Help! Why is switching specialties so difficult?


I have worked in the ER most of my time as a nurse, but I also have home health and clinic nursing experience. For a long time I’ve desired to switch into L&D or NICU/Pediatric nursing as I really feel this is where my passion and niche with nursing is at, and yet if I apply I can never get a call much less an interview for these! Even once a hospital called and told me “well you don’t have experience for that but we’d love to have you in our ED”. Has anyone else had this issue? Any ideas on what I can do to get myself considered for these specialties I’ve wanted to work within for so long? 

Specializes in orthopedic/trauma, Informatics, diabetes. Has 11 years experience.

I would think it would have to do with not having specific experience in peds or L&D. Our peds nurses cannot float to adult units and vie versa. 

It's one of those things where you need experience but can't get a chance to get experience. Curious how you know you want to work in those specialties if you've never worked them?  Not trying to be rude. I would think you'd have a better chance at adult ICUs. 

We don't have much trouble with nurses switching specialties amongst the adult specialties but I have not heard of anyone crossing the age barrier. 

Has 7 years experience.


thank you for your reply! While working in the ER I have had the opportunity to work with pregnant patients, assist in precipitous deliveries, and of course care for pediatric patients as well. In doing so, I have felt myself absolutely drawn to these patients, I’m not sure how else to describe it. It’s like I have a passion for the care I’ve provided to them that I don’t feel exists elsewhere. I love to care for all of my patients, don’t get me wrong, but I’m drawn to these ones and am much more interested in the medicine that relates to these patients when learning. 

I just wish I could figure out how to get one of the hospitals to give me a chance to work in one of these areas! It’s very frustrating to put in app after app and never get even one call unless it’s to try to talk me into working in their ER’s. 

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.

I actually didn’t have trouble changing specialities. When I was fed up with the ER and knew I needed a change, I applied to the PICU and pre-op where I both had offers. I think some depends on nursing directors, hospital systems, etc. Your critical care experience should help though. I did take a lot of pediatric classes....maybe consider doing that.

Specializes in Community Health, Med/Surg, ICU Stepdown. Has 10 years experience.

Could also depend on where you live. Would you be willing to move to get experience? I hope it doesn't come to that though = (

Has 7 years experience.

Speedynurse: I have actually received offers from other adult specialties it just seems to be L&D and PEDS that is specifically harder to get into. I don’t know why?

libranurse: I wish that were even an option but were settled here in a good school district for our children so I’ve got at least 15 more years here until my kids graduate. Unfortunately, we only have one hospital here and I’ve applied at all others within a 45 minute drive. I’m now considering going to ones that are an hour away, but then that will turn a 12 hour shift into a 14 hour day easily with commute ? 

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.

Try to get some pediatric certifications. I had PALS, STABLE, NRP, CPEN, and ENPC. I think that demonstrated that I was interested in peds. Also, talk about why you want to go into peds.....I think my desire to work with kids really shown through during my PICU interviews. In the end, I decided not to go that route due to rotating shifts and night shifts but you have to show how badly you want to work with the little ones. Most managers can really tell when you are dedicated to working with the pediatric population.

Has 7 years experience.

Speedy Nurse: that’s a GREAT idea! Thank you so much!

allnurses Guide

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

2 Articles; 6,840 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development. Has 12 years experience.

I know in my area of the country switching into those specialties is all but impossible unless you find a residency or internship. It is a high demand specialty and just super hard to break into for whatever reason.

Specializes in med-surg, IMC, school nursing, NICU. Has 11 years experience.

It might have something to do with your location/the culture in the hospitals where you applied. I switched from adult telemetry to NICU and several other nurses on my unit came from the adult world as well. Don’t let anyone tell you your experience in the ED won't translate to the world of little humans. Sure, the learning curve is steep but things like time management and ability to communicate with providers and other nurses can’t be taught. They come with experience which you have! I stayed in the same hospital, just switched units and things like knowing the charting system of how the phones worked made my orientation so much easier as well!

I’m sorry this is happening to you and I echo other posters who say try getting your certifications to show your interest. Best of luck to you! 

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.
On 10/22/2020 at 11:01 AM, Nurse SMS said:

I know in my area of the country switching into those specialties is all but impossible unless you find a residency or internship. It is a high demand specialty and just super hard to break into for whatever reason.

Really??? Wow, I must be in a different area of the country....As long as a nurse has a critical care background in the ED or ICU, we generally don’t have trouble changing specialties.

Having the same problem. I worked on a med surg floor for two years and picked up a job in pediatrics homecare on the side. I thought it would look better on my resume when applying for L&D/pediatric jobs but no luck. It’s so frustrating. I think it’s about who you know.