Congratulations! You did it; you sweated through your years of nursing school, passed the NCLEX, and have earned your well-deserved title of registered nurse. Now that the dust has settled and real life is about to begin, you will need to decide which career path within nursing you would like to pursue, and there are plenty to choose from!

We all know that some specialties pay better than others, but as nurses we also know that although we are usually working to support ourselves and our families, money is still not everything. It is so important to work at a job that we truly love, and feel a degree of satisfaction that will help you thrive in your environment.

So, how do you decide which field suits you best, which one you will enjoy, feel accomplished, and truly make a difference?

Some nurses take their career path with a specific dream in mind, often knowing exactly what type of work they want to do in the nursing field, either based on a role model they always looked up to or a fascination and interest in a particular area of nursing. Like the little girl who always idolized her school nurse and always dreamt that one day she would spend her days tending to little children’s boo-boos that occur in the school setting. But most people are not so clear on exactly what they want to do with their nursing degree.

Although the most common nursing career is found within the walls of the hospital, there are still plenty of opportunities for nursing jobs in other settings. “They also have to think about opportunities outside of the hospital,” says nursing career coach Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, referring to nurses on a quest for the perfect nursing career. Did you know that there are over 100 nursing job opportunities out there that require an RN degree? The locations can vary from nursing care facilities, prisons, hospitals, military bases, schools, doctors’ offices, to administrative positions such as working for an insurance company, or as a legal nurse. There is truly a job type to match the personality and needs of every nurse out there!

Know Your Strengths

The first thing you need to do is figure out what your strengths are in order to know which field you will perform best in. You will need to look for a job within an environment that is in sync with your personality and temperament. Do you thrive on challenges and adrenaline? If the answer is yes, then it may be a good idea to look for a job in the emergency room or as a trauma nurse. If you are slower paced, methodical and detail oriental, a research nurse may be the ideal career for you.

Another question to ask yourself is “what role I would like to play in my job? Am I a natural leader? Or would I rather be the one taking the order and following what others dictate to me?” This will help you decide if an administrative position is best for you, or it would you be better for you to deal directly with patients.

One more thing to keep in mind is that different positions come with different levels of pressure and responsibility. Often higher salary positions are more demanding and require you to give more of yourself. You have to honestly ask yourself if you feel that you are up to the task, and are ready to deal with the constant pressures that come along with this kind of role.

Although some people are very in touch with their inner selves and know exactly what they want, not everyone is so self-aware, and that is totally okay as well. There are many online resources for nurses to help them discover which specialty suits them best based on a list of questions. But it is still highly recommended to do some inner homework by asking yourself the above questions to truly find the job where you will thrive.

Assess Your Options

Once you figure out where your interests lie, you will have to go to the next step; seeing the available options within your location area. Not only does the physical location matter, but the hours and working conditions are important as well. Do you have children at home who need you to be home at a certain time? Make sure to discuss all your needs with your potential employer to avoid any miscommunications and unpleasant situations from occurring later down the line.

Get Acquainted with the Job

It is also a good idea to intern or do some shadowing in a job setting that interests you. That way you can see if you actually enjoy the work, not just envision yourself liking the job. You should also talk to those in that particular field and hear them out about the general work, and ask them any specific questions that you might have.

Also, keep in mind that if there is no available job in the specific department that you want, it still may be a good idea to take a job in another department since it is easier to later be transferred to your desired department within the facility than get hired as an outsider.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you are not married to your job. It may be good idea to just start out as a general nurse without a specialty, just to “get your feet wet”, and get a feel of what you enjoy and in which area you excel in. Also, as time goes on you may feel that you are ready for a change, and that is totally normal. You may want to change your field of nursing work, and many even continue their education for a specific specialty after being a nurse for years.

The bottom line is, it is important to be passionate about your work and love what you do. As the famous saying goes, “love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life.” When you truly love what you do, you feel accomplished and you are actualizing your potential and using your talents and strengths in the best possible way. And what could be better than that?

Carol Kalat

Carol Kalat lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children. She works as the marketing director for Medical Scrubs Collection, an online nursing uniform store. She enjoys staying on top of the latest nursing news and loves blogging about nurses and healthy lifestyle related topics.
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