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One of the benefits of nursing is the ability to almost switch careers entirely while still using your license and degree. Nurses change specialties for a variety of reasons: to gain access to a different schedule or different hours, because they don’t love the specialty they’re currently working in, to find work in a certain geographical region, to learn new skills, or to challenge themselves in a new way.

Even nurses who love patient care and plan to work bedside their entire careers will likely change specialties at least once during their working years. These tips can help you prepare for a successful transition.

Dig Deep

“I’m just ready for something new,” is a common theme among patient care pros, but before moving into a new specialty, carefully consider what you love and don’t love about your current discipline. Dig deep to identify the components of nursing that may have left you wanting more. The more you know about your current state, the more conscious you can be as you explore new options.

Common root causes include:

  • The constant exposure to adrenaline left me in fight-or-flight mode all the time; I might like to work in a more predictable department.
  • The short encounter with each patient left me longing for more; I might like to work in a field that allows me to develop long-term relationships with my patients.
  • I don’t feel challenged in my current role; I’d like to work in a role that will utilize more of my advanced nursing skills.
  • Now that my kids are in school, I’m hoping to transition to the night shift. I’m hoping to move to a specialty that’s staffed 24 hours.
  • I’m the lone nurse in an educational institution, and while that has been rewarding, I would love to work among peers in a health care organization.

Of course, hundreds more examples might speak to your unique situation.

Network for Your Benefit

Connect with your nurse friends and acquaintances across other specialties for two primary reasons: 1) to learn more about their experience in that specialty, and 2) to make important connections that can help you land a role through an employee referral. When visiting with nurses in specialties that pique your interest, ask questions like:

  • What do you love about your role?
  • What’s most challenging about your role?
  • Would you recommend a job in your unit to a friend?
  • Which skills are most important in this role?
  • What is training like for nurses new to the unit?
  • Would you recommend me for a position in this unit?

Get Experience

Ask your director for an opportunity to job shadow on other units (or join the float pool to help accommodate changing needs).

Hands-on experience does three things for you. First, it helps you determine whether you’ll like the department as much as you think. Second, it gives you some hands-on experience you can use to your benefit while applying and interviewing for a role in the unit. Third, it gives those in the unit exposure to your compassion, teamwork, and expertise, so they’re likely to recommend you when the time comes.

Eisenhower Health is committed to supporting our nurses in finding a specialty that is rewarding for them. To learn more about nursing at Eisenhower Health (or to work with us!), visit our Careers page today.

Originally posted on 15/9/2022

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