Hello fellow nurses! I am hoping to pick your collective brains and get some honest advice about choosing my first job out of nursing school (I graduate this May).
First, a little about me. I am not the typical new grad nurse. I am 45 years old, and have been an LPN for more than a decade (mostly working in LCF's with some skilled nursing units thrown in) and an STNA on a cardiac unit of a major hospital for a few years before that. My first career, before getting into healthcare, was in social services. I am now just about to complete a 2nd-degree BSN.
I know the conventional wisdom is to first and foremost get at least a year or two of bedside nursing experience, preferably on a med-surg unit, to get the lay of the land and develop solid assessment skills and nursing judgement. I completely understand the logic of this, and consider myself extremely fortunate to have already been offered a position in a nursing residency program at the largest hospital system in my area (I have been given the choice of either staying on the med-surg unit where I am doing my preceptorship, or going to the ED).
However.... for the past decade I have also been doing a significant amount of volunteer work in the public/community health realm, and have discovered that is where my passion lies. Pre-pandemic, I was running large-scale vaccination clinics with my local MRC, and was one of two nurses responsible for a long-term disease management program at the local free-clinic. And for the past year, my involvement in public health has only increased, as I have become a member of the Covid Response Team at my state's department of health. I love doing this kind of community based work, and at this point in my career I have a hard time imagining myself going back to a hospital setting. I am also a single parent with 2 elementary school kids at home and no local family support, so those 12 hour shifts with alternating weekends and holidays are really tough (and expensive!) from a childcare standpoint.
As it turns out, I have also been offered a position as a school nurse in the largest school system in my state. The pay is comparable to the hospital position, with much better benefits. The hours are fantastic for my work-life balance, allowing me to have summers and holidays off with my kids (and not having to scramble for last-minute babysitters every time there's a snow day!) They even pay into the same public employee retirement system where I already have 10 years vested. Perhaps most importantly, it would allow me to remain in a community setting, utilizing some of those social services skills from my previous career, which is right up my alley. And yes, I do actually enjoy being around kids all day, at least most days 🙂
Honestly, I am having a hard time seeing a downside with the school nurse job, and am inclined to go for it. However, in the back of my mind I do still have some nagging concerns about skipping that year or two of bedside nursing right out of school. I do already have some pretty solid assessment skills from my years as an LPN, but obviously the scope of practice for an RN is much greater, and I just want to be smart about how I move forward. Hoping to draw on the collective wisdom and experience of this group, and welcome any and all advice. Thanks so much!