Onboarding Guide for Nurse Leaders 5 steps to Success

When hiring, you are investing in a person. You spend time, money, and resources. In fact, according to Forbes.com, US companies spent an average of 72 billion dollars or $3,300 per hire. That’s a lot of money! Now factor in that many new hires don’t work out and you can see how hiring and retaining is one of, if not the, biggest factors of success. To build a strong house, you must have a stronger foundation. This all starts with the onboarding process.

 “Replacing talent runs as high as two times annual salary,” said Peterson. “And it’s not just about dollars. Culture and job satisfaction is hugely impacted, as well as morale, productivity, lost insider knowledge. It’s painful to lose people.” Ben Paterson CEO of BambooHR

5 Steps to Onboard Star Players

Before You Hire

Nurse Resume On-Boarding

Onboarding starts before you even hire the employee. It begins with the first contact with a potential candidate. Gone are the days of interviewing someone like an FBI interrogator where only the strongest survive. Instead, interviewing is about getting to know a person, their strengths, and weaknesses and deciding if they have the qualifications and personality for your company. Also carefully screening candidates and reading their resume before you even call them to come in respects their time and yours.

Set the tone

Nurse Interview, On-boarding
Copyright: petro / 123RF Stock Photo

I remember showing up to an interview right out of nursing school. I walked into the building where someone was sitting at a desk nearby, I walked over and stood patiently waiting for the person to look up as they were typing away on the keyboard. They just started to look up when the phone rang. I remember thinking ok they’re a little busy just be patient. Then as I was staring at the clock watching the time I was scheduled to interview slip away, she hung up the phone, and an employee walked by. She then proceeded to turn for a nice little chat with this employee who had a date this weekend with a girl he met last night at a club.

I had been standing there for some time and at this point was getting irritated thinking if this is any indication of how they treat their employees it’s not for me. I politely interrupted, “I am so sorry I just want to make sure I am in the right place, I am here to interview with _____.”

Now just to clarify, I did eventually get the job, but it did not work out. The too busy to acknowledge or work with people mentality was a theme throughout this company, and I ended up looking for employment elsewhere.

Compare this to a company I interviewed at where I walked in the door and was greeted with a smile and offered a cup a coffee while I waited for the manager to come get me. One left me questioning if this was right, even after getting the job. The other left me hoping they chose me so I could be a part of this dynamic team.

“About one-third of the new hires who had quit said they’d had barely any onboarding or none at all, and 15 percent of respondents noted that lack of an effective onboarding process contributed to their decision to quit.” Said Roy Mayor in his article Onboarding Key to Retaining, Engaging Talent

Keeping the tone

Nurse On-boarding, Training,

Setting the tone in the onboarding process begins with the interview, however, maintaining the tone is crucial.

“In today’s working world, employees want – and expect – more than just a brief introduction to the company they just joined, a few training sessions and a pay check. They want a personalized, interactive experience and a comprehensive understanding of the organization and how it can help grow them professionally. And, it does not take long for them to decide if they made the right choice.” First Impressions Count: Creating a Positive Onboarding Experience.

After a significant employee turnover rate within a 30-day period of time, I decided to do an exit interview with a candidate who left the company after only 2 weeks of employment. I was impressed with this candidate from day one and trying to find out why they left so soon. The candidate painted a pretty ugly picture for me. The interview was great, and they had been so excited to start. However, day one came, and no one remembered they were scheduled to start, they ended up walking around for almost 2 hours trying to find someone who would let them know what they were supposed to be doing. Ok mistakes happen they thought let’s give it an another chance. Day 2 they showed up and went to meet the person who was supposed to mentor them and found that person to be out sick. “Everyone looked at me like I had a disease, no one wanted to train me,” he said to me. This story went on and on, in fact, in the end, I questioned why he hadn’t left sooner.

Having a plan with contingencies is critical. It’s important to have the candidate feel like they are in the middle of a well thought out proven process designed solely for their success. These employees call off less and are much more stable because they see stability in the onboarding process.

Too much too soon

Overwhelmed on-boarding nurse

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make in any industry is pushing new hires through the onboarding process too early. With staff shortages, and call offs, it’s tempting to grab the new hire and throw them on the floor to fill the spot. Not only is this dangerous in the medical field but it’s setting them up for failure. It is important to assess where they are and mold the process around them. Companies with a strict time limit for onboarding are not capturing the needs of their employees. Some of the greatest employees I have worked with took extra time in the onboarding process because they just weren’t ready to do it alone yet.

Create an Onboarding Experience

Nurse on-boarding eating alone

I remember my first day of high school. I didn’t know anyone. I walked onto campus with a map, books, and class list. Did I mention I didn’t know anyone? But you know what the one thing I dreaded from the time I woke up that fateful morning was? Lunch. You see, you can’t be too ambitious and sit with the popular kids but don’t want to jump into any group to early and get branded. At least until you get to know people. So instead you sit by yourself and hope no one notices you until you get the lay of the land.

What I didn’t know is that this dread followed me up through my career. Now I have grown much confident than the slightly nerdy kid I was back then. But it is always an uncomfortable social situation for me.

I then had an employer take control of this time. He took me to the cafeteria, showed me how to order, where to sit, and even sat with me during lunch. What an impression! I remember feeling very welcomed and relieved and built a great relationship from that day forward.

“It’s important for new hires to create meaningful connections with colleagues, management, and direct reports. Personally introduce new hires to the team during the first week (depending on the size of the team, you may want to spread this out over a few days). A team lunch is a great way for everyone to get to know each other on a personal and professional level.” The Staffing Stream.


Onboarding sets the pace for the rest of an employee’s career. Messing this up not only costs you time and money but potentially losing excellent candidates as well. One theory I have is that an excellent candidate is much less likely to stay in spite of a poor onboarding experience than a weak candidate. Those candidates that remain are often the ones who want to come to work scrape by and leave. While the people with higher standards move on to companies that meet their expectations.

To sum it up treat your candidates as people. Tailor your onboarding process to the individual and set the tone from day one.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Richard Branson


Nurse Interview and Resume Guide to Land Your Dream Job

With all the vast knowledge, available on interviewing I have pulled together a list of the top nurse interview guides, Some short and sweet some full length. You can be prepared for your next interview and land that dream job!


Facebook Group RNInterview Tools

My favorite group to date, “New Grad / Old Grad / Reentry Grad – The Struggle is Real!” RNInterview Tools is a great place to ask questions, read others comments and join a group of like-minded individuals sharing experiences and insights. I have been apart of this group for some time now and loved to read the questions and be part of the discussion.

Tips and How Too’s

11 Tips and Techniques for Your Nurse Interview

Great tips on timeliness presentation and attitude when going for that nurse job.

Five Tips for Nursing Job Interviews

Just need some last-minute tips? Check out nursing world’s top 5.

The Complete Guide to Successful Interviewing for nursing students and Alumni

If you really want to get indepth instruction on all things interview. Check out this resource from John Hopkins university. (there is a click here button to download the PDF)

Interview Questions

The Toughest Nursing Interview Questions And Answers That Will …

“When interviewing for a nursing position you want the interviewer to be blown away by your passion for your nursing career. Tackling these three interview questions will help your passion shine through and you will conquer the interview!”

How to Answer the most common Nursing Interview Questions

Guideline for how to answer those tough interview questions!

Types of Interviews

Ten tips for handling job interviews by phone – American Nurse Today

Handling interview by phone is tough. Check out American Nurse Today’s ten tips!

Ace the Interview: Behavioral Nurse – TheJobNetwork

Most companies have moved to behavior interview questions. Check out this guide.

10 Types of Interviews (and How to Ace Them) – The Muse

Companies vary in how they interview. This is an excellent guide to preparing for any kind of interview.

Understanding different types of job interviews, behavioral, second …

Another great article on various interviews this one not nursing specific.

Specialty Fields

Staff Nurse Interview Questions and Answers – Job-Interview-Site.com

Staff Nurse interview questions guide.

Operating Room Nurse Interview Questions – Resources – Workable

Operating Room nurse interviews

Interview Tips & Strategies for Travel Nurse Jobs at nursingjobs.com

Travel Nurse Tips and Tricks!

5 Key Flight Nurse Interview Tips | MyPerfectResume

Looking for an exciting career as a flight nurse? Check out the five interview tips from my perfect resume.

The Secret that Nurse Managers Look For In An Interview – nursecode …

Landing a nurse manager position isn’t for the faint of heart. Check out this guide on what interviers are looking for!

Baby Nurse Interview Tips: Common Questions | Pavillion Agency

Common questions for those looking to enter the world of peds.

Correctional Nurse Interview Prep Guide – Part I – Correctional Nurse …

Prep for that correctional nurse interview.

Addiction Nurse Interview Questions | MockQuestions

Here are some interview questions specific to the addiction nurse specialty.

7 Essential Interview Tips for Legal Nurse Consultants

Legal Nurse Consultants interview guide.

School Nurse – interview tips? | Mumsnet Discussion

A great resource on School Nurse interviews.


Nursing Resume Sample & Writing Guide | Resume Genius

I am a visual person so seeing samples is how I learn. Here is an excellent nurse resume sample.

Nurse Resume Sample | Monster.com

Another nurse resume sample.

Top 10 Details to Include on a Nursing Resume – RN Resume

Top 10 things that are a must on your resume.

Sample Nursing Student Resume – Baylor University

Again love seeing example of resumes to spark ideas.


What to Wear and Not Wear to a Nursing Interview – Verywell

Great article on what to wear and land that job.

Job Interviews: What To Wear – ADVANCE for Nurses – AdvanceWeb

Another great article on what to wear.

Before you dress for your next job interview, you’d better read this …

Not nursing specific but a great read for knowing your industry and dressing accordingly. “Employers in an interview setting do judge a book by its cover,” adds Zoller. “And many times, they’re not going to read the book if they don’t like the cover.”

Have more articles, Guides, and Resources? Please comment below for consideration in adding to this list! Also, I try to keep all links updated and corrected but sometimes these can change. If a link is not working please let me know and I will fix it asap.

Please LIKE and SHARE if you found this helpful!


Nurse Interview – 46 years of servant leadership

I recently had the opportunity to interview an incredible nurse leader Kathleen Brender. In her latest role, she was in a dual leadership role as an Executive Director and Health and Wellness Coordinator for a memory care community. I had the privilege to work with Kathy and see her passion for caring for residents with some of toughest cases of dementia. Kathy trained her team to work with Frontal Temporal Lobe Dementia and the most challenging of behaviors. Her community ran 100%, and she was known as the one to go to when no one else could care for their loved one.

Kathleen has been a nurse for over forty-six years. In this time, she has done everything from surgical nursing, geriatrics, to management, in fact in speaking with her there are few areas she has not touched on at some point or another. Kathy decided on becoming a nurse at the age of 10. Her father was in a very a severe car accident resulting in massive head injury and ended up in a coma for months. When he eventually came out of the coma, the hospital staff did everything to relate to him and illicit a positive response. It wasn’t until they showed him a picture of Kathy that he lit up and responded. Kathy was taken to the hospital every morning after that and spent the day working with him one on one. From that day forward she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.

I am so excited Kathy agreed to allow me to interview her and learn from her lifetime of dedication to the nursing field.


Derek Di Camillo: Thank you, Kathy, for doing this interview with me. There is so much we can learn from you and I appreciate your time.

Derek Di Camillo: Was there anything you specifically did with the sole purpose of growing your career?

Kathleen Brender: I sought out the best in the industry and positioned myself to learn from them.

Derek Di Camillo: You had worked in so many fields when did you decide to move into nurse management?

Kathleen Brender: I was 24 when I took my first leadership role.

Derek Di Camillo: In a world where skilled is king what made you decide to move into management and leadership?

Kathleen Brender: I didn’t like what I saw in management. I thought maybe I could make a difference and change things. My heart was with the geriatric population.

Derek Di Camillo: What influenced your leadership style at such a young age?

Kathleen Brender: I watched what others did and learned what made them successful. I was always learning and seeking out the best education I could for myself.

Derek Di Camillo: At 24 I am sure you made some mistakes. What mistakes did you make that changed the way you lead?

Kathleen Brender: I was always very trusting, and unfortunately I put trust in someone I shouldn’t have. I learned the hard way that you can’t always do that.

Derek Di Camillo: I think in many cases it is the little things that add up, forming the foundation of leadership success. What do you feel contributed to your success as a nurse leader?

Kathleen Brender: I learned early on you have to learn to work with others. I also never asked anyone to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself. Also, I focused my time and energy on doing a thorough interview and finding the right professionals to work with and learn from and listened to them. I learned to think before I responded and not react in anger.

Derek Di Camillo: How did you find the right professionals?

Kathleen Brender: I found people willing to work hard and learn. I showed them how important they are and showed them I was always there for them. I also found, if you show them support and make them feel valued they will always be at their best for you.

Derek Di Camillo: Is there anything you would do differently in your career?

Kathleen Brender: No, every failure was a learning experience, I learned from them and never made the same mistake twice. I have no regrets.

Derek Di Camillo: Often I see new nurse new leaders struggle with work-life balance. What advice would you give them?

Kathleen Brender: That is a tough one. You have to take care of yourself before you can help others. I found that you have to give a lot of yourself to your career, your staff, and your patients. Finding the balance can be tough. I think it comes down to the individual and is something different for each person.

Derek Di Camillo: What is one of the biggest challenges you faced in your career?

Kathleen Brender: Working for corporations. They come in and talk the talk but don’t always walk the walk. Often it feels like they are all about control. I think they often need to learn that If you take care of what is under your roof everything else will fall into place.

Derek Di Camillo: What was the most rewarding moment of your career?

Kathleen Brender: I have lots of these! I guess the best is seeing the smile on the staff and families face when they see, working together, we can make a difference in someone’s life. Also, with the love and kindness of an incredible team, providing a quality of life for whatever time the resident has left.

Derek DiCamillo: Are there any tools or recourses you found helpful?

Kathleen Brender: One of the best things I ever did was take my team through a reality training. They learned how it felt to be one of the residents. I found this training made all the difference in the world in the way they cared for the residents.

Derek Di Camillo: Thank you. Is there anything you would like to share with the readers?

Kathleen Brender: Be true to yourself, never compromise on your beliefs, support those you work with, always have an open mind, listen, and never stop learning, and you will succeed.

A special thank you to Kathy for not only taking the time to do this interview with me but, more importantly, devoting her life to the nursing industry and taking care of our aging population. You are appreciated for your contributions and passionate care you provided.