Current ESN's: Carlin Patterson, Louis Raquel, Chantel Rasmussen (from left to right)

Each year Providence Health Care hires nursing students into numerous positions at St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount St. Joseph Hospital as part of the Employed Student Nurse (ESN) program.  The ESN program provides RN students an opportunity to continue their professional development and become part of a committed interdisciplinary team. This paid employment experience allows students to consolidate the knowledge and skills learned in school while gaining increased exposure to the clinical setting. It is an excellent way for students to learn through hands on experience in the field. 

This week, I sat down with Cindy Elliott and Nala Murray to learn just what it takes to get through the ESN application process and what a candidate can do to stand out from the pile.

Cindy and Nala, what makes a great ESN application?

Nala: I always look for an attached cover letter – although we do not specifically ask for this, a cover letter attached to a resume is a great way to introduce yourself. This adds a personal touch to the formal process and an opportunity to stand out from the other applicants and catch our attention. 

Within the formal ESN application there are two questions that require a written answer. This is an excellent opportunity for an ESN candidate to tell us about his/her career goals and interests.

Cindy: I always look for a completed application, read the application instructions carefully. We ask on the application the question: What about working as an ESN at Providence Health Care appeals to you? I look for answers that really demonstrate consideration as to why they want to work with PHC specifically. All the health authorities have similar programs and students apply to them all, so an applicant that shows they put thought into their answer will get noticed.

In searching for ESN candidates, are there any standout qualities or experience that you are looking for?

Nala: We understand that student nurses are still students; that learning and knowledge is ongoing and we take this into account.  Since most of our ESNs are placed on acute Medical or Surgical nursing units, it is important that the candidate has had, or will have had a clinical placement in an acute setting before starting as an ESN.

Cindy: I am looking for candidates that can demonstrate critical thinking skills.  Think about your previous placements and draw from those experiences.

As for stand out qualities: We look for ESN candidates whose personal/professional values jive with those of PHC’s Mission, Vision, and Values. An ESN candidate who believes in these and is caring, compassionate, detail oriented, a team player, Patient and Family Centred, enticed by the diverse population that we serve and strives to be an advocate for our patients and families, is the ESN that we want to hire.

What is the percentage of ESNs that get hired to Providence?

At PHC we have a very limited number of positions available for ESNs. We have only one intake per year.   Out of the number of applicants that we invite for an ESN interview, 93% are successful in securing a position at Providence.

Why become an ESN?

Nala: Being hired to an ESN position on a specific nursing unit at PHC provides a student nurse with an exciting opportunity to become a valued member of the Interdisciplinary team where they can practice the skills that they have learned in school. An ESN is always supernumerary (in addition to the usual number of RNs). This allows the ESN to work collaboratively with the RN they are assigned with and time to plan and research procedural guidelines and policies.

Cindy: The ESN program provides a nurturing environment where ESNs can gain real work experience as being part of a nursing team.  The staff really coach and mentor the ESNs and make their training all about them and their development for the future. It is an excellent way for them to gain experience and consolidate their skills while earning some money.

ESNs at PHC gain knowledge and enhance their abilities from the experiences that arise in the practice setting. This helps to prepare the student nurse for their final preceptorship or to the new role of graduate nurse.   

What advice do you have to future ESN applicants?

Cindy: Do your homework! Before the interview, reflect on your experience in nursing so far so you are better prepared to answer questions.  Think about situations in placements that were learning experiences and situations where you had to use critical thinking. 

Nala: Each health authority has a philosophy of care. Research and understand the mission, vision and values of the organization that you are applying to and if these fit with you, tell us why you want to work with us and what you will bring to our organization.

The Employed Student Nurse Program at PHC will most definitely provide students with the experiences that they seek, offering guided opportunities and support to practice skills which enhance the knowledge that they have learned in school and prepare them to practice safely and efficiently as a nurse after they graduate.

Are you interested in becoming an Employed Student Nurse? ESNs are placed in various areas in the hospital, including Acute Medicine, Surgery, Mental Health, Cardiac, Renal, Critical Care and Maternity. As an ESN, not only are you gaining invaluable training you can also earn seniority towards your first job with us!  

In order to qualify for an ESN position you must have the following:

• Successfully completed the equivalent of 2nd year in a recognized nursing education program.

• Maintain enrolment in the equivalent 3rd or 4th year of the program.

• Current CPR Certification.

Visit our webpage in the fall for an ESN application and details on how to apply!

Also, stay tuned this month! We chat with current ESNs about their experiences.