How long does getting a job as a nurse usually take?

The process of becoming a nurse is multifaceted and thorough, reflecting the critical nature of the profession.

The journey from job application to employment involves several stages, each designed to ensure that candidates are not only qualified but also suitable for the role in terms of character and capability. 

One of the essential components of this process is the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, which adds a significant amount of time but is crucial for maintaining patient safety and trust. Let’s explore the typical timeline for securing a nursing job, focusing on the various steps involved and the impact of DBS checks.

Job application process

Once educational and licensing prerequisites are met, the actual job application process begins. 

This process includes several stages:

  • Job Search and Application: Finding suitable job openings and submitting applications can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the job market and the candidate’s qualifications. Nurses often apply to multiple positions simultaneously to increase their chances of securing a job.
  • Initial Screening: After applications are submitted, employers conduct initial screenings, which may include reviewing resumes, cover letters and online application forms. This stage typically takes 1-2 weeks.
  • Interviews: The interview process usually consists of multiple rounds, including phone interviews, in-person or virtual interviews and possibly panel interviews. Scheduling and completing these interviews can take an additional 2-4 weeks.
  • Job Offer and Negotiation: If successful in the interviews, candidates receive a job offer. Negotiating terms and finalising the offer may take another 1-2 weeks.

Background checks and DBS checks

One of the most time-consuming aspects of the hiring process for nurses and for many other employers, such as Tescos, BrewDog, Funky Socks and everything in between, is the background check, particularly the DBS check. This step is essential for ensuring the safety and well-being of patients and the integrity of the healthcare system.

Types of DBS checks

There are several types of DBS checks, with varying levels of detail:

  • Basic DBS Check: Provides information about unspent convictions.
  • Standard DBS Check: Includes details of both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings.
  • Enhanced DBS Check: Contains all the information from a Standard check plus any additional information held by local police that is considered relevant.
  • Enhanced with Barred Lists Check: Includes everything in an Enhanced check plus a check against the DBS Barred Lists to ensure the individual is not barred from working with vulnerable groups.

Timeframe for DBS checks

The timeframe for completing a DBS check can vary:

  • Basic DBS Check: Typically takes around 14 days.
  • Enhanced DBS Check: This can take up to 8 weeks, depending on the complexity of the case and the responsiveness of local police departments.

Strategies for streamlining the process

Given the length and complexity of the hiring process for nurses, both candidates and employers can take steps to streamline it:

  • Early Initiation of DBS Checks: Employers can start the DBS check process as soon as a candidate is identified as a strong contender. This can be done concurrently with the final stages of the interview process to save time.
  • Efficient Job Search Strategies: Candidates can use job boards, professional networks and recruitment agencies specialising in healthcare to find job openings more quickly and efficiently.
  • Clear Communication: Employers should maintain clear and open communication with candidates about the timeline and status of their applications, particularly regarding DBS checks. This transparency helps manage expectations and keep candidates engaged.
  • Using Technology: Advanced applicant tracking systems (ATS) and online DBS check platforms can help streamline administrative tasks, improve coordination and reduce processing times.
  • Provisional Offers: Employers might consider making provisional job offers contingent on the successful completion of DBS checks. This allows candidates to begin non-clinical aspects of onboarding, such as training while awaiting the results of their background checks.

DBS checked are crucial in the nursing profession

The process of getting a job as a nurse is comprehensive and necessarily rigorous. While the various stages, especially the DBS checks, can significantly lengthen the timeline, they are crucial for ensuring that only qualified and trustworthy individuals enter this vital profession. 

By understanding the typical timeline and implementing strategies to streamline the process, both candidates and employers can navigate the complexities of nurse recruitment more efficiently, ultimately contributing to a safer and more effective healthcare system.