By Tyler Faust, RN
Any career transition can be difficult to pursue. You might find yourself neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with your job. You might not know where or how to begin your job search. That's why it's important to ask yourself a few questions before you start updating your resume. Nursing has a wide variety of jobs to pursue and finding the right one can seem elusive, especially if you aren’t sure what you want. When looking to make a move, consider a job change based on the difficulty of the move overall.
The Easy Job Transition
Nursing specialties generally span across multiple settings. This allows for skills and knowledge to often overlap. If you are looking to make an easy transition to a new job consider staying within your current practice. Maybe you work on an inpatient orthopedics unit and have been there for the past nine years. An easy transition could be moving to the operating room with orthopedics if you want to stay in the 24/7 work environment. If you are further along in your career and want to get more family-friendly hours or work-life balance, consider work as a staff nurse in the orthopedic outpatient clinics. Larger facilities often have nurses who work in the outpatient setting working in a variety of roles such as research, a physician extender, or clinic nurse.
Often times you will continue to work with the same members of the care team if you stay within the same specialty practice. Physicians will often work in a variety of settings including procedures, consults, research, and clinics. So regardless of the setting you work in, many staff members will overlap.
You may also want to think about other patient populations you are familiar with. Do you have a sister unit or another population your unit works with frequently? Transitioning to those units might be an easy and welcomed change.
Also, consider the environment. Maybe the patient population and specialty are less important to you. What aspects of the job do you enjoy that you could get more of in a new, but similar setting? For instance, maybe you would like more patient interaction but your job doesn’t allow as much as you’d enjoy. A transition to a new practice like dialysis might afford you more of that particular aspect of the job you enjoy (e.g. patient interaction). A move like this would keep elements of your job such as environment (24/7) the same but change the unit.
The Moderately Difficult Transition
An easy job transition might not be cutting it for you. You desire a greater change if you’re going to risk the comfort of your current role. You aren’t going to settle for basically the same role packaged differently. The easy transition bucket won’t scratch the itch for you. No problem. You should then consider a change in specialty. If you’ve spent the better part of your career in the same practice, let alone the same unit, a transition right now would be great, before you feel like it is too late in your career to make a big move. The two biggest considerations are what specialty and what setting.
If this is specific to you, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
There are three primary buckets that nursing jobs fall into in regards to the setting: inpatient, extended, and clinic.
Inpatient jobs are 24/7 and are generally demanding and fast-paced. Do you still crave this environment? Would sitting half the time be welcomed or frowned upon? Some people cannot pull themselves away from the hospital environment that never sleeps.
In this setting, staff work a limited amount of weekends and off-shifts. They usually get better pay than the clinic setting but less than the inpatient setting. Often staff will need to stay late into the evening or potentially be on call. It is more demanding than the clinic but less than the hospital.
Clinic jobs are least demanding of all, yet not easy. Hours are expected and stable. Time off is easier to get than in other settings. Patient loads can be difficult but the work environment is calm, stable, and not physically demanding. Nurses often have a difficult time transitioning to the clinic because of the decrease in pay. Many nurses transition to the clinic later in their career.
If you have extensive experience and don’t mind taking on additional responsibilities, maybe consider a leadership opportunity. Depending on the size of your institution, you could take a leadership role with a BSN or AD. This means you could transition into a role such as a nurse manager, program manager, quality specialist, nursing education specialist or certified nurse specialist.
After much consideration regarding your preferred specialty and setting, now you know what to pursue! If you’re thinking you need a bigger career change, be sure to check out Part 2 next week - How to Find Your Ideal Job: The Big Jump, The Difficult Transition.
Tyler Faust is a full-time registered nurse and part-time freelance healthcare writer. He has his BSN and Master's degree from Winona State University and has worked at Mayo Clinic for over 7 years. Tyler is a creative thinker, strategist, and passionate about leadership.