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How to Set Goals That Lead to Happiness

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, may answer one of the paradoxes of happiness: why trying to be happy sometimes makes us less happy (Rudd et al., 2014).

Perhaps, suggest the authors, our goals for happiness are too broad and all-encompassing, when they’d be better off specific and achievable.

Unrealistic expectations of how happy we can be and what we can achieve may lead to more unhappiness in the long-term.

One of the study’s authors, Jennifer Aaker, explained:

“Although the desire for personal happiness may be clear, the path to achieving it is indefinite.

One reason for this hazy route to happiness is that although people often think they know what leads to happiness, their predictions about what will make them happy are often inaccurate.”

To investigate these ideas, the researchers carried out a series of six experiments.

In one experiment, participants were divided into two groups and each formed a slightly different type of goal:

One group formed the goal of making someone happy,
Another group formed the goal of making someone smile.
People then performed all sorts of acts of kindness in pursuit of this goal, like:

Giving a gift.
Telling a joke.
Sharing an amusing video.
Giving some food.
What the researchers found was that the acts performed in the service of the concrete goal (making someone smile) made the givers themselves feel happier than the abstract goal (making someone happy).

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How To Set Better Goals: Avoid Four Common Mistakes

It’s no accident that goal-setting pervades so many areas of modern life.

There are hundreds of research studies going back decades showing that setting goals can increase people’s performance.

Most have heard the goal-setting mantra that goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted (S.M.A.R.T.); but few recognise the dangers of poor goal-setting and the unintended consequences that can follow.

Here’s how to avoid four common problems with goal-setting, which are highlighted by Ordonez et al. (2009) at the Harvard Business School.

1. Too specific

The problem with setting goals that are too specific is that they can bias people’s behaviour in unintended ways.  For example:

If you use goals to effectively tell a university professor that all that’s important is publishing articles, then what is going to happen to her teaching?
If you tell call-centre staff that the main thing is how quickly they answer the phone, what’s going to happen to how they deal with the call?
Very specific goals can degrade overall performance by warping the way people view their jobs.

Better goals: keep them somewhat vague. This gives people control and choice over how they do their jobs. When people are given vaguer goals they can take into account more factors: in short it makes them think for themselves. It’s no wonder that having control is strongly linked with job satisfaction.

2. Too many goals

Perhaps the answer, then, is to set loads of goals which cover all aspects of a person’s work? Not necessarily, as that introduces its own problems.

For one thing people tend to concentrate on the easiest goal to the exclusion of the others. For example, in one study participants were given both quality and quantity goals related to a task. When quantity goals were easier to achieve than quality, they focused mostly on quantity.

This study is showing how a well-meaning goal can warp people’s behaviour in unintended directions.

Better goals: limit the total number of goals. Apart from anything else, who can remember 10 or 20 goals they are supposed to be working towards?

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Tidy or Messy Desk: Which is Best For The Mind?

And yet the messy desk can attract smirks and even censure in the office.

So, how to solve the great messy/tidy desk debate? Who is right?

Well, new research has found that order and disorder in the environment have different psychological consequences.

In their first experiment participants were asked to fill out some questionnaires in an office (Vohs et al., 2013). Some did it while the office was clean and tidy and others did so when it was messy, with office supplies and papers strewn about.

Afterwards they had the chance to donate to charity and choose a healthy or unhealthy snack. The results showed that:

“Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them. Compared with participants in the messy room, they donated more of their own money to charity and were more likely to choose the apple over the candy bar.”

So the workplace that wants compliance and good behaviour is probably right to put a premium on tidy desks.

What, though, if you want creativity?

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10 Psychological Keys to Job Satisfaction

If some job satisfaction surveys are to be believed then as many as a third of us are considering a change of job. Clearly many are finding it hard to get that feeling of satisfaction from work.

Job satisfaction is important not just because it boosts work performance but also because it increases our quality of life. Many people spend so much time at work that when it becomes dissatisfying, the rest of their life soon follows.

Everyone’s job is different but here are 10 factors that psychologists regularly find are important in how satisfied people are with their jobs.

1. Little hassles

If you ask doctors what is the worst part of their jobs, what do you think they say? Carrying out difficult, painful procedures? Telling people they’ve only got months to live? No, it’s something that might seem much less stressful: administration.

We tend to downplay day-to-day irritations, thinking we’ve got bigger fish to fry. But actually people’s job satisfaction is surprisingly sensitive to daily hassles. It might not seem like much but when it happens almost every day and it’s beyond our control, it hits job satisfaction hard.

This category is one of the easiest wins for boosting employee satisfaction. Managers should find out about those little daily hassles and address them—your employees will love you for it.

2. Perception of fair pay

Whatever your job, for you to be satisfied the pay should be fair. The bigger the difference between what you think you should earn and what you do earn, the less satisfied you’ll be.

The important point here is it’s all about perception. If you perceive that other people doing a similar job get paid about the same as you then you’re more likely to be satisfied with your job than if you think they’re getting more than you.

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The hidden qualities and tiny tricks that make someone an influential leader

Find your balance

Experts say you only have a few seconds to make a first impression. What exactly happens in those few seconds that determine whether someone likes or respects you?

It turns out, when others are sizing you up, they’re measuring your “strength” and “warmth,” characteristics, according to communication strategists Matt Kohut and John Neffinger in their book Compelling People, which is currently being taught at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools.

Strength is your capacity to make things happen with skills and willingness while warmth is the sense that you share the same feelings, interests, and view of the world as the person you’re speaking to.

“The discovery of strength and warmth that John and I had came from our early clients,” says Kohut. “They were either very accomplished and smart people to the point that they seem only interested in themselves and come off very cold and unfeeling. Or they were the nicest people in the world, but they were falling all over themselves apologizing and we feel like they won’t be able to deliver when the shops are down.”

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How Music Affects Your Productivity

It is for this reason (and many more) that music is regarded as one of the triumphs of human creativity--but does music itself help one to create?

This is an important question to examine, because music has increasingly become apart of the modern-day work session.

The soldiers of yore may have faced insurmountable odds to the sound of trumpets, but we desk jockeys are typically left to fend off our piling inboxes with nothing more than iTunes.

With so much of our work now being done at computers, music has become an important way to “optimize the boring.”

Though it may be a fine way to avoid habituation, the question remains: does music actually make you more productive? More focused? More creative? Or is all that a placebo?

People like me need to know. For nearly all of my work sessions, I have music playing in the background. I once wrote 10,529 words on customer loyalty (how exciting) listening to nothing other than the SimCity 2000 soundtrack--and yes, more on that later.

Am I actively sabotaging myself, or is music spurring me to do better work?

Let’s take a look at the research.

MUSIC MAY HELP MAKE REPETITIVE TASKS EASIER
When evaluating music’s effectiveness in increasing productive output, one element to consider how “immersive” the task at hand is.

This refers to the variability and creative demand of the task--writing a brand new essay from scratch is synthesis work that demands a lot of creativity; answering your emails is mundane work that does not.

When the task is clearly defined and is repetitive in nature, the research seems to suggest that music is definitely useful.

A series of experiments has investigated the relationship between the playing of background music during the performance of repetitive work and efficiency in performing such a task. The results give strong support to the contention that economic benefits can accure from the use of music in industry.

More modern studies would argue that it perhaps isn’t the background noise of the music itself, but rather the improved mood that your favorite music creates that is the source of this bump in productivity.

Music with a dissonant tone was found to have no impact to productivity, while music in the major mode had different results: “Subjects hearing BGM (background music) achieved greater productivity when BGM was in the major mode.”

The effects music can have in relation to repetitive tasks were further explored in this study, which showcased how assembly line workers displayed signs of increased happiness and efficiency while listening to music.

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Creating Job Satisfaction

For many of us, the idea of having a job that is truly satisfying – the kind where work doesn’t feel like work anymore – is pure fantasy. Sure, professional athletes, ski patrollers, and golf pros may have found a way of doing what they love and getting paid for it. But is there actually anyone out there who dreams of sitting at a desk and processing paper, or watching products fly by them on conveyor belts, or working to solve other people’s problems?

Career dreams are one thing; practical reality is often another. When they happily coincide, seize the opportunity and enjoy it! Luckily, when they do not, it’s good to know that it is possible to get job satisfaction from a practical choice of career. Job satisfaction doesn’t have to mean pursuing the ultra-glamorous or making money from your hobby. You can work at job satisfaction, and find it in the most unexpected places…

The heart of job satisfaction is in your attitude and expectations; it’s more about how you approach your job than the actual duties you perform. Whether you work on the farm, a production line, in the corner office or on the basketball court, the secret is to understand the key ingredients of your unique recipe for job satisfaction.

Identify your Satisfaction Triggers

There are three basic approaches to work: is it a job, a career, or a passion? Depending on which type of work you are in right now, the things that give you satisfaction will vary.

If you work at a JOB, the compensation aspects of the position will probably hold more appeal than anything else, and have the greatest impact on whether you stay or go.
If you work at a CAREER, you are looking for promotions and career development opportunities. Your overall satisfaction is typically linked with your status, power, or position.
If you work at a PASSION, the work itself is the factor that determines your satisfaction, regardless of money, prestige, or control.
Inevitably, these are generalizations, and you will probably find that you get satisfaction from more than one approach to work. Being aware of the type of work you are doing, and the things you need for job satisfaction, will help you to identify and adjust your satisfaction expectations accordingly.

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Becoming Well-Liked at Work

IJoe Clueless (a real person whose name I’ve changed to protect the guilty) is smart, handsome, and hardworking. Yet he’s been let go many times from corporate jobs and now, at 45, is a substitute teacher.

Joe needed all these lessons. Perhaps even you could use one or two:
LESSON 1. Joe was unduly negative: “That idea will never work.” or “This company isn’t going anywhere.” Even if you’re right, you pay a big likeability price for each complaint. So, when tempted to be negative, assess whether the benefit is worth the likely liability: Is this person open to criticism? Have you criticized him too often in the past? How likely is it she’ll change her mind?

You also improve your risk/reward ratio if you criticize only when you can propose (tactfully) a likely acceptable solution. Otherwise, you’re just seen as a whiner.

LESSON 2. Joe assumed that his obvious intelligence justified a know-it-all style. Even if your statements are brilliant, that style unnecessarily demeans everyone else. And who knows, even you might occasionally be wrong. So, make assertions in a way that allows for the possibility you’re incorrect, for example, “I think (insert your statement.) What do you think?”

Rule of thumb: If your argument is rejected, take no more than one more stab at it. If that doesn’t work, drop it. Pursuing it further is more likely to brand you as stubborn than to change minds.

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Eight Keys to Making the Most of Your Job

Be effective where you are

You think landing a great job is important? Even more important is whether you make the most of it. These rules show you how:

-- Don’t let the cement dry. My daughter got a job in the White House. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was to answer letters to Socks, the Clintons’ cat. I told her: “Right now, your feet are in wet cement. Unless you get pulled out now, you’ll probably be stuck there. Tell your boss, ‘I’m willing to pay my dues but I believe I could contribute more. I’m a pretty good writer and researcher,” In two weeks, my daughter was writing Hillary’s daily briefing. Moral: Don’t like your first job description? Tactfully ask for a change.

-- Be Time-Effective. Jiminy Cricket sat on Pinocchio’s shoulder, ever whispering advice in the long-nosed marionette’s ear. The most productive employees also have a little voice on their shoulder ever whispering in their ear, ‘Is this the most time-effective way?” Not, “Is this the fastest?” Not, “Is this the highest-quality?” But “Is this the most time-effective way?”

-- Get credit. Get credit for your good work. Have a great idea? Don’t just tell your boss. Bring it up at a meeting. Have you created a draft work product you’re proud of? Consider sending it to respected colleagues for feedback…and to show them that you’re hot stuff. At evaluation time, ask, “I’ve kept a list of some work efforts I feel good about. Would you like to see it?”

-- Get the truth and get it fast. Garrison Keillor, host of A Prairie Home Companion, speaks of the imaginary Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average. In real life, also, most people think of themselves as above average, which is why most terminated employees are shocked. So, from Day One, ask for candid feedback, not just you’re your boss but from respected coworkers, customers, etc. And when you get that feedback, don’t necessarily change, but truly consider it.

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What to Do if a Company Asks for Your Facebook Password in a Job Interview

Imagine you’ve been on the job market for about six months. You are paying your mortgage on your credit cards at this point. Your unemployment benefits are about to run out and your job prospects remain dismal, no matter what you seem to do.

Finally, you land a killer opportunity, pass the phone screen and show up to an interview with a hiring manager. Just as you think you’re about to close the deal, she spins her computer screen around and asks you to login to your Facebook account.

What do you do?

This is common enough that it now has a name: Shoulder Surfing. According to Lori Andrews, a law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law specializing in Internet privacy, this practice is “coercion if you need a job”. Not to mention the violation in Facebook’s privacy policy, albeit unenforceable.

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