It’s time for an exciting Miller household update that has been a few years in the making – that also provides a valuable takeaway for us all. And no – it’s not kids – but the headline should have killed that guess (and yes, I know it’s not proper grammar, it’s a reference).
Those who’ve frequented the site for a while might remember that my wife decided to make a career change to nursing from landscape architecture.
Despite nursing being a growing profession with very low unemployment rates (2%), growing demand, recession-proof qualities (people still have health problems, maybe more, when the economy is down), and it having all four of the factors that lead to job security – she had trouble getting her foot in the door after graduation.
The lesson that was reinforced was that experience is king in the employment world. This is particularly true in nursing and the medical field, where the constant threat of liability and a steep learning curve make experienced workers desirable over inexperienced ones almost 100% of the time.
Just getting an interview was a big challenge – one that we had to get pretty aggressively attack in order to overcome. Our strategy worked, but the job was not ideal:
- it was on a high turnover unit
- with undesirable hours (7 pm to 7 am)
- with comparatively lower benefits and pay
- with a very high patient workload
- and a long commute
In other words – the job had some downsides. Getting a job when you have no experience is extremely challenging. Sometimes you have to take the best job you can get at that time. The hospital was not her top choice and provided the longest commute, of 1.5+ hours per day (I can only imagine the drive home in morning rush hour traffic after a 12-hour night shift). However, getting in the door at the three higher preferred employers was just not happening for her.
Initially, the work was extremely challenging. For a new nurse to have 6 patients with little on-the-job training is something that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. But she got through that challenging curve and learned a ton, very quickly.
After a year, the search for a better (and geographically closer) job began. But what she discovered is that even with valuable experience now behind her, hospitals were setting quotas around the percentage of their staff that had bachelor’s degrees versus associate’s. If you were the nurse manager that hired someone with an associate’s degree, you stood out in a bad way. So, she applied for somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs before getting an interview. That interview didn’t result in an offer.
The frustrating side story here is that those who go through bachelor’s nursing degree programs are no more qualified to be a nurse than those who go through associate’s. In fact, they often have less hands-on clinical training. This is even reflected in their pay – those with an associate’s earn the exact same pay as those with a bachelor’s degree.
After a few more months of applications and no takers we jointly decided that it was time to pony up the cash for her to complete her bachelor’s degree – just so she could get a better opportunity for more desirable jobs. That was on a Saturday about a month ago. The following Monday, she gets a call for an interview at her #1 employer of choice. She nails it – and gets a verbal offer on the spot.
With this job:
- her pay and benefits will notably increase
- her commute goes from 50 miles per day to three – and she can even bus or bike to work (yes!!!)
- her patient count from 6 to 4
- most of her cost of taking classes to finish her degree will be covered
- it is at a notable institution that will look great on any resume
- she gets a 457B plan (more on that in an upcoming post)
In other words – it’s a much better job. However, it’s not perfect – it’s still a night shift, it’s on a high turnover floor, and she now has to go from part-time work (by choice) to full-time. But, as we’ve already learned – take the best job you can get at that time. Now that she’s in the door at this employer, other opportunities will surely present themselves in the years to come.
There are two big takeaways from this story that I think are universally applicable to everyone:
1. When you’re having trouble finding a job, expand your search, ease your standards a bit, and take the best job you can get at that time. When you do that, you open the door for better opportunities. Gaining experience, building confidence in what you have to offer, and adding a solid employer brand on your resume are extremely valuable assets that will give you better opportunities in the future.
2. Don’t get stuck in a job when better ones exist. ABL – Always Be Looking for a better job opportunity – even if it is with your current employer. They almost always exist. In my experience – two years provides a great launching point for other opportunities. Remember – most lifetime income gains come in the first decade of work – so there is no time for you to sit around and be stagnant, in a bad work situation. It may take a lot of effort and repeated failed attempts to successfully move, so it is important to maintain your confidence and composure – don’t give up and settle. Job loyalty is dead – on both sides of the work relationship, so you should always do what is best for you. Often times, just the act of looking can give you much needed hope to get through the daily grind. Onwards and upwards!
Awesome! Congratulations. Although the economy and associated job market is better off than it was a few years ago, it’s still not great and I know how difficult it can be to keep going after numerous leads don’t pan out. Best of luck to your wife in her new job, and hopefully the pros outweigh the cons.
This is going to be a huge step up! Great job! Just the cut in commute alone makes it a fantastic change.
It may be the job market, but in the locations I know for nurses, they pay less for LPN vs. RN. One thing that probably helped in the interview was your wife’s willingness to go back to school. The hospital wouldn’t pay for it is it wasn’t valuable to them.
Since they will pay for her classes, how close is the school? It’s an amazing thing to have your employer pay for school, then when you graduate the employer gives you a raise for improving your self.
Congrats to your wife! We feel that you should always be on the lookout to upgrade. We feel that when your not the most happy with your job and you have been working hard to save up, you can pay dividends and get amazing life experiences that will carry well into your middle age by traveling. While we may not retire at 50 or even 55 as many “grinders” are hoping to. We are very satisfied and getting to see the country and all it has to offer from our Sprinter Van. It’s incredible cheap to travel this way since you don’t have to pay for hotels, we frequent a nationwide gym for showers and cook in our “kitchen” to save even more.
Congratulations on your wife getting a better opportunity.
I think you need to look into WHY nurse managers are not hiring nurses with an associates degree. It’s not the hospitals setting quotas as you state, its part of the Affordable Car Act.
Your comments that a Nurse with a Bachelor’s Degree is no more capable than a Nurse with an Associate’s Degree is a little short sighted and very ignorant. I agree that maybe you and your wife did not make the best choices when she set out on her quest to become a nurse, but to wholly generalize an entire industry of Nurse’s like this is just ignorant.
Based on your argument, there must be no difference between your business B.A. and someone else’s MBA yet it seems to me that someone with an MBA has a much greater potential for entering leadership positions with industry and as such higher income which leads to the ability to become financially independent at a younger age.
If you would have stated we made a mistake and taken ownership of the issue instead of blaming the hospitals this article would be a lot easier to agree with.
Shawn – Are you an offended nurse manager? I don’t get the venom. I think Mrs. 20SF was being a little too kind with her response. I’m wondering where you are getting your information from. You make some bold assertions and call us ignorant, but don’t back it up with any facts. We put a lot of time, thought, and research into this career change.
To your point about MBA’s and bachelor’s – I think you nailed it in an unintended way. An MBA is primarily payment for status and a network. There are millions of low-experience, over-privileged MBA’s out there who are less qualified than those with high-experience and a bachelor’s. And that often shows in pay levels. I’ve seen too many go $200k into debt and come out with the exact same or barely higher pay. They rarely pay off financially in the short and long term.
I am doing the exact same job, on the same team, as several people with MBAs, and I have a BA and less than 2 years total work experience. I may consider getting an MBA in a few years, but only if I can get my employer to pay for it through tuition reimbursement while I am working. It’s definitely not worth the additional debt or lost earnings, at least based on what I have seen.
Hospitals are preferring not to hire nurses with an associate’s degree if the hospital is seeking or part of a “Magnet Status” program which means they are recognized with an award for excellent nursing care. To my knowledge the award is only recognition, not monetary. There have been studies that show patients with care from a nurse with a bachelors degree have better outcomes. A lot of experienced nurses have conflicting feelings about this and wonder how many of the studies are biased. The state does not set any requirements but does support increasing the number of nurses with a bachelor’s degree based on this research. The Affordable Care Act has nothing to do with this. The Magnet Status program has been around for years.
We knew this info before making the decision to pursue an associates degree. The plan was to get an associates degree first, then pursue the bachelors degree after being hired because:
1. I already paid for a previous bachelors degree.
2. I wasn’t sure I would like nursing.
3. Most hospitals assist with degree advancement so why pay for it?
4. You make the same rate of pay with an associate or bachelors degree.
Yes, there are benefits to a Bachelor’s degree and management positions or advanced career positions are those benefits. Which is why I have been slowing pursing the bachelor’s degree for the past year with funding from my previous employer. The new position allows me to complete it faster due to a better tuition reimbursement plan.
I hope this explains.
I look forward to that 457(B) article! I’m a grad student who gets all income from fellowship and stipend, which don’t count as earned so I’m not eligible for an IRA. I do have a 457(B) and a 401(A) defined contribution pan that I an eager to use, but the web is flooded with Roth and other IRA info with little about nonprofit retirement plans.
I agree with the bulk of this post – it’s best to keep moving (even internally) as raises and promotions are hard to come by. It’s okay to be comfortable in a job, if you accept that you might not be maxing your salary potential.
Particularly for higher earners, there comes a point where the stress of looking for a job, interviewing, moving, being ‘new’ again, walking into what might be a rough job or workplace conditions – might not be as worth it for your well-being.
But always take time to assess… just look at it from every angle.
GE (and GE’s wife),
Congrats on getting the new job! I have been a regular reader of 20SF for several years, and as a nurse myself , I have always found your posts regarding your wife’s decision to return to nursing school very interesting as I am in the same profession. I think that the profession is flexible enough that people with a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets will be able to find a nursing job that they enjoy. Although a demanding job, the schedule can be extremely flexible – something that I don’t think I could ever give up. My wife is a nurse as well and is finishing her nurse practitioner degree this month. If it weren’t for the flexibility of our jobs, it would have been much, much more difficult for her to go back to school.
I love my job as a nurse, and I can totally relate to the difficulties of finding the first job. Many (if not most) new graduate nurses have to get that night-shift job on a med-surg floor. It’s a tough time to get through. But the great thing about a higher turnover is that you are able to move to day shift quickly! So I hope that happens for you (GE’s wife)!
Although I have my bachelors, I have worked with many nurses who have their associates degree, and there is no difference in quality of care. In my opinion, the classes that ADN nurses have to take to get their BSN does not significantly improve outcomes, but it does provide a greater understanding of nursing research and evidence based care. The thing that always baffles me is that associate degree programs, although advertised as ~2 years, are in reality at least 3 years if the prerequisite courses are included. I think that associate programs should just add the 3-4 additional classes that bachelor’s programs have and award a bachelors degree at the completion of the ADN program – they are taking 90% of the same classes anyways!!
There are so many truths in this article! Sometimes you just have to get your foot in the door and any experience is good experience. I think people just have to shake that mental state that you don’t have to settle once you’re in a job and that you should always be looking for opportunities to advance your career. And I completely agree when you say job loyalty is dead. I recently experienced that and I’ve learned I need to look out for myself and not worry about what my employer thinks.