resume and cover letter.

The first is the negative side.

Many college students are naïve about the downside of FaceBook. The negative side shows up  when the potential employer sees mainly pictures of you drinking or partying, gets the list of books you read, movies you like, and music you listen to – and disapproves. Sees your friends dressed in Heavy Metal outfits and reads status updates that sound like you were angry and sarcastic all the time or perhaps notices that you do a lot of “drunk-texting” at three in the morning.

Fix those things. For a list of ideas as to how to fix those things, go to yesterday’s blog.

“420 Friendly”

I only know what “420-friendly” is, because my students told me, and I have bookmarked Urban Dictionary.  If your profile is public and your tastes run toward a lot of heavy metal, goth, “420,” or substance abuse, don’t be surprised if the person Googling you goes on to the next job applicant’s profile. Yup. It’s true. If you put it there, it’s public and it’s fair game.

Now the positive side.

Which is this: it can work in your favor, all you need to do is to think of ways to make it happen. Think of your internet presence as if it were your portfolio. Yes, nowadays its trendy in nursing education to gather your best academic work to create a file on your progress through nursing school. The theory of gathering a portfolio is that this will help you to present yourself as a new professional. The downside of a ‘portfolio’ is that it’s hard copy and even if it’s wonderful you probably only have one copy. You can’t share it freely without making sure it’s returned to you. Portfolios don’t photocopy well. Nobody sees it unless they ask for it. Wish it were otherwise, but hey – that’s how it works.

For all intents and purposes, this idea has morphed into something else altogether now that electronic media has taken off like a rocket. The paper portfolio has been left behind.

You already have a portfolio, whether you think so or not.

It consists of:

FaceBook;

Flickr;

Twitter;

YouTube;

Any blog you have ever done; and

Every time your name has appeared in the paper or on a website.

The next step for you is to actually take charge of your Internet image, just as if you were a politician or celebrity.

GOOGLE YOUR OWN NAME!

Accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

latch on to the affirmative

(Don’t mess with the in-between, as the next line of the old Arlen and Mercer song says).

Do a total makeover on your profile.

Take control of it, and use it to sell yourself. Find ways to post photos or videos of the positive activities you engage in. Take an inventory of the nice things about yourself that you want people to know. If you don’t have something in your informal internet portfolio, go out of your way to put it there.

Here is the update from yesterday’s blog comment. A subscriber who read yesterday’s blog emailed to say he’d put his resume on LinkedIn a few months ago. Only yesterday, a  nurse manager from a teaching hospital on the mainland called and offered him a job (!) And in the course of the phone call, it turns out that the manager on the other end of the phone had Googled the subscriber, viewed the entire YouTube clip of the subscriber’s wedding including the reception, and taken  special notice of the groom’s chemfree behavior in a social setting. The manager also checked out the web sites of previous employers and other LinkedIn connections.

LinkedIn is sort of like “The FaceBook for Grown-Ups”

Why should your employer pay for a background check when they can find so much free info that you put there yourself?

They need your permission to get a written reference from your past employer; they don’t need permission to Google you.

Ten years ago this may have been spooky. Nowadays it’s becoming normal. In this case it had a warm fuzzy nice outcome.

What would the outcome be if it was your internet portfolio that was being Googled?

Please share this with every new graduate nurse you know, and consider subscribing to this blog.

Peace out

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Is FaceBook hurting your search for a nursing job? 1 Corinthians 13:11

UPDATE: The National Council of State Boards of Nursing now has a video on Social Media for nurses. click here to see it! I strongly recommend that every nurse, new or old, become familiar with this.

Now you have graduated from nursing school and you are out there looking for a job.

Only it is  taking longer than you expected to find that dream job that caused you to study so hard and to dedicate your life to nursing school. Is it me? You ask. Nursing is a profession that demands a high degree of emotional investment, and if you are not getting a job, it’s easy to second-guess yourself down to the core. Think back to when you started nursing school. There were stories about nursing as being recession-proof. The Baby Boomers will all retire and who will replace them? When you started nursing school, you may have met new nurses who were walking proof of what a good career choice nursing is – and it’s true, just three years ago the job market seemed to be wide open compared to how it is now.

It’s the economy.

If you have the sense that the Clock of Doom is ticking, or the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head, lighten up. Look around. The national economy is not some abstract thing that happens only on TV or to everyone else. In the USA we’ve had nine per cent unemployment, part of a worldwide slowdown and the daily news says Europe is in big trouble. Here in USA,  one party in Congress has done everything it possibly could to prevent expansion of health care funding, even though it is needed by an aging population. As long as the anti-Obama forces control congress, it is my belief that the nursing job market is going to be more difficult than it needs to be.  That’s little consolation while you are searching, but it should help your self-esteem: it’s not you.

Small things make a difference.

When there are five applicants per nursing job, sometimes there will be very little difference between the winning candidate and the second- or third- place candidate. It may very well be that some extraneous factor beyond your control, made the difference, such as which high school the winning candidate attended, something they said about being a baseball fan in the interview, that sort of thing. It can be very superficial. The best advice is to be yourself. When you read things like the paragraph above, there is a tendency to try to over-control things and get nervous about saying the wrong thing, or writing the wrong thing. You still need to wake up every day and be who you are. Make a schedule of exercise and time with friends.

There are things you can and should control.

That’s where social media and the internet come in. Any hiring manager will be under pressure to choose the best employee, and they will attempt to learn as much as they can about their applicant, which is why the “foot-in-the-door strategy” (which I will call “FITD”) is so important. I will discuss the FITD strategy  in a future blog, (subscribe now so you won’t miss it!). Now that you have graduated, though, the FITD strategy may not be available to you. In that case, it’s time to take another look at social media.

What does your FaceBook page say about you?

In the past several years we have all been cautioned about HIPAA, over and over again we are warned never to post anything about our patients, online. At every hospital you sign a HIPAA acknowledgement during orientation. All too often the student overlooks the idea that confidentiality affects them too. Your potential employer can use the internet to check you out. They can check your FaceBook page; they can Google your name; they can run a background check (for a fee) and a credit check (nowadays they pressure you to agree to this by putting a box on the application for you to check and give permission.  Did you give them the okay?).  They can legally learn a lot about you  – it’s all there for them to see. Most often, you are the one who put it there.

There are internet “reputation-monitoring services” available to which any employer can subscribe. The way these work is, they run a search for the name of the company, they scour the internet for any possible mention of a given employer’s name, and automatically send an alert to the Human Resources Department for review by a person, whenever the keywords appear. One the one hand, it’s all an invasion of privacy, but on the other hand, when we posted it to the internet, we enabled it ourselves. So, think about it.

Then do the following: Look at your own social media profile from the perspective of your potential employer. Be advised, the H.R. Department person who will look at your profile is likely to be a person older than you with a different sense of humor.   They will have a different idea as to what is funny or disrespectful. If you have to, find a person about your mother’s age who will look at your profile objectively and tell you what it says about you.

Set everything to private.

Learn about the privacy settings on FaceBook, and use them. You don’t have to make it easy for a stranger to find things they don’t like. From the employer’s perspective, a conservative approach is always preferred – if an employee is ever named in a lawsuit, it is inevitable for the attorneys in the case to dig up dirt to discredit that employee. Do you want to be that person? Take yourself out of the “search.” You can hide your FaceBook profile so it won’t show up on a Google search.

Rethink your friends and what they can tag you with.

There is an old saying among high school guidance counselors that to learn about a student, all you need to do is to look at their friends. (I hung out with the nerds in high school.  I was an Eagle Scout for gosh’s sake.  To this day that just about sums me up).  If your friends are presenting themselves in some out-of-the-mainstream way, a reader might conclude that you too, are out-of-the-mainstream.

Look at it from a risk management viewpoint

In the hospital’s defense, they know that errors occur in the hospital industry and they don’t want to ever get sued. They know that if they are ever sued for malpractice, the attorneys will dig up every thing they can on every person involved in a potential problem. Ask yourself: If I was ever sued for malpractice, would I want to explain in court, why I thought something on my FaceBook page was funny or hip?

Scrub your photos, your ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes.’

When I reminded students of this a year or two ago, one person approached to express his gratitude and admitted that it was long overdue to remove some fashion photos in which he appeared wearing only a speedo and  a Mardi Gras mask, covered with gold body paint holding a champagne glass in hand. Another told me she was prompted to remove photos that revealed that her entire torso is covered in tattoos. TMI! (tattoos are a generational thing, and so is body piercing. twenty years from now, it will be okay. For now, the HR person is the same age as your mom, and so it’s not quite in the mainstream).  Set the album to private or remove it altogether.

Go to Google and run a search on your own name.

You will be surprised what you find. Everything you have ever done on the internet since about 1995, is still there. If you ran track in sixth grade, your time is searchable. Don’t believe me? Try it.

That brings up another issue: what is Okay? well, if your profile shows that you are an active churchgoer, humanitarian, well-balanced, hardworking, dependable, loves small children and has a Golden Retriever for a pet – these are good things.

To be continued.

I present these ideas to raise your consciousness level about nursing as a professional career. You can find a Biblical Quote that backs me up. Please consider subscribing to this blog, and sharing as widely as possible. Go to the little box on the right that says “sign me up”

and while you are at it, check out my book on Amazon.

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Tips about Letters of reference for new graduate nurses

“Would you write me a letter of Reference?”

Tips on recommendation letters for the new nursing graduate

This is part of a series. If you like what you are reading, please pass this along to your friends and ask them to subscribe. It’s easy – go to the little button on the left that says “sign me up”

A reader asked me some very specific questions about recommendation letters from faculty. Should you just get one letter and send it to each potential employer? Will faculty feel bothered by repeated requests? Which faculty members should you ask for a letter? How do you go about getting these?

All of these are practical questions, and I will now reveal to my gentle readers, one of the hidden mysteries of nursing school.

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this book is about medical missionaries in Nepal. sure to become the number one beach read for summer 2014! go to Amazon and pre-order your copy at
http://www.amazon.com/Sacrament-Goddess-Joe-Niemczura/dp/1632100029/

Rule Number One: It’s not only about the grades, it’s about the relationships. Think about it, meditate on it, we’ll get back to this idea in a minute. I am planning a future blog which will be titled “develop your personal Board of Directors” – an idea I borrowed from Tom Peters and other Management Gurus. You will need career advice for the next forty years, not just now.

First the nitty-gritty answers: Employers vary in how they want to deal with letters of reference, so you should follow the instructions given by the potential employer. You will recall, if each job applicant has to submit ten pieces of paper, and there are twenty job applicants, any given employer is tracking two hundred items for their files.

Some employers ask that you collect all contents of the packet yourself and submit; others believe that a reference is more likely to be honest if it is sent independently. Still others will only ask for the names and phone numbers of references, and rely on a phone conversation with each person giving the reference.

General principle: A letter is better if it looks like it was individualized to support a specific person for a specific job, and if it indicates that the writer truly knows the personal qualities of the applicant. So, if possible, one letter per job, addressed to the specific HR person or nursing department head. Most faculty nowadays save such letters as a Word document, and can easily cut-and-paste a new addressee. No problem. So – when you ask for a letter, always supply the name of the addressee, the address, and the name of the job for which you are applying. My personal policy is to always include these in each personalized letter, and never to write a letter that says “To Whom it may concern”

Back up for a minute. If all you do is ask for a letter of reference, you are missing the program and failing to maximize your use of a valuable resource.

Which leads to rule number two: Never use a faculty for a reference unless you ask them first.

Always tell them your plans if the plan changes as you go along. Keep them informed along the way. When you ask for the reference, do it in person if possible, be prepared to sit and talk for a few minutes. If you did something worthy of note when you took their class, such as doing a project or paper, bring or send a written reminder as to what it was, so the faculty can include it as a specific example of why they are recommending you. Tell the faculty the deadline. Usually, when I have these kinds of meetings with students I will ask some questions and give feedback as to whether I think the person’s plans are realistic and how they can strengthen their case. This seems elementary, but it will always help you in the long run.

Rule number three: From the beginning, develop a collegial  relationship with faculty members.

This one needs expanding. In ten words or less, the students who are more articulate about their goals, who ask for advice more frequently along the way, and who will use the faculty as a sounding board, are more likely to get better letters of reference when the time comes. If you are a student who disappears in the crowd and never draws attention to yourself, you miss an important part of professional development.

Rule Four: Outcomes, not tasks, in the letter of reference. In an earlier blog I wrote about resumes and how you should focus on outcomes, not tasks. To carry through with that line of reasoning, the goal of a reference letter is not simply to verify that you were in class or in clinical, it is to indicate what you did and how well you faced the challenges. You have to be honest with yourself as to how well you did and what you contributed, and the faculty will help you develop this kind of self-appraisal.  If you are still a student reading this, start thinking now about what you can do to set this up and make this happen.

In a future blog I will write more on the idea of setting up your personal Board of Directors.

To all readers of this blog: Merry Christmas and may your nursing days be merry and bright!

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tips on writing a resume for new nursing graduates

Tips on writing a resume for new nursing graduates

 Don’t miss the series

I am writing a series of blogs on the topic of making your way in the world now that you are being launched. I already wrote about cover letters for your resume. Please consider subscribing  to this blog. shar eit with your friends!

Future topics:

Some tips about asking the faculty for recommendation letters and how to enlist their aid;

My own response to the recent article on Medscape that asks whether there really is a nursing shortage; 

things you can do while you are still in school, that will help – the so-called foot-in-the-door strategy.

How to find a mentor will be part of your winning strategy – what I call assembling you personal Board of Directors. Than in and of itself, is a secret that is worth a million dollars.

To be sure to see these when they are written, go to the box on the right that says “sign me up” and click on it.

 The zen of resume writing

 To write a resume is always an assignment for the last semester of nursing school. The faculty is about to launch you like a rocket headed into outer space, and the resume is fuel for the trip.  Depending on the faculty for your senior level course, though, you may not get much feedback. Sometimes the person has not read many resumes in real life, or been a department head who interviewed any potential employees. They may not have the background to predict for you how a potential employer will react to your resume.  

 A resume is an exercise in zen, On the one hand, there is a formula for this. You need to have some dates, places, and accomplishments. But on the other hand, you also need to focus on what makes you special and what you wish to feature. If you can do that, your resume  will sing like a TV commercial. The question is, how to get to that point.

 Inventory your skills and pick your selling points

 The tendency is to write a chronology of your life. You will need to provide that sooner or later. But an important early step is to write down a list of what’s the most important, and prioritize those items. When you actually get to formatting the resume, find a way to put these first. If you can’t think of what would go here, ask the people who know you, or your mentors, how they would describe you.

 Overcome your humility

 There is something peculiar about nurses and nursing students. And especially if they were raised Catholic (like me). We are taught from  early in life that it is bad to seem like you are prideful, or to overtly bragging in some way. Take a minute and think about this. Then get over it. If you did something really good, here and now is the place to describe it – don’t bury it in the middle where somebody has to dig for it. Front and center! For example, a student of mine spent summer 2011 at a Mission Hospital in a truly remote part of Africa, where she delivered some babies, worked in the E.R., and developed skills of personal leadership while exploring some very high ideals of Christian service. She gave it exactly one line in her resume, and didn’t even follow the Outcomes Rule (below). She succeeded in a very difficult environment where more experienced nurses would have been overwhelmed. This was more than just a summer job in a USA hospital.  Say wha?

 The I word. is it really about – me?

Okay okay okay, it can be overdone – for example, go through the cover letter and see how often you use the word “I” – don’t start every single sentence that way – but usually nursing students are the last ones to fall prey to this problem. Don’t hide your light under a bushel!

 Focus on outcomes not tasks

 When I take students to clinical practice, the end of the day is occupied with writing a draft nursing note in the DAR format.  For a beginner, the usual first drafts of a note often consists of a  list of the tasks, not the assessments. For example: “dressing changed, tube feeding given, vital signs taken” etc. 

 When I read that kind of note, my response is “okay, but how did the wound look? What was the residual volume? Was there a problem with the B/P or the temp? what did you do about it?”  sometimes students take a while to ‘get it’ and start writing about nursing process others  take a little longer. When I read a note that says “wound is nine by seven cms, no undermining noted, scant amount of serous drainage noted.” Or “residual volume was less than fifteen cc, stool is soft, skin turgor normal.”  This gives a lot better info to the reader.

 The equivalent on a resume is to write:

 “2006-2011 – part- time server, Bubba Gump Shrimp co, Ala Moana Center”

 Or

 “2004 -2009 nurse’s aide, Hawaii Medical Center, SNF department”

Each of these could become much more valuable if they were reframed in the following way:

“2006-2011 – part- time server, Bubba Gump Shrimp co, Ala Moana Center. Assigned to six tables during busy dinner shift, including beverage service and daily specials, used computerized order-entry system. Received 2008 customer service award, worked 20 + hours per week to support myself during college. ”

 Or

 “2004 -2009 nurse’s aide, Hawaii Medical Center, SNF department. 50 –bed unit with average daily census of 35. Two patient populations – short term rehab after joint reconstruction and long-term post-brain injury  with severely altered mental status. Functional nursing model. Usual assignment was to share 12 patients with another aide. High emphasis on personal organization and accountability to licensed staff. Perfect attendance on rotating shift schedule.”

The key is, a well-written descriptor can guide the reader or interviewer with specific followup questions that are intriguing and beg to be asked.

 The original versions of each don’t get much of a reaction from the reader. The revised example, though, hint at skills that might also apply to a nursing setting. When a potential interviewer reads the revised examples, they are prompted to ask certain questions. “tell me more about multitasking?” “are you good with computers?” “what exactly did you do to achieve the customer service award?”  that sort of thing. The idea that they might be able to discuss this with you, makes them more likely to want to interview you as the next step. A well-written description can serve as a tease, begging for a followup from the reader or interviewer.

 Or the interviewer might followup with the second example by saying, “if I asked one of the licensed staff about what it was like to work with you, what would they say?” or “of those two groups, which was your favorite?” or maybe “how did you stay motivated every day when you knew that progress would be slow?”

 Outcomes, not tasks.

In summary, don’t simply describe what the job description was, focus on the what you accomplished. You want to portray yourself as a doer, even if all you have held were “worker bee” jobs. These sort of statements convey the idea that you have skills for accountability, dependability, and customer service.

 Final point for now

 If you have just graduated, be sure to put “(your name), BS Nursing, right at the top. When you pass NCLEX start putting RN right up there in big letters. You are applying for nursing jobs, after all, and you worked hard for that credential.

 I will continue this blogging theme  in coming days. Keep those cards and letters coming. send an email to joeniemczura@gmail.com with your question if you are too shy to add a comment. Feel free to browse this blog, and also consider buying my book about hospital care in Nepal.

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Getting your first nursing job

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Yesterday’s blog was about writing a cover letter, I said I would write resume tips today, but we need to back up a step first.

how Human Resources department does their job.

Applying for a job is a process, with many steps and decisions along the way.  As with the cover letter, there are some elementary housekeeping rules for a resume. The Human Resources department of any given agency, will need to systematically organize all documents they receive, including yours. Typically, they make a file for each applicant, which can be as simple as gathering an oak tag folder, stapling the checklist of minimal documentation to the inside, and then completing the file by inserting each document as it comes in.

Do the arithmetic

Let’s say the HR department is working to fill ten jobs. There are five applicants for each, and ten steps or documents to gather before each file is complete. Simple arithmetic will tell you that they are trying to keep track of five hundred pieces of paper at any given time. It’s one of the reasons that so many HR departments try to computerize their process, but in the meantime, you can ease things if you label everything clearly. If there is a job requisition number, be sure to put that on the resume and cover letter. If you send the resume as an attached file, be sure to use a sensible name for it, otherwise the HR department may have to rename it when they save. For example “resume for Joe’s class”  is not useful. “Smith, Janet, resume for staff RN position at QMC Jan 2012” is helpful.

Screening function of H.R. department

There is a saying out there that the HR department’s job is to screen you out, as opposed to including you in. For each job, especially entry-level ones, there is a deadline by which a decision needs to be made. Since they don’t know you, any decision have to be based on what they do happen to know. It is very easy for them to use the completeness of the file to decide which ones get forwarded or not. So – you can also help your case by tracking the documents from your side. If a written reference or transcript was required, did you followup with your team to see that it got sent?

If you are applying for multiple jobs at multiple hospitals, make a simple grid of all documents that might be required, and set up a system to track all correspondence with each agency or hospital. Make a file folder for each possible place. You yourself can track the documents.

Know the time frame and work with the timing

During the application or query process, it’s okay to ask about the number of positions available and the time frame for decisions to be made. Nowadays many of the bigger hospitals will conduct a formal orientation for new graduate nurses every few months, with a specific start date. They can only absorb so many new nurses at a given time, and if you learn about this, you can work the calendar backwards to get an idea of timing. In other words, if the orientation starts Monday the first of the month, the hospital needs to decide who is on the roster by the fifteenth of the previous month. In that case, your part of the deadline is to submit your documents two weeks before that date. A month before the time the orientation starts. As more requirements are needed, the lead-in time becomes longer.

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Tips on writing a cover letter for a nursing job

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Writing a cover letter

Tomorrow I will write a blog about Resumes, also known as “C.V.s” – Curriculum Vitae. This is a mystery for many new nurses.  And I might as well get on the Social Networking bandwagon as well…. social networking is no longer just an up-and-coming technology, it is a main way for your employer to learn about you. All these things go together, and some of the tips below will help you to develop a coordinated strategy as to presenting yourself to the world.

For New Nurses, entering the workforce.

 Among other things, I teach the senior-level management and leadership class every now and again when the school needs more than one section, and in that role I get to read and give feedback on cover letters and resumes for soon-to-enter-the-workforce nursing students. This is only one part of the overall process to find a nursing job, but people do need help constructing this. What gets put into the cover letter, exactly? How is the cover letter used? Who reads it? These are the simple questions, and there are also some more sophisticated ways to look at this – how do you frame an experience you have had? What if you don’t have much experience?

Here, in no particular order, are my top tips on writing a cover letter.

One page.

Keep it to just one page long, and hold it at arm’s length to check the formatting. If the content is placed haphazardly on the page, you can reformat it so it looks nice. I do think the presentation counts, and it gives the reader a subtle assessment of whether you are computer-savvy, whether you pay attention to detail, or not. You should be able to state your case in just a few sentences, and leave space along the margins in case somebody wishes to comment on something.

Spelling and grammar.

Run a spell check. This seems basic, but people still don’t do it. ask a friend to read it and look for errors, as well.

use the name of the job you want

Name names  –  and name jobs. One thing to remember is that an H.R. office will be handling ten pieces of paper per job applicant (the app, the CV/resume, 3 references, background checks, etc) and they will do this for multiple jobs. do the math.  If there are ten jobs posted, with three or four applicants per job, the H.R. Office will be swimming in paper. They spend their day organizing paper, and you can help them by clearly stating which job you are applying for.Tip: if you are applying online, assign a file name that includes your own name, the date and the agency. If the H.R. department is computerized, it will help them find the file and send it along.

Research the organization. Hot and Cold

Maybe you already know the place to which you are sending your resume, in which case it’s a “hot contact.”  In that case,  if you have spoken to a specific person within the organization, or made any kind of personal contact, be sure to mention that person by name, or to address the cover letter to that individual. if you are applying to a place where you did clinical practice, be specific about the dates, locations and contact persons who might remember you.

But maybe not, in which case it’s a “cold contact.”  Google the organization to which you are applying, if it is a cold contact. Try to point out ways you can help them. For example, a recent student in Honolulu wanted to work at UCLA Medical Center, and was a very strong candidate because she was fluently bilingual in English and Korean. UCLA serves L.A.s’ Korean community, and the student knew this. But the student originally failed to highlight her language skill. She moved it to the first paragraph and also described it more thoroughly on the C.V. itself. She got the job. She probably would have any way, but – this guaranteed that the language skill was front and center.

Explain stuff.

Don’t assume that the reader knows what you are talking about when you write: “server” for example. Maybe they think it’s just a waitressing job; but when you say “server for dinnertime shift at two-hundred seat restaurant with eight tables including beverage service and high customer turnover, received Employee Award for customer service, worked 28 hours per week to pay for school expenses while attending fulltime” then the reader gets a different impression.

Or for a prior health care position, one recent student put down “billing clerk.” After a few questions, it was easy to re-frame it so that it read “billing clerk responsible for computer program that covered twelve million dollar revenue stream and generated monthly reports of hospital financial data, worked with CFO to develop monitoring systems” – that is more of an eye-opener. Or a student who was a veteran and put down “U.S.S. Buffalo engine room” – this was re-framed to say, “the mostly highly trained category of job descriptions in the Navy” or some such. When i was proofing that one, I did a web search on the USS Buffalo, but an H.R. person is unlikely to use the web the same way.

Think of generalizable skills.

A generalizable skill is one which can predict success in a variety of jobs.  As above, the entry on being a server allows you to talk about how you can multitask, use the computer order-entry system of a restaurant, and deliver customer service as an incentive to getting better tips. One recent student worked 28 hours per week throughout nursing school, and was able to reframe this to highlight her dedication and perseverance to overcome odds through hard work.

Please feel free to comment, and to share this with other new graduates.

I will focus a bit more on the CV, as well as the interview process, in  future blogs. I wrote a blog lasty summer about my own CV…. you may find that one amusing. The rules are different when you have twenty or thirty years of experience. You have to start somewhere.

In the meantime, read my book about nursing in a Low Income Country, and feel free to visit the FaceBook fan page. It own’t help you get a nursing job, but it will remind you of the powerful value that nurses add to society and to life.

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Maine nurses need to speak up and tell the legislature to resist the urge to save the same money twice

NOTE: in the interest of full disclosure, I am not an authorized spokesperson for ANA-Maine. The opinions expressed are mine alone, unless of course, you happen to agree with them, in which case they will also be yours! I urge all readers to contact ANA-Maine and offer help in addressing the drastic cuts to services for vulnerable Mainers. there is work to be done!

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Mainer-in-Exile

From here in Honolulu I still read the Maine News. Yes folks, I have become a Mainer-in-Exile. Economic opportunity in my chosen field caused me to move here to Hawaii in 2005.  I still have family members in Maine along with many friends and professional colleagues. I pay my license fee to the Maine State Board of Nursing and I still belong to ANA-Maine, the professional association for nurses in the Pine Tree State.  

To the Nurses of Maine, and everyone who ever was sick or will be sick.

And this message is directed at nurses in Maine, especially.

The news has not been good, from the Pine Tree State. I was back east for Thanksgiving, got to experience driving during the storm we had the day before, and I could still navigate the conditions – even though the rental car handled like a boat at times. But everyone I talked to seemed a bit pessimistic about the future, anticipating a hard winter; and I saw a bunch of for sale signs outside shuttered business locations, as I drove from Kittery to Mt Desert where one of my daughters is wintering over.

What I am talking about though, is the Bangor Daily News article on State House demonstrations over the Maine Care budget. what is on the table is hundreds of millions of dollars for services to: Mainers with Alzheimer’s Disease ( does anybody really think those victims are going to go out and get a part time job? is this a joke to imply that the Alzheimer’s victims of Maine  are somehow able-bodied but milking the system?); people with substance abuse problems; low-cost medication assistance; – the list goes on. Sixtyfive thousand people now receiving MaineCare will be removed from the rolls.

It’s not new that a supplemental budget is on the table. A supplemental budget is always an opportunity to make mid-course corrections so that each fiscal year ends okay. What is new here, is that LePage and the GOP-controlled legislature passed a tax break for the wealthy, last summer, and the amount that was turned away from state coffers seems to be just about the amount Maine now has as a “deficit.”  Isn’t that just an amazing coincidence?

Shock doctrine

One letter-to-the-editor writer made the reference to the Shock Doctrine, the best selling book about strategies to loot and pillage  democracy. Here it seems as though the Governor thinks he has the mandate to go ahead with this plan.

Maine went down this leave-no-stone unturned road about seven years ago under the Baldacci Administration. The state had a budget shortfall and the legislature put a bunch of items on the table that were almost the same list – aid to individuals living with cerebral palsy, mental illness, etc. I remember it well, because there was a coalition called “Maine Can Do Better” of which ANA-Maine joined. the hearing that time, was held in the Civic Center, and the place became the site of a sort of strange and sad convention, a gathering  of disabled and needy Mainers – a spectacle of people who normally stay out of the limelight. All of whom prefer it that way. I recall thinking at the time, what an affront to dignity it must for these persons to be forced to parade themselves in front of the legislature in order to be able to get help they need if they are going to live their lives with any kind of dignity.

Who are we, really?

To this day, I still don’t think the measure of any democratic society is whether the people who appear at the legislature to ask for things, are served. The measure of a society is how it treats the forgotten, the vulnerable people who stay in a room somewhere who aren’t able to help themselves in some major way. whether it is a person with chronic mental illness or lifelong mental retardation or who is aged and infirm. These folks can’t travel to the legislature. they depend on somebody else to make the case.

Who speaks for those persons who are homebound, or who are tucked away in institutional care? Right now we are seeing that same coalition of people I remember from seven years ago, taking time to educate the legislature about the responsibilities of government.

A Job for Nurses

But another complementary approach is needed. Nurses need to be speaking up.  The battle to help our fellow Mainers can not only be fought in Augusta, it needs to take place on the home front – every legislative district. every hospital, every home health agency, every nursing home, needs to make sure that the local legislator learns who the agency is, who the agency serves , and what they do. Nurses are trained very carefully to respect the privacy and dignity of the people they serve, and with HIPAA there are strict laws that address these concerns from the patient’s viewpoint. But nurses are among the most respected professions, and the code of ethics for nurses says that nurses must speak out when advocacy is needed.

Legislative Buddy?

Years ago, ANA-Maine started a “legislative Buddy” program, and they went out of their way to find at least one nurse in each district who would make an effort to serve as a pipeline for accurate information to their local legislator. This was helpful at the time and Maine needs something like this now. But don’t wait to join some group that is doing it, find  out who your legislator is, right now, and contact them. Offer to show them what you do all day. Don’t assume that they know anything.

Resist the Urge

One of the shining moments from the budget crunch back along,was a speech I heard from the then-Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Patrick Colwell. He said (and I paraphrase) “The main challenge for the legislature is to resist the urge to save the same money twice. Our system depends on hospitals, long term care, home care, and self-care. One season, the legislature looks at long-term care costs and decided to tighten up the regulations on long-term care, for example, which results in patients ready to be discharged from the hospitals but who take up a hospital bed longer than need to because they aren’t ready to go home and there is nowhere else to go. Then hospital costs go up the following year.  Or we change the home health regulations and people are forced to get more care from the local Emergency Room.”

It was a clever way to say that a certain amount of health care is going to be needed, no matter what you do, and the system by which the people obtain it will adapt, even if it’s in some unpredictable way that costs more in the long run. I saw the photo of the Governor standing in front of  a  graph showing how Maine needed to adjust MaineCare so that only a certain number of people would receive it.  Yes sir, you got a point. But the question is how to decrease the rolls, exactly? In some third world countries, this is accomplished by letting people die before they can get to medical care. If you are going to make fancy graphs of Things That Are Needed in Maine,  you might as well count the number of Pine Trees and say we need to replace them with Palm Trees (and higher temps. Now, there is a subject that lends itself to a chart format, and a program most Mainers would get behind, especially this time of year.). The fact is, the elderly and infirm are not so easy to get rid of.

There are countries where health is not valued. My book is about one of those places. Nepal is a wonderful country as long as you never get sick or weaken.

The bottom line is, LePage’s view is to simply remove funding from the system and let everyone fend for themselves. That is not  a plan. That is not responsible government. Even if the end result is to scrutinize the budget and leave most of it in place, when this kind of plan gets put on the table it causes these vulneralble persons to become anxious for no reason. Human suffering is magnified by economic uncertainty.

You can’t eat money

Nurses also need to know that money does not cure people – it’s the things that money buys, and the payrolls that are funded, which cure people. It is foolish to think that any agency in Maine will not be cutting back on nursing jobs,  because when fewer services are reimbursed, fewer agencies will be able to pay salaries. this goes for doctors and every one else in health care. 

I am proud to say that most Maine nurses don’t do it for the money – but at the same time, they can’t afford to do it without the money.

We have the power of the internet to keep us informed and get us organized.

Let’s use it, and let’s mobilize.

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The Man Whisperer

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Dinner Table conversation

Recently I was invited to a dinner event  with people who spoke French in varying degrees.  I don’t pretend I am fluent, myself – I get French mixed up with Nepali these days…. always thinking of how to reply or say what I am thinking, in one or the other but it doesn’t always match the language we are speaking at the time, an odd situation to experience. It does funny things to my head and I wonder how people who speak six languages can keep them all straight.

accents

Among other things, there was a lively discussion as to why women with French accents were so attractive.  Appealing. Mysterious. Sophisticated. Surprisingly one of the French women present was a bit affronted, since she had devoted years to eradicating any trace of a personal accent when she spoke English. She took a great deal of pride in having *no detectable French accent whatsoever* (which was true). She rejected the idea that to add it back when speaking English would make her any more attractive than she already was. To that I had to agree, she had a valid point.

And besides, she said, women with an Italian accent were probably sexier than those with a French lilt.

Whoa! Mais non!

The Horse Whisperer

Well, maybe she has a point there…. I suppose it’s not the *accent* but more the tone – I think French requires a way of rolling a the “Rs” ……  rrrrRRRRrrrrrRrrrrr …………………..  How could a listener fail to respond to a woman purring like a kitty? regardless of the language? It implies a conspiratorial tone to all one-to-one conversations…..

And when it is a woman, I think men are more attuned to the cooing lullaby of a woman’s voice, than most American women would consider. It’s okay for a woman to talk plainly and not put on airs, in the USA – but I sometimes think this is a lost art that should be revived. And the mamzelle across the table from me would still possess that ineffable dulcet tonal quality in whichever language.  Conversing with her just made the shared food so much more enjoyable – an aid to digestion!

The Man Whisperer

Here’s a tip to every woman I know: don’t underestimate the power of using your voice in a tone apart from businesslike matter-of-fact speech, to get guys’ attention. I know it sounds anti-feminist, but there is a difference between men and women and as the French would say, vive la difference! I wrote about this phenomenon in my book, a certain person I met in Nepal used to do this quite well.  It worked for the sirens in the Greek legends, after all. ….. Here’s an experiment. Next time you are with somebody trying to have lighthearted fun, try whispering in a conspiratorial voice, with an accent if you can muster one,  and see what happens.

It’s like the Horse Whisperer, only better – a properly trained male will carry out hundreds of commands.

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BBC YouTube TV show about road travel in rural Nepal

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Road Traffic Accidents

Th first four pages of my book about Nepal describe in detail, the trip from the airport to my guest house in Patan.  Road Traffic in Nepal is a major shock to visitors from other places. There are two Nepals. The first is the picture-postcard version for the tourists and the second is the workingman’s Nepal.  It’s always fascinating to me to see the second Nepal get any kind of attention, because that’s the Nepal where I spent most of my time.

 And so I was delighted to learn that BBC did a one-hour adventure travel segment on Travel within Nepal.

 You can get the whole one-hour show, on YouTube. It is Brilliant!

  Evidently, this is part of a BBC-Two series about roads throughout the world, and in the TV show trailer they also feature a drive through arctic tundra somewhere. It’s the same two guys in a Land Rover, one drives and the other looks at the map while they engage in British banter.  to the those who are not British, the humor is very sarcastic, but tra la la!   I have always loved any movie or TV show that includes an animated clip depicting a series of dots that connect locations on a map, and this is another such.

 This one has a lot of street scenes, as you might expect in a video about driving. I felt like I was there, again.

 The Route

 These two blokes chose some great terrain. The journey starts in the Terai, at the border crossing in Sunauli. The very first scenes are taped in Bhairawa, where I spent an epic three days lecturing in 104 degree heat of summer monsoon in 2011. The two drivers head first to Tansen, my old stomping grounds, and then to Pokhara, from which they detour on  a journey up the newly-built controversial road to Annapurna. Then along the Prithvi Road to Kathmandu, showing the gorge. They even drive at night, at one point.

 They show the same arch that says “Welcome to Palpa” which is featured in my own oevre, a two-minute video taken out of the Buck, The UMN transport vehicle.

 They took a more-dangerous-than-necessary side route, a couple of times. Also, they never showed a main fact of life on the road – the “bandhs” or political disturbances that can stop traffic for days. They discussed the petrol situation but did not show what happens when there is an embargo on petrol, which India occasionally declares. ( The Nepali government subsidizes petrol and sometimes gets in arrears).

Let’s face it – the show was about driving – so – why am I not surprised that they mainly stayed in the vehicle? I guess it’s becasue there is so much more to life in Nepal when you get out and walk around….. I would have at least stopped for panipuri!

 Tansen

 To my delight, they spent time in Tansen. First, they drove *up* Steep street; something nobody ever does. They did it for effect I think. Then, near Nanglo’s, they interview a local Nepali guy – who turns out to be none other than Madav Pandey, “the snake man of Tansen” in all his glory. Madav has a wonderful cultured accent and is telegenic.

 Leaving Tansen, they drove along the Upper Road – for no apparent reason other than to get some nice footage before they turned around. This is one of the two main walking routes between Mission Hospital and the town. But rarely driven upon.

 The guys announced the distance from Tansen to Pokhara to be 80 KM. Usually this takes six hours to drive. Works out to mebbe 15 kph, but the buses usually go faster than that, and take a few breaks.

The Prithvi Road, is shown in all it’s folly and glory, a heartstopping cliffhanger along a river gorge, the main land route to Kathmandu. They make a decision to drive on this at night instead of staying in what I presume to be Meghauli. I think I also had lunch at the place where they ponder their decision….  and I would not have driven at night. Like most people who spent any time travelling in Nepal, I do know somebody personally who died in an accident involving “the night bus.”

After a short segment in Kathmandu they take the road to Tibet, where they get excellent footage of the landslides of monsoon season.  Getting out and walking across the landslide to pick up the traffic on the other side, was a decision that took some courage, and they guys are such typical Brits about it……

 An Ozzie friend of mine posted the link to her FB page saying “the reason I fly when in Nepal.” I have news for her: flying is no picnic either)

 At the end, the guys give their reaction to the trip as they stand in front of the gate to Tibet. They don’t say how they needed to retrace their steps.

 All in all, a must see for anybody interested in Nepal

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