New graduates are currently in demand in the nursing industry, but they must be eager and enthusiastic, and should never say "no" to anything, says Vanessa Parker, clinical/homecare recruitment consultant at Drake Medox.
"Experienced nurses have 'the world as their oyster', but graduate nurses should take any opportunity they are offered in order to gain all the experience they can get," she says.
Graduates should approach job interviews with a positive, friendly disposition, as interview panels often spend considerable time pondering prospective employees' personality fit with their organisations, says Parker. "They will also be impressed by candidates who have done their research."
Nicola Hamling, third-year student at the School of Nursing at the University of Auckland, is loving her nursing degree, with "all the amazing educational and real-life experiences it has brought, and will continue to bring".
She says she knows that when she graduates, she will be highly skilled as a comprehensive nurse with the ability to practise in any area she chooses. However, the current job market is interesting, she says.
"Nurses are definitely needed and many places are short-staffed but, due to funding cuts, they are unable to hire and so there are less available jobs. In saying that, the University of Auckland's nursing school has a reputation as an excellent educational institute and our graduates are highly sought after."
Parker says proactive nurses who seek further training can aspire to senior roles such as team leader, charge nurse, practice manager or nurse unit manager. She says there has been a shift from traditional bedside nursing and there are jobs now that nurses may never have dreamed of, such as occupational nursing in mining companies, working for not-for-profit organisations overseas, assisting with new life-saving drug trials, health screenings for Immigration, school nursing and midwifery.
Parker is seeing skill shortages in midwifery and areas of speciality such as mental health, theatre, ICU, critical care and neonatal wards.
Hamling wants to experience as much of nursing as she can in her career, but would particularly love to work as a community nurse focused on primary health or mental health, and hauora Maori.
"This means holistic healthcare, health promotion and education, illness prevention and early intervention. I want to be part of the fence, helping people before they fall down the hill."
Hamling also believes nurses' traditional role has changed a great deal in a short time, and feels it is important to educate people about what nursing actually involves.
"For example," she says, "highly skilled nurses working in nurse-led clinics have a high level of autonomy and independence over their own practice, while often working collaboratively with other healthcare professionals."
Parker says that while she understands the appeal for experienced nurses going to Australia to work, she would be sad to see high-quality Kiwi nurses leave here to nurse elsewhere just because of the money, as she thinks there are great opportunities and a great need in New Zealand.
Hamling agrees. "The most important contribution I can make to nursing is in New Zealand. There are undeniable inequities and inequalities in our healthcare system. There are many people suffering due to diseases, abuse, poverty and poor living and housing conditions who are avoiding seeking healthcare until it's an emergency because they cannot afford the practice fees.
"Although there are definite advantages to working overseas in countries like Australia, as a New Zealand nurse I would rather work here to help ensure the safe and just care of our people."
Parker believes, however, that there are good opportunities in Australia, with many similarities between the two countries. Kiwi nurses are valued in Australia, and nurses there are paid at higher rates, she says.
"But before deciding to cross the ditch, nurses should research the different pay scales, ensure they are well informed and then determine whether it is worthwhile making the move."
Hamling's aspirations are to promote and advocate for equitable healthcare for everyone. She says this means providing care that is sensitive to the needs of people of different ages, genders, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. Her personal passion is for hauora Maori and care that is culturally sensitive and run according to Maori protocol.
"For me, family comes first and one of the many things I love about nursing is the flexibility this job allows. In nursing there are so many options, and it's all about finding what works for you and the life you want with your family."