How to

fi nd and embrace work you love

Associate dean of nursing graduate programs at American Sentinel University discusses the steps RNs can take to make a career change in nursing.

By Linda Childers

Although some nurses work in a certain specialty fi eld their entire career, others may seek new challenges or want to change units or specialties. “Nurses have a strong desire to learn and grow,” said Elaine Foster, PhD, MSN, RN, associate

dean, nursing graduate programs at American Sentinel University in Aurora, Colo. “Typically nurses enter the fi eld in their 20s, and as they get older, their focus and priorities may change.” Foster frequently advises nurses who are ready to make a career change. Whether a nurse wants to

move from a job at the bedside into more of an administrative position, hopes to undergo additional training to qualify for work in a diff erent specialty area or to pursue a career that allows more fl exibility, Foster off ered some suggestions.

Q What are some common reasons nurses pursue career shifts?

A: Often nurses want to explore how their careers are going to look when they’re older. Bedside nursing can be challenging, and they may not want to be working 12-hour shifts in their 50s. Some nurses may be passionate about patient care but want a less hectic schedule. Others may feel burned out in the current job or are looking for more career satisfaction.

Q When making a career change, how do you recommend nurses approach the self-assessment process?

A: I encourage nurses to explore career specialty areas they feel passionate about and to ask themselves how their job impacts their home and personal life. Do they want a job that off ers more fl exibility and autonomy? Do they see themselves working with patients or in a more administrative role? American Sentinel’s nursing blog has a great article titled, “Ten Considerations for Choosing the Right Specialty,” that can help nurses weigh some of the critical factors that come into play when making a career change.

Q Before they take any concrete steps to make a change, how can nurses eff ectively investigate their area of interest?

A: Once they determine a specialty area that interests them, they can research the area online and look at the career outlook, hiring practices, job requirements, etc. A good place to start is

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The American Board of Nursing Specialties website (www.nurs- ingcertifi that provides information on 33 specialties that off er certifi cation opportunities. American Sentinel also has produced a complimentary

e-book, “You Choose: 28 Careers That Every RN Should Con- sider,” about many of the nontraditional nursing fi elds that relate to degree programs.

Q What makes observation, experience and networking critical parts of the career shift strategy?

A: It’s one thing to read up on a job, but it’s another to talk to someone who is working in the fi eld and can off er an honest perspective about what the job is like, and what they see as the challenges, rewards and growth opportunities in that particular specialty area. Nurses want to get a better sense of what the job entails before making a career change. Networking with other nurses through a state or local nursing

association or at a conference can off er a view of what it’s like to work in a diff erent area. It also is a great way to hear about

jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 70% of jobs are found through professional networking. •

Linda Childers is a freelance writer. FOR MORE:

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