Nursing Career in Transition? 3 Tips to Smooth the Course

by | Aug 28, 2015 | 14 comments

My Mom jokes that I ‘threw her under the bus‘ in my book where I describe the story about how I got into nursing school. I never was a nurse to feel that ‘calling’ or know from very early on that nursing was the career for me. In fact, when I think of the typical nursing jobs in hospitals now (you know, working in the ICU or on a Medicine unit), I shudder at the thought.

Nursing Career Change? 3 Tips for A Smooth Transition #YourNextShiftHowever, I reflect on this often and think about how even though I’m not a ‘nurse-y nurse’, so to speak, I do enjoy my current role. What if you’re like me? You went into nursing for one of the various atypical reasons:

Someone else told you to do it (probably not as atypical as we think)…

Someone in your family was in a medical role so you thought, why not?…

You needed the money and just picked a career you thought would pay…

You didn’t know what to do with your life so you picked nursing just because.

There’s probably many more that I am missing and today we can add the second-career nurse into the mix. But what if you’re a nurse now and you just don’t feel like your career is all you thought it would be. What if you wanted to be a nurse so that you can help people, yet you feel you’re able to do anything but?

Maybe it’s time for a career change. And I’m not talking leaving the nursing profession- no way! I’m thinking more along the lines of transitioning from one nursing career to the next. Is this something that would help you enjoy your nursing career more? Is a change right for you?

[Tweet “Here Are Three Tips to Help Smooth the Nursing Career Change”]

  1. Find a Mentor. If you’re thinking about a career change, you need support. Even if you can take all of the action steps yourself, you still need someone to talk to. It could be an academic adviser that you trust or maybe a colleague with lots of nursing experience. Find someone you can ask questions of, vent to, and of course celebrate with. It makes change a whole lot easier when you can break the details apart with a trusted colleague.
  2. Nursing Career Change? 3 Tips for A Smooth Transition #YourNextShiftGrow Your Network. This you can do even before, during, and after a career change. Even if you don’t think you’re going to want to change nursing roles, it makes sense to do this along the way. Places like LinkedIn, Facebook Communities, and nursing blogs are great places to start. Just join in the conversation, ask questions and start building connections. It’s more about the quality of the relationship than trying to grow your reach into the thousands. With a professional network, you can start to seek out new opportunities and find the nursing career that best suites your needs.
  3. Professionalize Your Brand. I take this concept from the entrepreneurial space. You see, these days there really is no such thing as ‘job security’. Even as a nurse, a hospital can close their doors without notice. So you want to start to see yourself as your own CEO. And that means you’ll need to brand and market yourself. You can do this in a variety of ways. You’ll need a professional resume, cover letter, and CV. Not the generic checklists and skills you see everyone using, but really toot your own horn. Go back to the accomplishments you’ve achieved and highlight your worth. You’ll also need commonality across platforms. What do I mean by this? Well, if you have an online profile on LinkedIn and other job search engines, you’ll need a professional photo and the same description of yourself everywhere you can be found. You don’t want to confuse your audience (the people looking to hire you)- because they will search you out!

And honestly, the very first thing I want you to do is ease up on yourself. It takes guts to acknowledge the fact that you might have found yourself in the ‘wrong’ nursing career. And that’s OK. It’s best if you’re honest about this- first and foremost with yourself. Then, be gentle, and allow yourself to take the steps to transition yourself to your ideal nursing career. Want some help with that? Check out my upcoming two-day workshop, Your Next Shift, where we will be talking all about our nursing roles and how to really, truly enjoy them!

I’d love to hear from you. What tips would you add to the list above? Share a comment below and thanks for reading.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN; Founder of Nursing from WithinAbout the Author: As a speaker, workshop facilitator, and Reiki Master, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of The Art of Nursing virtual conference, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.


  1. exceptionalnurse

    Great advice Elizabeth.
    It really does take “guts”! And being honest with yourself is the first step. Then you can begin “tooting” your horn!

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks, Donna. I am glad you enjoyed the post and that this message resonated with you. Feel free to share with your students and colleagues. Thanks for reading.

  2. Anne Llewellyn

    Great post, Elizabeth. I am a nurse and have moved into various positions throughout my career…I always looked at moving to a new role a type of promotion, vs just a job change. Nurses need to recognize when it is time to move to into a new role, take on new responsibilities and move forward. I agree with your tips to help smooth the nursing change, but I would like to add one more. To believe in yourself and be willing to take a risk. In my Blog, Nure Advocate, I shared my history and how I got where I am today. Looking back, I was willing to take a risk and try something new. Having the skills that we learn in nursing school sets us up for some interesting opportunities. Also, using the expertise we gain as nurses from each of our experiences has opened doors for us that we did not know that we would have. Looking forward to other comments. Have a good weekend

    • Elizabeth

      Thank you for adding more, Anne! Believing in ourselves is the first step to having the confidence to make a change. I appreciate your share and comment. Many thanks for stopping by.

  3. Beth Boynton, RN, MS

    Great post, Elizabeth. I think one of the things I’m grateful for in my nursing career of almost 30 years is that I’ve had many opportunities to transition and have been fortunate and resilient 🙂 enough to forge a path of my own and as an author and teacher, still am! Of course this includes finding myself in some situations that I didn’t feel I was a ‘good fit’. I went to nursing school b/c I was interested in healthcare, had a degree in Biochem already, and was surprised how rigorous the academics were. I love your tips and honesty. You create a platform for honoring diversity among us! Having a mentor is my favorite! As I think back, it was a friend of mine’s mom who encouraged me to go into nursing in the first place!

    • Elizabeth

      This is wonderful, Beth. I am so glad that you can reflect back on your career and find the joy. Thanks for the feedback about my work and I appreciate your viewpoint of diversity and inclusion here. Enjoy the day.

  4. Big Red Carpet Nurse

    Solid advice, well presented as always, Elizabeth. I’m sure you were the perfect child compared to me. I got good grades, and I was quiet, the kind of kid that gets mistaken for “mature”. I managed not to get caught for all the other stuff: I literally rationalized that I was doing my parents a favor by sparing them stress. I was also a budding behaviorist: every time mom said to drive carefully I hit the gas, although I never did quite convince her to stop saying it. I thanks them often for sparing my life, and in times of mischief, tell them stories about little things they missed along the way…

    Thanks for the advice! I’ve long ago learned to value solid advice, as I so badly needed it, and have benefited to deeply from learning at long last to listen and pay it heed.

    – Greg

    • Elizabeth

      You actually sound quite similar to me, Greg. I can understand the mistaken maturity as I too was quiet and a good student. I am glad that you enjoyed the post. Thank you for reading.

  5. Transforming

    Thank you for the helpful tips in this post. I would like to add that sometimes we must take a step that feels like we are moving backward or sideways to really move forward again. I have found that in order to really experience something new, we may have to try it at the ground level. Thank you nurses for your support!

    • Elizabeth

      This is so true! It may seem like we are taking a step back, and when we do this… it actually moves us forward. Great point. Thanks for coming by and taking the time to read and share your comment.

  6. cynthia davis

    Elizabeth great advice. In my career, I started as a medic in the Army, than to become an LPN and lastly an RN. Loved the bedside and I felt compelled to want to offer more to my patients. Looking back, what fueled my drive were the mentors in every stage of my Healthcare delivery experience that made a difference. Now, I make a commitment to mentor anyone who ask and I share my experiences. I make sure all those who worked with me and around me know what I know and share my passion in nursing and case management.

    • Elizabeth

      Wonderful to hear, Cynthia. We always need good folks who are willing to mentor others. It helps make their career transitions that much more smooth. Thanks for sharing your experiences and taking the time to read the post. Enjoy the day!

  7. Beth Hawkes, RN

    Great post, Elizabeth. I look back and see I couldn’t have made some successful changes without the help of mentors and networking. There is a good fit for everyone in nursing if you are willing to take the leap.

    • Elizabeth

      Wonderful points, Beth. It’s so true that those who can support us along the way are a true asset to our success.



  1. Powerhouse Nurse Bloggers Return!!! | Big Red Carpet Nursing - […] 3. Elizabeth Scala offers Nursing Career in Transition? 3 Tips to Smooth the Course: […]
  2. Before You Quit Nursing- Ask Yourself 6 Crucial Questions - […] before you decide to quit nursing, I would encourage you to have another plan ready. Do not just leave…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Love the Content?

Join the mailing list for even more great information from Elizabeth Scala!

Opt-in Notice(Required)
By submitting this form, you agree to receive email marketing from Elizabeth Scala regarding our products and services.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.