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Seeking nurse jobs? 4 traits to look for in a good employer

8 Tips for Effective Leadership

Nursing grads may dream of high salaries, but even the best nurse pay isn't all a nurse needs to be happy. It's also important to evaluate all potential job offers to make sure you'll be working for a good employer. The process can take some sleuthing, soul-searching and a good dose of discernment.

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Especially with labor shortages dogging the nursing industry, employers have strong motivation to portray their nurse employment opportunities in a good light. How can you determine if a potential employer actually provides a good working environment? Here are four traits to look for, according to career experts and beginner nurse advisors:

The employer is trustworthy and upstanding. Of course, no hospital, home health agency or private practice will place a premium on all the same values you do. But a nurse should establish a baseline and deal-breakers early in the job hunt, not just salary requirements. "Before starting your research, take some time to think about what you want and need — both from and beyond the job — to be successful and truly engaged at work. Think about the core values and principles you hope guide that company, the type of work you'd like to do there, and the kinds of people who create and preserve the culture itself," said Kathleen Pai, vice president of HR at Ultimate Software told CIO. "While pay and job security remain essential, factors such as trust, open communication, professional development, and company reputation play an increasingly important role in influencing employees' long-term happiness and commitment to the workplace."

CIO recommended getting a glimpse of a larger employer's values via online sites, particularly the employee-generated reviews and "Best Places to Work" ranking on Glassdoor. "While every employee's experience will be different, you should be able to get a strong sense for how the business operates," CIO said.

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The employer supplements proven work-life balance benefits. Certain employer traits reliably predict future employee job satisfaction, according to Harvard Business Review's list of "Best Companies to Work For." "The best places to work provide people with life satisfaction as opposed to job satisfaction alone," noted Michael O'Malley, who joined Bill Baker to put in three years of company research and interviews to make selections for the list published in 2019. "Companies we talked to...offered a robust number of supplemental programs to help employees maintain work-life balance and improve their mental and physical health. Such programs include stress-reduction workshops, nutritional consultations, financial planning, and grievance counseling services."

The employer forges genuine employee connections. Another great trait of a good employer: they engage employees as "vigorous socializers -- from day one through retirement" O'Malley added. "Their social events are not, as one employee at Health Catalyst said, 'funishments'— rare and artificial team-building exercises that people are forced to take part in and required to enjoy. Rather the stuff that builds the joints and connective tissues of teams, which in turn enables members to move nimbly and in unison, occurs regularly and spontaneously."

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The employer invites nurses to sit at the table. Jane Carmody, the chief nursing officer at CHI Health in Omaha, advised job seekers at larger medical employers to check out the senior nurse team and its duties. "Ask about employee engagement scores (NDNQI results if provided, Pathway to Excellence survey results and so on)," she told Nurse.org. "A key indication of the organization's value of nursing will be that the chief nursing leader is part of the senior team and is at the table making decisions."