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An ED Director's Career Advice for Graduate Nurses

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John Lazarus knows what it’s like to be a graduate nurse in the emergency department because that’s where he started his career 25 years ago.

“I absolutely loved every second of it,” he says of his early ED experience. “I loved the adrenaline, and I loved taking care of people at a very vulnerable state in their life and making an impact.”

Now Lazarus is the director of two medical-surgical units and the ED at AdventHealth Fish Memorial, where he shares his passion for emergency medicine with other recent graduates through AdventHealth's Nurse Residency Program. Here are some of his top career tips for new grad RNs and insight into what it’s like to work at AdventHealth Fish Memorial.

1. What advice do you have for graduate nurses who are preparing to interview for their first job?

“Many graduate nurses think that it’s the unit or hospital interviewing them, but really what they should be doing is interviewing the hospital by asking very specific questions about the environment of learning and development for new nurses at the unit level: How are feedback and questions encouraged? What is the preceptor training like? What is the graduate nurse turnover rate? What kind of feedback did the most recent group of nurse residents share?

"These are the type of questions that most candidates don’t think to ask, but they can help you avoid stumbling into potholes later.”

2. What characteristics or behaviors impress you the most when you meet a job candidate?

“The biggest item that impresses me is an individual’s calling to nursing. We can teach anybody and everybody to do technical and clinical-based skills. What I cannot teach anyone is to have the intrinsic passion and desire to help individuals.”

3. What are some of the most common mistakes that you see new nurses make, and how do you think other nurses can avoid them?

“A common mistake that many new nurses make is not asking proactive questions because they’re afraid of how they may be perceived by others around them. They’re new to the team, so they can sometimes have the feeling that, ‘If I ask a question, my peers may think that I don’t know what I’m doing.’

“What may happen is that if they wait until the very last minute to ask a question, it may affect patient care or a patient outcome.

“What we have done in our hospital is cultivated an environment where we encourage feedback and two-way communication. We want you to go to your preceptor and your team with questions, so we can figure out what we can do to help you.”

4. What makes the Nurse Residency Program at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial unique?

“Our Nurse Residency Program is very special and unique because of what our residents have been able to accomplish afterward. Many of them have had stellar progression and career development. For example, Marnie Harris went through the Nurse Residency Program three years ago, and today she is a nurse manager on my medical-surgical team. We also have assistant managers, educators, preceptors, and charge nurses who completed the program just a couple years ago. That really speaks to how successful the program is, and how many opportunities for leadership and clinical development that we have here.”

5. What do you think are the most appealing features or benefits of working at AdventHealth Fish Memorial?

“There’s two things. Number one: This campus has a very strong family feel. If you talk to any members who currently work here or have left and are now at larger institutions, they will tell you that they really miss the family feel here. Everybody is very close. There’s a friendly environment. People smile at each other. They make eye contact when you walk down the hallways. When we’re making decisions, it’s all about the patient, not what’s right for one unit versus another.

“The other exciting thing is that we have a $100 million construction project that’s going to take us to 225 beds -- all-private beds -- in the next two-and-a-half years. With that, we’re also expanding our services, so there will be even more opportunities for career growth in the near future.”

6. What role does faith play in the ED at AdventHealth Fish Memorial?

“From a clinical standpoint, it’s easy for our team to consider the healing ministry of Christ as clinical care, but I really impress upon them that it’s about showing God’s love through our actions. It’s the smiles when you walk into the room. It could be what you say, and how that’s the only expression of God’s love a patient may receive in a day. It’s really understanding that each patient is God’s child and that nursing is a calling. It’s a tough calling. It’s not easy to do, but it absolutely honors God when we do it.”

7. How do you help your team members embrace our mission and feel comfortable praying with patients or supporting them in a spiritual way?

“We have established a culture in our hospital where we’re not afraid to speak about God. We have huddles before every shift that include a devotion or prayer, and we allow people to talk about the work they do and how it relates to doing it for God. Now, we do not pressure anyone to talk about Jesus or God if they don’t want to, but we encourage those who feel intrinsically inspired.

“We also have a very robust Spiritual Ambassador program in the ED, with eight front line team members who we list on our assignment board. If there’s a nurse who’s not comfortable praying, but has a patient who wants prayer or to talk about a spiritual topic, the nurse can reach out to these Spiritual Ambassadors and ask them to step in and help.”

Are You Ready to Join Our Team?

John is just one of many team members who is eager to help you grow and succeed in your new nursing career. Learn more about how you can benefit from our Nurse Residency Program by clicking the button below.

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