Deciding On or Changing Nursing Specialties
With so many specialties in nursing, it can be difficult to decide which specialty is the right fit. Nursing school provides several, but still limited, experiences. Some nurses are fortunate enough to find a role they love through those clinical hours. But what happens when you finish school and still don't know? What do you do when you start working where you thought would be the "perfect" fit, and it's not working out? What if you feel pulled to more than one specialty area?
After posing a question about nursing specialties on Twitter, several nurses shared their stories about choosing their specialty:
There were many stories of how nurses went into school thinking they wanted specialties like pediatrics, labor and delivery, or surgery but quickly decided based on their nursing school experiences that they wanted to take a different path. One nurse said:
Another nurse said she had no idea:
Nursing schools often provide broad experiences mostly centered around general medical-surgical patients. You can't experience every specialty, sub-specialty, department, or role while in nursing school. However, there may be opportunities during school to observe other roles that interest you, including those you may have never even considered. Taking advantage of these opportunities is a great place to start if you aren't sure what you want. You may even find something that changes your mind completely.
Once out of nursing school, many graduates are encouraged to apply for jobs starting in those general medical-surgical departments similar to their nursing school rotations. This can be a great start, but some may already know this role is not where they want to be. Many hospital systems have implemented nurse residency or transition-to-practice programs that can help new graduates ease into their first job; this is especially beneficial for those who are starting in specialties that they may not have had a lot of experiences within nursing school.
Nurses who are already established in their role may have more difficulty or feel overwhelmed with changing jobs. If you're unsure about making a move to a new specialty, networking with other nurses (particularly those already working in that specialty) and shadowing can provide some insight before committing to changing jobs. Some hospital systems also have transition-to-practice programs for experienced nurses changing specialty roles to provide extra support and education through these changes; this can make changing jobs less intimidating.
To shed some more light on this issue, Twitter user @LilRedRooster commented:
Another nurse said:
Whether you're in nursing school, a new nurse, or have been a nurse for years, challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone. It's okay to try different things until you find a role that inspires and motivates you to be the best you can be for yourself, your family, your coworkers, and your patients. Choosing or changing specialties can feel cumbersome, but finding a role that suits you will be worth it in the end. Nursing can be hard enough as it is, so take the time to find the specialty that keeps you going.