When student nurses graduate, they often have an idea of the units they really want to work on. Some know the ER is the place for them, others find working in a pediatric unit is going to be the best fit.

But if new nurses look ahead and consider their careers 5, 10, or even 20 years down the road, they might find their career path takes some sharp turns. If you talk to experienced nurses with many years of nursing under their belts, lots of them will say the reason their careers are fulfilling and can last so long in the same industry is because they have actually managed to change career tracks, not change careers, over the years. As you consider your future path, check into any education, work experience, or certification requirements so you can include those in your career plan.

How can you try something different but still remain a nurse?

Move Into Management

Becoming a nurse leader by taking on more supervisory roles and roles with more responsibility is one way to move into administration. Begin taking classes so you can earn an advanced degree in nursing and/or business so you have the educational background required for most of these positions. Continue to develop your executive skills and network. Generally, becoming a nurse manager is one of the first steps to taking on greater administration roles.

Try Out Academics

As a nurse, you already have a lot of experience that student nurses will find valuable. Moving into the academic arena will open up new paths for you that could lead to additional research, advocacy, publishing, or even expert opportunities. This is an especially good option for nurses who have advanced degrees as many colleges and universities require at least a master’s degree to teach.

Advance Policy

When you work as a nurse, you have first-hand knowledge of what nurses want, what they need on the job, and what does and does not work. You understand how staffing cuts and budget changes have a direct impact on patient care and on nurses’ morale. You know that changes in health care policy or in insurance regulations can turn some of your patients’ lives upside down. Becoming a nurse activist is as simple as taking that first step to speaking up, to adding your voice and your time to organizations that work for the nursing industry.

Change Your Locale

Do you live in Boston but want to try life in Oregon? Nurses have skills that travel anywhere and you have the opportunity to live and work in all corners of the world. Whether you want to become a traveling nurse or practice in the most remote areas, your change in locale can bring changes in salary, experience, and perspective that will come in handy throughout your career. Some states allow nurse practitioners to operate on their own with some oversight by a physician. If you want to try having your own practice, this is one way you can do that.

Find a New Specialty

Are you the nurse who only wanted ER work, but now find yourself ready for something new? You can move among units with more ease than most professionals, and gaining varied nursing experience will give you valuable skills. Organizations want nurses who have seen and done a lot with patient care. The more you can move around, the more sought after you will become as a career nurse.

Perform Research

Using your nursing skills to focus on all kinds of research helps you in several ways. Nurses who have spent time interacting with patients and families are great at collecting the data needed for research. Their critical thinking skills and their familiarity with health topics also helps them analyze the data and make sense of findings.

Check out nursing career guides like this one from the National Student Nurses’ Association to see all the different ways you can use your nursing degree.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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The Minority Nurse Winter 2017-2018 issue is now available. Read the latest issue of Minority Nurse today.

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Surviving the First Year as a Nurse

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