Changing careers within nursing

iodrakon | Veer

With the state of our economy (and job market), everyone has to become more flexible with their careers.

Fortunately, as nurses, we have this amazing opportunity that most professions do not have: We can “float” or transfer jobs without needing additional schooling or education.

This unique component of nursing  is particularly relevant to this reader question:

How do you break free of the pigeonhole of one type of nursing? For example, I have spent nearly 20 years as a geriatric nurse and would like to take my career in a new direction, but I have found it increasingly difficult to do so. Thanks.

Kelly, LPN

Dear Kelly:

You’re a seasoned nurse, so you have the smarts to make the leap. And while I’ve said this blanket statement before, I understand that it does have its limits. Jumping over the fence to more distant pastures is possible, but it’s not as simple as a hop, skip or a jump.

Here are some things to keep in mind when wanting to make that leap to a different arena of nursing:

Clinical vs. Non-clinical

This is the “bedside” versus the “office” job. In my experience, it’s a more feasible transition to go from clinical to non-clinical. Vice versa is not as easy. The old adage of “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” applies here. When is the last time you placed an IV? How are your time management skills? It’s entirely possible to transition to both, just keep in mind you may have to start from the beginning. Most clinical employers need employees that require little training or orientation.

Comfort zone

Are you willing to step outside of it? Most employers want flexibility and willingness. So you may have to work a different schedule. You may have to travel further. You MAY have to work nights. Whatever you do, don’t expect special treatment simply because you have been a nurse for a number of years.

Expect resistance

Yes, there is a nursing shortage, but don’t expect an easy transition. Put yourself in your potential employers’ shoes. Why should they hire you? What experience do you have in this (probably new) area of nursing? Be patient. Be understanding. But above all, be diligent and unrelenting. Dare I say be aggressive?

Find more feathers

Nursing has evolved into a highly technologically-advanced profession. It will take more than just a basic nursing education to draw the attention of most employers. What special skills do you have? What can you offer that few nurses possess: Certifications? Additional training? Specialty education? Are you pursuing an advanced education? What are your goals? How many feathers do you have in your cap?

Dream high, but be realistic

Not everyone hits the bull’s-eye on the first try. Progression and change are always incremental. So what if you didn’t get the “dream” job? Maybe you have to accept an intermediate position first to get your feet wet (again). Maybe you need that intermediate job to brush up on those skills that have been dormant. Maybe you need to take a smaller step before taking the big leap. Just remember that any step forward is better than falling back.

Best of luck!

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