Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nursing Interviews

As mentioned in my last post, today's topic is interviewing.

Now it doesn't matter if you are interviewing for your very first nursing job straight out of undergrad, your first APN job after already having been a nurse, or even your 20th interview as a medical professional, interviewing can be tough.

Without the right amount of preparation, good intentions can really go south in the interview room.

So here is a list of 5 things that I have done, or read about, or seen as I have interviewed others, in order to best prepare you for that big interview and get you that job!

1.) Know Your Stuff: Know the company that you are wanting to work for- what is their mission and vision? What are some of their values? What is the culture like?  Most of this information can be found on a hospital's website and will be valuable as you go throughout your interview.  When your professional mission, your vision, your values and goals align with the business, this is very attractive.

2.) Dress Professionally:  This is just my personal opinion, but I think that whether you are interviewing for a nursing position or APN position, you should dress to impress.  And this generally means a suit.  Some people will say it's ok for nurses to wear dress pants and a "nice shirt" but I think if you really want to make an impression, the full suit will make you stand out.

For one of my interviews I wore a pencil skirt with a button down shirt, and suit jacket.  Another intverview I wore the same jacket with a different shift underneath, and black dress pants.   And let me further tell you, just because you have an interview and need to dress professionally, does not mean spending a ton of money before you are even making it.  That pencil skirt and suit jacket that I wore above cost me $12 at a thrift store in my area.  There are deals all over...you just have to find them!

3.) Make an Impression: You only get one chance to make a great first impression.  That's part of my reasoning for dressing in a suit.  But the other parts of making a great impression include making eye contact from the very first greeting, shaking hands with a firm handshake (really, who likes shaking a limp noodle!?), smile, breathe and relax.

The more relaxed you are, the better you will be able to listen, and since you will be so prepared for the questions (we'll get to that in a minute), you will come across as confident.  Who doesn't want to hire someone who is dressed professionally, has a firm handshake, smiles a lot, makes great eye contact, and throughout the interview breathes easy, appears relaxed and attentive, and answers each question confidently??? Oh yeah, you are so getting this job!

4.) Prepare for Questioning:  One of the nice things about interviewing is that many of the same, or similar questions are asked.  This is not to say that a curve ball can't be thrown at you, but with preparation of common questions, if a new one does pop up, you will be prepared for it.  And one of the best ways to be prepared for answering these questions is to practice.  Practice by yourself out loud, practice in front of the mirror, and practice in front of family and friends who can give you some feedback.

So what are questions to be prepared for???
     *"Tell me about yourself"- this is a common opener.  The interviewer wants to see how you will handle a very open ended discussion.  This is not the time to tell your entire life story.  Rather, keep your answer concise, but include information about your education, your pertinent work experience, career goals, and a little bit about your personality.  It is essentially like doing a quick run through of your CV/resume.

     *"Why did you go into nursing?"- this is your time to be honest and give a good story. Certainly "for the $" is never an appropriate response, nor is that the truth...if you think you'll be a baller you may want to turn back now! Let them know why nursing is your calling, because truly this is the case for nurses.

     *What would your previous boss/co-workers/peers say about you? How do people describe you?- This is a time to discuss your positive traits that will make you an asset for their team.  Things like team player, hard-worker, dedicated, loyal all reflect well.  But only discuss things that truly are reflective of your personality.

     *Describe a difficult situation and how you handled it?- this one should be rather easy...if you've gone through nursing school you've most likely had a difficult family member, nursing mentor, preceptor, etc. Just describe the situation, but most importantly show how well you handled it using team work, honesty, great communication, etc (whatever is appropriate for the situation).

     *Describe a situation in which you had conflict with a co-worker and how you handled it?- and really, who hasn't had a co-worker who hasn't given you problems.  BUT- if you haven't, you can always describe a situation in which great communication was required to work things out.  Employers love to hear and see an employee who knows how to handle themselves with grace, and has great communication.

     *What are your biggest weaknesses?- Now is definitely not the time to pretend to be perfect...you don't want the interviewer to add "Liar" to your list after you've stated nothing!  Everybody has flaws, and the interviewer is trying to understand what yours are and more importantly how you respond to them.  However, you can present the flaw, or weakness, as a positive.

Eg: At times, I can be a "people-pleaser" which doesn't always translate in me standing up for myself, however it allows me to focus on providing great service to my patients. (for those of you that know me, I'm certainly not a people pleaser, but this is just an example).

Another example: I have a type A, perfectionistic personality which can come across as intimidating to peers, and I tend to hold others to the same high standard, but  I get the job done excellently.

*How would you handle a parent of a patient who is not happy with the care received?
*How would you handle a patient who constantly complains of pain?
*What are your career goals?
*How do you handle stress?
*What is the most rewarding about being a nurse? The least rewarding?
*Describe your ideal job and work environment.

There are going to be a lot of questions thrown your way.  Again, preparation is the key here.  Just make sure to listen to each question, take a deep breath, and answer confidently.

5.) Leave a lasting impression- not only do you need to make a great first impression, but you need to make a lasting one. This includes asking great questions at the end of the interview, continuing to make eye contact, staying positive throughout the entire interview, and ending with another smile and firm handshake.  Then, its a great idea to send a thank you. In today's age of technology, a simple email after the interview to thank them for their time, and remind them how you would be the perfect candidate for the job is appropriate.  However, this is only the first step.  A hand written note 3 or so days after the interview will make a big statement.  Again, it's all about making yourself stand out from the rest, and leaving that lasting impression.

So there it is...my 5 tips on acing your nursing or APN interview.  I'd love to hear from you if you've recently gone through this. What were the things that helped you the most? Anything you'd do differently??

Monday, April 22, 2013

PICU Job Interview

I am going to say something that if a co-worker of mine read would make them freak out...so here's to hoping that none of my co-workers actually read this...or, rather, for the ones that do, make sure you read til the end!

Let me preface this with saying, I am not looking for a new job.  I love what I do.  I absolutely love the PICU.  And I love my co-workers.  Repeat, I am not looking for a new job!

Now that that is out of the way, I had a phone interview last week for a brand new, very exciting PICU APN position.  This new position is at a brand new, state of the art facility.

The benefits package literally made my jaw drop- it not only included a $30,000 pay raise, but two round trip airline tickets to anywhere in the world per year, great medical and dental insurance, a housing stipend that would cover rent in full each month, a transportation allowance covering all monthly costs, and a small food stipend each month!

It would be a job working alongside some of the worlds greatest intensivists, researchers, and faculty out there.

At this point, I'm sure you're thinking "Why in the world is she not blogging about accepting this new, amazing position!?!?"

Oh wait, I guess I didn't mention WHERE this new job was.


Never heard of it?  I hadn't before a couple weeks ago when I saw a House Hunters International episode on it.

But prior to that, nope, never heard of it.

Qatar is a small peninsula in western Asia, bordered to the south with Saudia Arabia.  It's one of the richest areas in all of Asia, and despite what I might have pre-judged, is one of the safest areas of the world, with extremely low crime rates.

While I have always wanted to go to a third world county (although this is most definitely first world) to work for a year or so, Qatar was not what I had in mind.

If I were at a different point in my life, if we weren't where we were at in our fertility journey, then perhaps this offer would have me on a jet plane across the world in just 7 short months time.

But, I ultimately am saying no to this position...have said no!

So why the interview then, you ask?

Well, I got the initial call with some basic info that wooed me.  It piqued my curiosity.  And then I realized I have gone through so few interview processes in my life, that perhaps I would benefit from a few more.

I interviewed for my job at my current hospital in the PICU as a nursing assistant which was barely an interview- it was about 4 questions and they mostly consisted of "You in school for nursing?- yes; You sure you want to work here? yes."

After that, I had my foot in the PICU door, and my RN interview was just as short, and mostly spent discussing thoughts of transitioning roles.  Not a real interview.

And then for my current position, I had 6 interviews with various APNs and physicians which lasted all day, but really only 1 of them actually asked me true interview questions. One interview was spent with the attending telling me stories about his four kids.  Another interview was spent with the attending telling me how many mice he killed during his residency research project, and all the joys of that research.

So I really have not had an interview process in a professional manner.  And not that I'm looking for a new job (just wanted to reiterate that again!), I think it was something that I should go through. Even if on the phone.  Interviewing for a dream like job in a not so dream like place.

Seeing as I am going to Prague to present my research in just a few months, and will certainly be put on the spot then with tons of questions, so this would serve as a warm-up.

And it certainly did.

I started this post with the intent on discussing interviews.  And look at the *long* turn that it has taken. So rather than get into the nitty gritty of the actual interview now, I'll save that for the next post.

But I am very aware of the anxiety that can be felt surrounding formal, professional interviews.  There is so much unknown.

Whether you are in nursing school and looking to interview for an internship.  Or you are a new graduate nurse looking for that first job.  Or, you just finished grad school, and are starting all over as an APN.

Whatever the case may be, interviews are a big deal.  And you should most definitely be prepared for them. There are many ways to do that, and many ways to help relieve the anxiety.

So while that was what I initially set out to discuss on this post, I clearly got side tracked.  So I am leaving you in anticipation until my Interview Part II discussion (to be coming soon).  But if you have specific questions regarding interview specifics, let me know and I will make sure to include them!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Noise Study Presentation

As the PICU noise study is complete, and I am preparing for the big poster presentation in Prague this summer, I figured it would be a good idea to have a few practice runs in the presentation department.

If you missed the noise study stuff and Prague, you can read about it here.

So this week my co-principle investigator and I did a 20 minute power point presentation at APN grand rounds.  APN grand rounds is held once a month, and is comprised of all the APNs at our hospital, and a few surrounding or partnering hospitals.

I usually love speaking to groups.  While most of my friends dreaded the power point presentation part of our graduate project, I dreaded the 30 page paper that came with it.  So I thought speaking to this group was actually a lot of fun.

My partner in crime however did not.  She hates speaking in front of people. She doesn't even like doing bedside inservices to several nurses at a time on our unit.

But I'm proud of her, because she got up there, and despite having a slightly petrified look of seriousness on her face the entire time, she spoke clearly and eloquently.  We can work on the facial expressions for the next presentation!

After it was all done, we got some great feedback via anonymous surveys.  The only negative comment we received was "It was too long."  Well, we were given a 20 minute time requirement, and we spoke for 20 minutes and 30 sec.  So I'm not taking that one too seriously.

I thought the presentation on nutrition felt too long, but that was only 18 minutes.  So I guess that comment is more representative of that person not liking our topic.  Oh well!

So presentation #1 went great!  Presentation #2 is in a couple of weeks.  We will be presenting to the Pebbles Project group which is a nationally recognized organization that is comprised of hospital administrators, architects and anyone involved in new hospital development.

So this group is eager to hear if the new facility was built in a way that improved noise levels.  Unfortunately, it was not.  But we will break the news to them gently!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chief Complaint: ???

Once a week we go to Firm Rounds with all the nurse practitioners and physicians in the hospital that can attend.  Each week a different "interesting case" is presented.

I don't work every Firm Rounds day, so I don't go to every single one of these. But, when I am working I almost always go. And it's usually a great learning experience.

Until yesterday.

I walked in, sat down in the back and looked up at the power point projected on the large white screen.

Chief Complaint:
Vaginal Flatulence

What!?!?  Really?? We are going to talk about a teenage girl with vaginal flatulence for an entire hour?

No thanks! My first thought was to run...run out of there very fast.  My second thought was to text the other APN I was working with to tell him the exciting topic.

He almost immediately text me back: "That sounds horrific. I'm definitely not coming. In fact, I threw up in my mouth just now."

Ha! And so there I sat, the lone PICU representative, through the entire hour listening to this crazy case.

And I'd love to say that I learned something incredible.  Or even just something.  But, really, I just came away laughing.

Mostly because the only thing that I can really remember (I must have blocked out a lot!) is the moderator...a male doctor in his upper 60s or 70s...who said, "I was told the other day by the head of surgery that everyone has vaginal flatulence.  Everyone.  It's very common."

Then there were snickers around the entire room.  And then he turned a bright shade of pink as he realized what he said, and responded, "I mean, I don't have it.  It is still very common...just common for anyone who has a vagina."

And yes, there were definitely more snickers from around the room.

So I guess vaginal flatulence made for a very interesting, if not entertaining chief complaint.  At any rate, next week can only go up from here!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


There are some patients that I just fall in love with.  There are some that steal your heart from the minute you say hello.  There are the ones that make you smile, and the ones that make you laugh.

And then there are the ones that despite being quite the snarky little 3 year old, are JUST.SO.CUTE!

The latter is the case for my patient who I've taken care of the last 2 days.  He was quite the sassy little three year old who when being polite was so much fun to be around.  And when his dad made him mad, he said things like "Shut Up Dummy."

Yea, that takes away from the cuteness.

So on day one of taking care of him, he was admitted to the PICU after a failed sleep study.  Day two he had his tonsils and adenoids removed.

Being in a lot of pain after his surgery, he was much more reserved, and really just wanted hugs and cuddles from his family.  He didn't have the spunk or energy to give the sass.

But he still had the energy to give me a compliment.  As I was leaving the room, he was saying something that I couldn't understand.  He was changing his voice and kind of mumbling, I think because his throat hurt so bad.

So I asked him to repeat it.  About 3 times.  He was getting frustrated that I couldn't understand what he was saying.  He said it several times, louder and louder each time.

And then finally, there it was.


I couldn't help but laugh. Really hard actually! Because the truth is, I've always disliked my eyebrows.

They are about 10 shades darker than the hair on my head.  They don't seem to match my skin tone. They can be a bit unruly. In high school, I (accidentally) shaved an entire half of one eyebrow right off...just when you think things can't get worse!  And I can't even quote Dumb and Dumber, because no, taking half an eyebrow off does not redeem an already bad eyebrow.

And now that we've taken a turn in this post I'm sure you were very much NOT prepared for, let's reign it back in!

So here was this 3 year old, who could have given any compliment he wanted, or none at all, and "I like your eyebrows" was what he chose!

That was the highlight of my day.  And that just may be the cute patient highlight for awhile.

Every time I look in the mirror and think "Ugh, those eyebrows" I know I'll smile thinking there's someone out there who genuinely, truly loves them : )