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?

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  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.