Let me introduce myself, my name is Keren MacSween and I am 43 years old. I am married and we have two beautiful daughters aged 12 and nine years. Around five years ago I made a bold decision to change my career direction (much to my husband’s surprise!) and retrain as a registered nurse.
I am a meticulous planner and managed to organise study, work and family and unfortunately, with all the sacrifices that had to be made, it was sometimes my family that came last. But with the support of my husband and my very understanding children we managed to get through four years of study, clinical placements and assignment deadlines along with the stress of exams.
Apart from the emotional sacrifices there have been huge financial sacrifices as well. As a family we have gone without to try and make ends meet. When I eventually had to give up work once I started the degree we had to find other ways to manage financially. While I am thankful that we are able to provide a home for our children the fact that we have not been able to pay any principle off our mortgage has been a strain on our marriage. Also the only way I could go back school and study was to apply for a student loan for the four years of study to reach my goal of earning a degree and a career. At the most recent statement this is around $36,000 and with no job prospects on the horizon there is no chance of that reducing in the near future.
We used to have a credit card, but that got out of hand and we have just recently managed to pay it off. I hated having to choose between getting petrol in the car so I could take the girls to a park or see family or buy milk and bread so they would have sandwiches for their school lunches. We are still living week by week and some weeks are harder financially than others. With my financial management I have been able to keep on top of the bills but that does mean living to a strict budget every week. This also has another effect on our meal planning, some weeks we do not know what we will be having for dinner until that day because I need to be vigilant on food and meat specials and are only able to buy on the day. But I am lucky to have grown up in an era where I have learnt to make or bake from scratch.
While still dealing with all this financial stress I have gained a qualification that I feel is not worth the fees I have had to borrow to pay for it. I am seven months down that track after gaining my nursing degree with no job or job prospects that are visible. Although I feel very lucky to have a casual support worker position within an organisation that provides for people living with a mental illness, this is a casual role and dependent upon regular staff being sick or on annual leave. While this has given some relief to the financial stress it is in no way full time employment utilising my qualification. What I am feeling now is desperation but in the same breath I also feel optimistic that there is a job out there for me, one that I can really shine in and show my qualities.
It’s an amazing thing an interview it’s where you as a candidate can show the recruitment team your qualities and strengths, this is very hard to do in a cover letter but a cover letter is the only way you are able to let the recruitment team know what they might be missing out on. I have had one interview in the last seven months out of more than 60 applications submitted. Also I have to note that not all jobs applied for have given me the courtesy of a reply positive or negative. And I feel that some have not even considered my application as soon as they read ‘new graduate’. I have changed my cover letter to ‘sell’ myself as advised and I have not limited myself to one clinical area or DHB region. Other advice given was to volunteer at rest homes or such places but as soon as they discover that I am an RN they do not want to take the risk. What risk are they taking? I am the one that could do something outside my scope as a volunteer and jeopardize my registration before I get a chance to use it. I am unable to work as a health care assistant (HCA) as DHB policy states this, although NZ Nursing Council stated that as long as I do work within the scope of practice as an HCA it should be alright.
Everywhere I look people want experience, but to gain experience you need to be working in a clinical setting. This is where the NEtP programme comes into play. The negatives to this programme are that there is only one way to get onto the programme and there are very limited spaces compared with the amount of new graduates every six months. Your other options are to apply through health care providers directly, agencies and casual pool nursing organisations. Downfall of this is that they all require proven clinical experience so will not even take your details. Applying directly to private hospitals and rest home with hospitals attached? Once again require 2-3 years proven clinical experience.
If I go back to the cover letter, how can you show somebody your maturity, your compassion and empathy along with your willingness to learn more and that because of the change in direction of career at a later stage in life, which you are in this career for the long haul? How are you able to show your passion in educating young and old about their health and health options that are available to them?
I am willing to travel up to two hours away from my home to make sure I have that experience, but this still does not help. I am getting desperate but am also optimistic there is a job out there for me; there has to be!