The Nurse Corps is a big commitment that deserves a lot of thought and consideration before applying (and accepting, if awarded). As someone who has been through the application and acceptance process, I want to share some insight on things to keep in mind when seeking this endeavor.
What’s your passion?
Who do you want to work with? “Nurse Corps site” is a very broad term. There are sites dedicated to homeless communities, Native Americans, LGBTQI, immigrants and refugees, rural populations. . . there are dialysis clinics that qualify and some hospice and palliative care sites. Where do you want to work? Who do you want to work with? Why? This should be the foundation of your thought process. The passion behind applying. And what solidifies your commitment to the program.
Where (geographically) do you want to work?
And are there sites in your area of interest? If so, how many? What type of populations do they serve? Are there only two or three sites? Because that narrows your job search like crazy and puts much more pressure on you if so. The Bay Area, for example, is full of sanctuary cities and the amount of qualified sites is overwhelming. There are hundreds of sites. I chose this area to job hunt in for those exact reasons. However, if I went back home to Boulder, CO, there’s slim pickings and I better be willing to relocate if no openings are available when I’m searching. That being said. . .
Are you willing (and able) to relocate?
When I graduated NP school I was in Orange County — an area of California with very few Nurse Corps sites (all things considered, compared to the rest of the state). I knew right away I’d have to broaden my search to other parts of the state “just in case”. Do you have a plan B? Or C? Because you get nine months to find your own site and then they can place you anywhere! A N Y W H E R E. This generally is enough time for people to find a site, but much of this depends on how many sites are in your preferred area and the availability of job openings within your time frame. If you are unwilling (or unable) to relocate, just keep in mind this may add much more stress to your job search and could potentially end in you being placed somewhere “random”. It’s part of the contract and the commitment. Flexibility and the ability to choose 2 or 3 different areas will ensure much less stress and higher success for your job search.
Are you applying for the money?
If so, I highly encourage you to rethink the decision to commit. It’s ok to be stoked on the loan forgiveness or scholarship aspect of the Nurse Corps. I mean, duh. BUT, first and foremost, this should be your passion. Working with low-income and underserved populations is very different work. It’s not glamorous and it can be difficult work — with language barriers, resource shortages, different disease processes. . . many clinics are run down, short staffed, and have the bare minimum. To me, that’s incredibly enticing and the challenge I’m looking for in my career as a NP. But if all of that scares you or sounds awful, reconsider! It’s ok to not be interested in all that. It’s not for everyone. But the opportunity should stay open for someone who is more passionate and excited to take it on.
If you have the passion and drive to work with these very specific populations, have trust that committing will be worth it. This is a unique, life-changing opportunity that awaits you. . . with some of the most fulfilling work in the world to be done ahead!