Individuals who are studying to become a registered nurse and those who are already working as RN’s aren’t always aware of the full spectrum of choices at their disposal or even sure about how to choosing a career path that suits their personality, interests expertise and lifestyle.
While many of the choices in the general nursing field are extremely popular and well known there are other career choices that nurses can choose from that will match their personality and lifestyle goals.
For example those who are interested in the legal or law aspects of healthcare may choose to become a legal nurse consultant or forensic nurse, while individuals that are interested in teaching, training and education may choose to become a nurse educator or administrative nurse.
If you’re a nurse who loves to travel then travel nursing may be the right career path for you and if you’d rather perform clinical research or lab testing then you might like the idea of becoming a research nurse.
Other examples of potential career opportunities include:
Becoming a nurse entrepreneur – Nurses that are self motivated and have a strong passion for starting their own businesses and creating products and/or services that contribute to the healthcare system may go off to become nurse entrepreneurs.
Specializing in a particular area of nursing – Some nurses may decide that they want to specialize in a particular area of healthcare such as pediatric care, women health, emergency care or elderly care. Each area of healthcare caters to a different group of people and offers a different experience both in terms of personalities and medical expertise.
Working in the community – Nurse who choose to work in the community may be able work as community nurses, school nurses and health policy nursing. These career fields allow nurses to work directly and indirectly with the communities they serve in order to insure that individuals within the community are receiving adequate care and education and that health policies are being created and enforced for the betterment of the community.
Focusing on employee care – Aside from focusing on patient healthcare nurses can also use their expertise to focus on the health and well-being of other nurses. A career as an occupational health nurse for example can provide experienced nurses with the ability to ensure that other nurses are being treated fairly in the workplace and are being provided with occupational opportunities and legal rights that are available to them.
As you can see nursing offers a very wide variety of career opportunities and hopefully this helps you realize that there are a variety fields that can match the personality of almost anyone who is interested in becoming a nurse or (if you already area nurse) specializing in a particular area of healthcare.
So how do you choose a career path that suits your wants and needs?
It starts with determining what’s most important to you (what are your values) and then finding a field that matches those wants and needs.
Your personality, training and expertise, requirements for a work/life balance, career interests and opportunities for career advancement are all things you should consider when deciding to specialize in a particular area of nursing.
A good career choice often blurs the line between work and play, however we also understand that not everyone is going to find a career that they absolutely love, but the closer you can get to a balance of work and pleasure the better off you will be in your career.
Your personality can say a lot about the career path you’re best suited for.
Some of the questions you should ask yourself when deciding on where you want to go in your nursing career include:
- Are you a social person or do you prefer working alone?
- Do you like taking care of others in need of medical attention or focusing on the medical field itself?
- Are you comfortable with taking orders from other people or would you rather be your own boss?
- What areas of nursing are you most interested in and why?
- If you had a choice of working with patients (children, adults, elderly etc.), doing administrative work, teaching and educating students, working in the legal field, advocating for nurses rights, consulting or starting your own business which would you choose and why?
- What is your reason for becoming a registered nurse?
- What is your area of expertise and why?
- How important is your personal time and are you comfortable working extended hours?
- What are your most important values when it comes to your personal choices and the people you care about?
- Do you often think you would be happier if you chose a career path outside of nursing and why?
- If so is it because you didn’t realize there were other career opportunities available to you in nursing or do you feel tired, burnt out, exhausted and just want to take a step back from nursing as a whole?
The purpose of asking yourself these questions and being completely honest with yourself is to determine what field of nursing is best for you.
If you’ve answered these questions honestly and with a lot of thought maybe you found out that you love working with children and would love to do pediatric care rather than working with adults or the elderly, maybe you decided you’d rather be your own boss instead of working for a hospital or healthcare facility and work as an entrepreneur or a consultant, you might find out that your interest lies in the legal field or maybe you’re not happy with the current condition of nursing and want to advocate for other nurses rights.
In many cases our careers and our personalities feel inseparable.
When we love our career it feels like an extension of ourselves and we often find ourselves talking about what we do and how it is a part of who we are.
A good career often blurs the line between work and play, and our satisfaction in what we do can help us lead happier and more fulfilled lives.
On the other hand when we dislike our work physical and mental fatigue sets in and we find things outside of work to satisfy ourselves such as partying, spending our hard earned money on shopping, sleeping long hours, going out for drinks and participating in other activities that offer little value and often feel like fleeting moments of happiness, which don’t always succeed in making our lives better in the short or long term.
Furthermore, when we work in a career that we are unhappy with it affects us emotionally and leaks into other areas of our life whether we want it to or not.
So take the time to assess what is important to you when deciding to take on a particular field of nursing.
Training and expertise
Choosing a career that complements your training and expertise is an excellent start for determining the type of career you may be best suited for.
In many cases your career opportunities are dependent upon your training and skill level, and will only become available once you’ve acquired enough expertise in that particular field.
If you’re working at a hospital or large healthcare facility you may be able to take advantage of additional training in other fields of nursing to get a feel for the career your interested in.
You may also be able to do volunteer work or take an entry level position to see how it is before investing more time in that career.
Your opportunities for entering a particular field of nursing will vary depending on the amount of training and expertise you need to acquire, the overall demand for a particular position and the amount of competition that you face in that field.
Training can range from on site training to taking certification courses or even going back to school and acquiring a masters or doctorates degree.
If you are interested in a field that will require you to go back to school it is highly suggested that you see if you can gain at least some experience in the area you are interested in, even if it is through volunteer work so that you can make a more informed decision about the career path you are seeking.
One area many nurses often struggle with in the nursing field is choosing a career path or healthcare facility that offers a good work/life balance.
Many nurses work long shifts and take on extra hours which can lead to burnout and decrease work enthusiasm.
The career a nurse chooses and the healthcare facility they work for can play a huge role in determining the type of work/life balance a nurse is able to have.
For example nurses that work in extremely busy hospitals or nursing homes may often asked to work extended hours or take on additional overtime.
On the other hand nurses that work that work for a local clinic, research lab or school may have a more set and defined schedule.
This isn’t to say that every healthcare facility or career path will operate a certain same, but it does help to point out that the facility and career path a nurse chooses “can” play a significant role in how their work/life balance lifestyle plays out.
Nurses that are single and have few commitments may be happy working longer shifts or taking on additional work while those who have to raise a family may need more time outside of the workplace to meet their needs.
Having a good work/life balance ensures that registered nurses remain happy with their work while also being able to enjoy life outside of the workplace.
Family, friends, social life, commitments, personal interests and other factors may play a huge role in determining how much work/life balance is necessary.
When it comes to choosing your career path you should consider what your typical work/life balance is likely to be like if you pursue that particular type of work.
One of the most important aspects of choosing a particular field of nursing is your interest in that field.
Choosing a career based on salary, work hours or prestige alone will not make you happy, even if the perks are excellent.
It isn’t uncommon for a nurse to quickly lose steam or interest when working in a career field they are not passionate about as they eventually begin to feel like work is nothing more than a paycheck rather than an internal interest and desire.
Having that type of mindset can lead to resentment and difficulty excelling in your career.
After all who wants to move up in their career when they don’t even like where they currently are?
This isn’t to say that you need to be in absolute love with your career choice (that would be great), but you should at least derive some pleasure from your work and what you do shouldn’t make you feel negative or bad.
If you aren’t really passionate about nursing, but you do like your job then you should be sure to maintain a good work/life balance and make sure that you have healthy external pleasures to keep you mentally and physically healthy and happy.
The opportunities you have for getting started in your career and advancing to higher positions is an extremely important aspect to think about before deciding on a particular career path.
Choosing a career or field that is highly competitive and/or offers little opportunity for further advancement may not be worth the effort, however if you are truly passionate about that field and couldn’t see yourself working anywhere else than it maybe it is worth the trouble for you.
Likewise if you find a particular area of nursing that shows a lot of opportunities for career advancement but you have no interest or desire to work in that field you may be equally disappointing choosing a career that you are unhappy with.
It’s all about balancing your desires with your opportunities.
Finding out what truly sparks your interest while also understanding the opportunities you have for getting into that career path is essential for making a decision you’ll be proud of.
You may not find all of these qualities in any one area of nursing, however it is important to consider looking for at least one or two of them within the career that you choose.
Make sure you base your career choice on your values, wants and needs.
Balancing personal pleasure and satisfaction with a rewarding career can have a huge impact on both your professional and personal life.
Learning to separate your work from who you are as a person is also important, especially if you aren’t thrilled about your work or highly motivated by what you do.
The more you can come to finding satisfaction in your work the more likely you’ll be able to blur the lines between work and pleasure, which can significantly reduce burnout, fatigue and stress.
After all, in many cases our ability to minimize stress, fatigue and unhappiness is based on our personal satisfaction in what we do and our ability to successfully achieve goals.