During nursing school I remember being asked, “what type of nurse do you want to be?” by friends, family, and classmates. I always fumbled for a response and felt a sense of shame for not knowing what direction I wanted my nursing career to go. Two years into my nursing practice I now have a response to that question. The ‘type’ of nurse I want to be is one that is curious, caring, questions things when I have concerns, advocates for my patients, and works towards balance between my job and the rest of my life. I know most people were referring to the setting in which I wanted to practice when they asked me what type of nurse I wanted to be. However, what I have learned is that I want to experience many different areas of practice, and the ‘type’ of nurse I am reflects my values and how I choose to practice in each of these areas.
There are a plethora of opportunities within the field of nursing. I started my career in an acute setting on an inpatient unit supporting an oncology population. When I made the decision to explore other populations to support, I was nervous but very excited to explore the diversity that exists within this career.
To support others in navigating a practice area change I came up with a few tips that guided me through this process;
- Identify what skills (hard or soft) that you have learned in previous clinical areas
Healthcare is fast paced and we learn an incredible amount each time we go to work. Writing out a list of skills you have acquired can also help with building confidence to apply for other jobs. You realize you do have LOTS of skills and abilities- even if you’re ‘new’ to nursing!
- Reach out to classmates who did placements/preceptorships in areas you may be interested in
I found that reaching out to classmates from my cohort was helpful because I was able to ask about their experiences as students and/or a new grad if they were hired to their preceptorship unit. That being said, connecting with anyone to chat about their role is beneficial! In my experience, people love sharing about their roles and it I think it provides the person an opportunity to reflect on what it is they love about their work.
- Permission to try new areas of nursing
A friendly reminder that you are allowed to make a change in your career if that is what you need. New opportunities may appear unexpectedly or perhaps they are planned. However they arise, it is okay to switch things up.
- Try to not shy away from a clinical area because of self-doubt
If you are truly interested in an area of practice but are feeling held back in pursuing it because of self-doubt, I encourage you to remember that we are all continually working on our nursing practice. No one is perfect or has all of the answers. We are always learning and gaining skills, perspective and experience. Starting in a new clinical area can bring you right back to feeling like you’re on your first day of clinical in the first semester of nursing school (a little lost, a little nervous, very excited?!). Ensure you advocate for your learning needs in a new setting and connect with resources such as your educators and the leadership team if you feel you need more support or training.
I hope these tips support you in diversifying your nursing career and practice settings!