“Perfect fit” nursing

surgical-glovesPicking a nursing specialty is easy for some–harder for others! New nurses need to ultimately decide what area of nursing fits them intellectually and emotionally, and sometimes that takes real work as well as changing jobs.

It is miserable to find oneself  in an area of nursing that doesn’t fit–for me that would have been med/surg or ortho. Yet I know many nurses who love those two areas and despise even the idea of labor and delivery. Plenty of nurses have accepted one job out of school only to find out that the job was a lousy fit, necessitating a specialty switch.

Going into nursing school, I knew exactly what specialty I was persuing: labor and delivery. I was so intensely focused during nursing school on labor that I would get very emotional whenever an instructor or other well-meaning person suggested that I go into med/surg at graduation. I can remember the precise day when, at my first obstetrics clinical, my instructor stated, “This hospital takes new grads into labor and delivery! You DO NOT have to work med/surg to specialize.” I could have shouted with joy!

So, in the fall of my senior year, I applied only to that same hospital, knowing I had a shot at my “dream” job. I bugged them to death for an interview and then was thrilled that they hired me within a week of that same interview. I was the first person in my nursing class with a GN job–and in OB to boot!

Recently, I had a nursing student assigned to me who stated that she wanted to get a GN job in telemetry. Yet every time she would go into our patient’s room (who was actively laboring) she would just light up and get very excited.  As the day progressed she started to ask more and more questions about becoming a labor nurse. She even stayed three hours past clinicals to support our patient through childbirth. I told her straight up, “I see a labor nurse in the making.” A few days later, when I saw her again, she told me she had been converted: that one good experience in labor and delivery had sold her on the specific vocation!

In my experience, I have seen student nurses either start school with an idea of what specialty they desired, or they have been seduced into a specialty by graduation. Only a couple of people in my class were unsure of where they wanted to end up, and both started on a med/surg floor straight out of school. The great thing about medical-surgical is that nurses “see it all” and can get some idea of what direction they want to go—many people believe med/surg rounds out new nurses. Yet, I have heard of med/surg nurses getting “stuck”—i.e. they started in med/surg wanting to move on into, say, L&D or Peds, only to find they had become specialists in their own area and had a hard time getting a job outside it!

Most nurses, in my experience, eventually just “click” with one specialty or another: either it touches their heart, ignites a passion within them, challenges them academically, or inspires them in some way. The issue is really finding the right job within that specialty, and in my opinion that happens fresh out of school. Why not just go for it? And the key is realizing that it is OK to change specialties if one doesn’t fit. Happy nurses love the specialty they are in!

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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14 Responses to “Perfect fit” nursing

  1. A friend of mine just recently became a nurse, and she said going through the L&D rotation made her want to just adopt all her kids, because it was “icky” (I think that was her word). Of course, to a birth junkie like me, the thought that there are nurses that don’t want to go into L&D is pretty weird. :-)

  2. prisca

    Kathy, yes, with L&D, you either love it…or not! 😉

  3. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    Well said. And only we nurses understand that ‘click’.

  4. Megan Gilbert RN

    Thanks for this! I love all the job advice!!

  5. Steph

    That is so true about L&D either love it or hate it, no in betweens!!

    In my 15 years of nursing, I have done a little bit of everything (believe me everything) and know now that L&D is my true calling, but due to my children’s activities, I’m working in an Internal Medicine office; don’t get me wrong, I still love my job, but it’s not the passion i have for L&D!!!

  6. lauren

    my passion is L&D/nursery. i love both of theses buti’m discouraged every time i’ve had an interview because i keep getting told i need med-surg experience even though i hate it with a passion. how are you able to convince people that this is your calling and not med-surg?

  7. lsanchez

    Mine was the ER, although, there were many pitfalls…I had not done any teching in the ER prior to becoming a RN and I had not done med/surg before going to the ER. The biggest problem in the ER was that I was green, wasn’t given the proper training in the beginning because the ER is, in a sense, very competative. THEY DO tend to “eat their young”. The “coordinator” at the time, had no time for me, didn’t like me, (as he and a couple of the dr.’s had their favs) and would stick me in observation for the most part to “get me out of the way” basically and I was working days. After about a year, I was able to move onto another ER and take the skills that I did manage to learn to another ER and learned even more on night shift – and from an LPN – for which I was thankful(shoutout to Evette!) and I was able to keep up. I think it takes a little bit of time to be properly precepted in the area that one wants to be in. It’s better to be precepted on nights, in my opinion, as there seems to be more time to explain/demonstrate procedures, etc. I now have been a RN for 8 yrs, having been in ER and in Psych…awaiting my next challenge.

  8. Lizzy

    I totally agree with your stance on specialising Prisca. I’m have just finished my degree to become an RN, having worked for the last 3-4 years as an EN (I think the American equivalent is an LPN?). Throughout university I have had so many nurses tell me I should do a grad year in med/surg in a big public hospital, and just the idea of spending a whole year on a med/surg ward fills me with dread. As an EN I have worked in these wards and know for sure that it’s just not for me. I can see that if I did it, I’d end up leaving half way through. Anyway, I went and applied for and was accepted for a grad year in my dream job with my number one choice of employer as a community nurse. I think it is so true about the ‘click’ when you realise where you’re meant to be, and I hope all the undergrads reading your article understand they have other choices!

  9. Angela

    Great article. My passion in nursing is Peds and Mother/Baby. To be honest, that was my whole reason behind becoming a nurse. In school, I cringed everytime someone told me I needed to do one year of med/surg first. I HATED med/surg in school. Ironically, due to the tight job market right now, I’ve ended up on an Ortho/Med-surg unit. 3 months in and I already know this is NOT for me. Because I was hired on as a new grad (even though I worked in a clinic for a year prior to this), my hospital requires that I stay put for 9 months before I can request a transfer to another department. I was kinda bummed about it, but I said I’ll suck it up, learn as much as I can and in the meantime take classes that will make me stand out to the area I really want to be in. I’m still not a big believer in “med/surg first”. If you find an area you like and they’re willing to give you a good, thorough training, then go for it!

  10. Ani Burr Scrubs Blogger

    Thanks for posting this! :) As a student, it’s always refreshing to hear someone talking about that “click”. I don’t agree that L&D is a love it or hate it specialty though. I LOVED my L&D rotation and was fascinated and strongly considering it, but then we went to peds and it turned out that I loved that more. It’s a close second for me, put not where my heart is 100% of the time. I have a few friends who live and breathe L&D, and it’s definitely for them! I guess it depends, but there was not hate for me in labor, just not 100% love. :) Thanks for posting!

  11. Nursemillie

    As a CNA I knew I would go ino renal after LPN school. I ended up on a med/surg floor for about a month when I had a family trajedy and had to make a change. I started at a FP office and love office nursing. I am now going back for my RN to do diabetes education. This is my calling.

  12. Resi

    so good to hear! I REALLY HATE it when people say new grads need to do med-surg first before specializing! i HATE it with a PASSiON! I’m a new graduate nurse, and just got a position in PostPartum (though my first love is in peds, but i’m definitely not complaining!). I hate it when people say new grads need to do med-surg first because, for me, I hate the thought of being stuck in adult medsurg (peds med surg i dont mind!); although with the economy right now, i prepared myself for it. But it’s really just not for me. The way I see it, if someone is really passionate about something, they will do their best, they will pour their heart into the speciality, no matter how difficult it may be. And that would be better for everyone all around!

  13. Jamie

    This was a great read. I am a second semester LPN student. I originally thought I wanted L&D but after the birth of my second child I realized my passion wasn’t the L & D side but the nursery & NICU. I’m not sure what it is but I love the idea of helping new mom’s with breastfeeding, taking care of these blessings, getting introduced to motherhood, & really to support the family. I think NICU would be a great place as I am a Christian and I feel that I would just increase my faith & you are able to dedicate your time to a family during a time of need. I have such a passion for nursery, but am afraid that when time comes I wont find an opening.

  14. Brenda

    As an LPN I was never really give an option to “specialize”. I have also been out of school 35 plus years. I did long term care early in my career and loved it. I was fortunate enough when I moved towns to have an OB manager who had just taken over and wanted to train her own new team, hire me. I had hated OB in school mostly because I disliked the instructor. With this manager I blossomed and got a whole new understanding of it which was wonderful because down the road I worked for an OB doctor when my own children were little. Later I enjoyed the experience of working for a pulmonary doctor and then I was a float in a multi-doctor clinic. Now I work adolescent psych and can’t picture doing anything else. I have loved the variety of what I have done. The variety
    is what kept me from burn out and kept me in nursing. It has been the willingness to keep an open mind and try new areas that has been my blessing. So I encourage all new grads out there to keep an open mind. The most content nurses I have met have enjoyed the versatility of switching to a new area periodically. It keeps us on our toes and learning. Over the years I have been fortunate also to have some delightful managers who were encouraging and willing to try me out .