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How to Change Nursing Specialties

Nurse Beth   (244 Views 2 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

15 Followers; 91 Articles; 229,598 Profile Views; 1,890 Posts

Dear Nurse Beth,

Will you please recommend the best way to change nursing fields? How does one gain experience in a field that they have never practiced in and how would that information be best conveyed to a hiring department when the first step in a job application is done online?
Thank you.


Dear First Step,

One of the many benefits of being a nurse is the vast array of options. Being a nurse can mean anything from being in hospice to being in sales to being a teacher. There's Risk Management, Case Management, and Infection Prevention. New roles are created every day. 

It can be challenging to get your foot in a new door when you are competing with experienced candidates. Compose a compelling cover letter and resume. Compelling because you have about 20 seconds to catch their attention.

Activate your network and ask for referrals. You can join the professional organization of the new specialty and attend local meetings.

You do possess transferable skills. Individualize your application to each organization, and highlight the skills, including soft skills, that solve a problem for them. Maybe they need a reliable employee, and you can highlight your outstanding attendance. Maybe they serve a Spanish-speaking population, and you can highlight your conversational Spanish. Maybe you have experience with Epic, and they use Epic.

If you persist, chances are you will get the break you're looking for. Practice your interview skills and prepare for behavioral questions such as "What should we hire you?" 

If you need more info on answering behavioral questions, composing a resume and cover letter, employing bold strategies to land a job- I recommend my book below.

Do everything you can and then trust that things often work out the way they should.

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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llg has 40 years experience as a PhD, RN and specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

5 Followers; 13,097 Posts; 58,289 Profile Views

I'll add a little bit here.

I think a lot depends on "what you are moving from ... and what you want to move towards."   

For example, if you currently work adult med/surg and want to be a NICU nurse, it might be necessary to get a job on a general pediatric unit (or maternity) for a while to "build a bridge" to where you want to end up.   Not only would you have an opportunity to get some experience working with kids and babies, but you might have the opportunity to meet some of the people in the NICU by working on committees etc. with them.   As they get to know and respect you as a peds (or OB) nurse, they would be more likely to hire you for the NICU.   That's just one of many possible examples.  Think about bridges you can use for crossing the gap from where you currently to where you want to be.

You can also make contacts with the leaders of other specialties through committee work, volunteer work, etc.  Again, as they get to know, like and respect you ... they become helpful allies in your quest to move into their specialties.   You might also meet such people at professional specialty conferences, fund raisers, etc.    I think people sometimes don't realize how helpful such contacts can be.

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