RN Careers in New Jersey: Becoming an RN

A New Jersey RN license allows a person to provide professional nursing services in many types of organization. The most common work setting is hospital inpatient; the second most common, the nursing home. But one will also find registered nurses in ambulatory care centers, schools, home health agencies, call centers, dialysis centers, rehabilitation centers, government agencies, and other public health organizations. The New Jersey RN workforce enjoy the benefits of having high-caliber – and in some cases, influential – healthcare organizations nearby.

Becoming an RN

Prospective RNs must complete educational programs (RN programs in New Jersey) that qualify them to take the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. Residency, or transition-to-practice, is not mandatory, but is recommended by some state organizations.

Most of New Jersey’s pre-licensure RN programs (like those nationwide) are at the associate’s or bachelor’s level; there are also diploma and direct entry master’s options. Some nurses further their education post-licensure.

The New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing has noted some differences in the distribution of clinical hours between program types. Bachelor’s, associate’s, and diploma students all spend the majority of their clinical time in acute care. However, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students tend to spend a smaller proportion of their time in acute care relatively speaking; preventative care, on the other hand, is an area where they got more hands-on practice.

Nationwide, bachelor’s programs include more preparation for implementing evidence-based practices and working in leadership roles. New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is among the organizations that have been instrumental, on a national level, in making higher levels of education the norm. The goal is to make nurses leaders in changing the healthcare status quo, not just maintaining it.

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New Jersey Employers

The New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing, with the aid of technology, examined a total of more than 6,300 RN job postings from January to December of 2016. 63.1% were considered generic; 36.9% were considered specialized. Some positions were considered specialized because of the unit (for example, operating room, emergency department).

Others were considered specialized because of the role (for example, nurse manager, case worker). The most common specialized roles noted were nurse manager, intensive care nurse, operating room nurse, case manager, home health nurse, pediatric nurse and dialysis nurse. Among the others on the top 25 list were school nurse, nurse navigator, oncology nurse, telemetry registered nurse, radiology registered nurse, and psychiatric/ behavioral health nurse.

Healthcare organizations can have a more difficult time finding candidates who are a good fit for their specialized positions. One of New Jersey’s premier health systems, Atlantic Healthcare, noted that specialist nursing positions were among their areas of focus for the coming year. Among these are emergency department, operating room, neonatal intensive care unit, critical care, home care, and case management.

The New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing also noted the healthcare organizations that were doing the most hiring. Healthcare systems tended to be in the top spots. The Center notes that lots of jobs advertisements can mean either of two things: lots of positions to fill or lots of turnover. At the top of the ‘job ads’ list — and by no small amount – one finds Barnabas Health Care System, self-described as New Jersey’s largest integrated healthcare system. Barnabas operates home health and hospice systems and behavioral health centers as well as hospitals and medical centers throughout the state. Fully three children’s hospitals are under the Barnabas banner. Next on the list is Meridian Health System, closely followed by Bayada Home Health Care and Virtua Health.

In 2016, the concentration of RN job postings was highest in Monmouth and Essex counties; Essex County had the highest total number of RN postings.

Spotlight on Atlantic Health System

Further down on the list — #13 – one finds Atlantic Health System. Atlantic Health System, notably, is #6 on Fortune’s list of best places to work in healthcare. Among the things that make the organization stand out: Their CEO met with more than 700 employees during his first year on the job in what the organization calls ‘Food for Thought’ sessions. The Atlantic Health organization notes that there’s a mentorship program in place for new hires. They pay up to $5,000 in tuition assistance and offer some on-site programming to allow employees to learn new skills; The ‘School at Work’ program provides opportunities for them to learn skills that might be helpful if they were in a position other than the one they are currently in. Flexible schedules and on-site amenities are among the work-balance perks. The Atlantic pet therapy program is available to employees as well as patients. As Atlantic Health told Top Places to Work, a bit of time with a dog can help one recover from a “ruff” day.

Atlantic is a popular employer. What do they look for when selecting employees? Partly it’s about being a good fit. Interviewees ask questions that require interviewees to describe particular experiences and how they have handled them. Atlantic notes that they do outreach: job fairs, meet and greet sessions. Their clinical affiliations with top schools also allow them to discover new talent. If individuals who are new to the field stay posted they may find other opportunities such as internships.

Top New Jersey Healthcare Organizations

Fully 23 of the hospitals currently granted magnet status by the American Nurses Credentialing Center are located in New Jersey. Magnet hospitals are known for high-caliber nursing and (not surprisingly) for being able to attract and retain talented nurses. Sometimes a large health system will have several magnet facilities under its banner. This doesn’t mean the entire health system is. Under the Saint Barnabas banner one finds the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Somerset in Somerville. RNs who work in other locations enjoy similar tangible benefits, including tuition reimbursement and bonuses for national certification.

Organizations in Camden are well-known for innovations in care coordination for vulnerable citizens with complex needs.

Average Salary

New Jersey registered nurses make well above the national norm, salary-wise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an average wage of $38.74, or $80,580for 52 40-hour weeks. (The Collaborating Center for Nursing reports that a majority of New Jersey RNs work 35 to 40 hours per week.)

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