How do I figure out what I want?

Dear Nurse Beth Advice Column - The following letter submitted anonymously in search for answers. Join the conversation! Nurses Nurse Beth Nursing Q/A

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Dear Nurse Beth,

What is your advice for someone who wants a change in their career or speciality but doesn't know what they want? I feel at loss with all the options in nursing. I have been a med/surg nurse at a VA hospital for over 2 years.

I am a charge nurse & have precepted around 6 nurses on my unit. I have a 2.5-year commitment at the VA and that ends in February. I could see myself potentially being in the PACU, doing local travel gigs, trying out critical care, and honestly open to anything. My long term goal would be going back to school in the next year or two for acute adult/gerontology NP or a nurse educator masters. I have a lot of interests & having so many options is stressing me out!

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Stressing Out,

There are so many options in nursing that it really can be overwhelming. Can I say it's even harder for nurses like yourself who have wide interests, like to learn, and are bright. You have shown leadership abilities as well as teaching abilities.

Both local travel gigs and critical care would be helpful with either of your long-term goals of being an NP or a nurse educator.

Local travel gigs because they round you out and accelerate your growth as a nurse by exposing you to different organizational work settings and cultures. The VA does things one way but your county hospital does things another way. Private hospitals are different than teaching hospitals, and patient populations vary. You learn different things everywhere you go.

Critical care skills will not be a waste no matter what you end up doing. You'll be challenged in many new ways. With 2.5 years in MedSurg, you are primed to build on your knowledge and practice.

PACU skills may not be as transferable to your long-term goals. to decide when you are seeking?

  • Get information. Talk to colleagues in different speciality areas. See if you can make arrangements to job shadow in areas you're interested in. Be ready with questions and pick their brains.
  • Ask family and friends for feedback. If you have a mentor or a trusted friend, ask them if they could see you as an educator, for example. Take such feedback thoughtfully.
  • Be mindful and open minded of life signs. Meaning, sometimes opportunities present. Possibilities come your way. Later you realize it was the universe nudging you along a certain path. 
  • Know yourself. What excites you? Where is your passion? Teaching patients? Seeing that "Aha" moment when you precept? Arriving at a diagnosis? Maybe managing a unit?

And remember there are few wrong choices, but many, many different choices. Your next job may well be a "transition" job. Not your first job out of school, but not your dream job, either.

I hope that takes the pressure off somewhat. Best wishes in your decision,

Nurse Beth