Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: A Different Nursing Specialty

Trying out a different specialty in nursing, especially something you never saw yourself doing, just might be what you need to help you grow and succeed in your nursing career. Nurses General Nursing Article


Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: A Different Nursing Specialty

Starting your nursing career after you graduate from nursing school is a drastic, sometimes harsh, reality check when you enter the workforce. As a brand-new nurse, you no longer have your preceptor or clinical instructor to fall back on.

You are on your own. This can feel exhilarating. Yay, you can finally sign your name with the two special letters RN at the end! However, it is also scary with the unpredictability and unforeseen circumstances that arise on the job.

In the beginning, you feel like an imposter. The only way I've learned to get over imposter syndrome in my 7 years as a nurse is by showing up every day, being willing to put in the work, and learning as I go.

Learning in nursing takes on different forms. It can be watching how older, wiser nurses who have been doing it much longer than you have work. Or learning from the mistakes you are bound to make and knowing that you will not make them again. It's learning how to work with people who will not think and act the way you think they should.

Sometimes, it's even going out of your comfort zone and taking on a new specialty or role you never thought was possible for yourself.

I never saw myself as an ICU nurse. Being an ICU nurse was everything I wanted to run away from in nursing. It was scary and unpredictable, the unknown just waiting to happen when dealing with critically ill patients.

However, when the hospital I worked for shut down its maternal child health units (I was a fairly new NICU nurse and had only been on the job for 6 months), I found myself faced with a choice. Either I leave the hospital and look for a new job, or I become a nurse in any of the other units they had availabilities in. I toyed with the idea of medical-surgical nursing and telemetry nursing, but eventually settled on ICU. I had been in NICU, so ICU was the next logical step, right?

I was in for a very different reality.

In the ICU, I dealt with so much more than I ever had as a NICU nurse. With the help of a nurse preceptor, I learned to prepare for impending intubations, respond to rapid response calls on the regular floor, calm patients who wanted to pull their tubes out with doctor-ordered sedatives, and even talk with family members who didn't quite know how to let their loved one go.

For the first few months of being in the ICU, I cried every night before my shift the next day. I didn't know what the next day would bring. Maybe someone would be brought into the ER with a head injury needing an ICU bed. Perhaps someone with shortness of breath would need to be intubated. Or someone in a hypertensive crisis would need an IV drip. Nevertheless, I had a job to do. This was my livelihood, what I did to put food on the table for my family. I learned as much as I possibly could, all while trying to maintain my sanity.

A week before I was about to be off ICU orientation, my preceptor called in sick. The charge nurse felt I was ready to take care of one patient on my own. "Don't worry, I'll be here to help you,” she assured me with a big smile. I felt the imposter syndrome creeping in but had no choice but to care for the patient myself.

During that 12-hour shift on my own, I inserted the patient's nasogastric tube he needed for nutrients, monitored his vital signs hourly, and inserted a new IV. I presented the patient's head-to-toe assessment and medications for review to the attending ICU doctor and care team as well.

At the end of the day, I recollected the day's events and what I had done. I hadn't done anything crazy on my first day alone on the job, yet I had taken care of an ICU patient by myself. That alone was something to be proud of.

Eventually, my husband noticed I stopped crying before shifts.

I only did ICU nursing for a year before switching to dialysis nursing. It was grueling, and the days felt long, depending on the cases we had. However, in that time, I overcame a lot of fears that I had as a new nurse. Doing things like CPR was still scary. But the more I did it, the less scared I became and the more confident I was in my abilities as a nurse.

Stepping out of my comfort zone to try ICU nursing helped shape me into the nurse I am today. One who isn't afraid to try new things, learn new skills, or be in charge positions.

Don't be afraid to try something new. Yes, it's scary. Yes, it can be hard. However, the growth you obtain can only lead to future successes as you move forward in your nursing career.

Hermi Arjona is currently a dialysis nurse and aspiring health content writer. She enjoys trying new food, hanging out with her two teenage boys and 18 month-old daughter, and traveling to new places.

1 Article   1 Post

Share this post

Share on other sites
Specializes in Peds/outpatient FP,derm,allergy/private duty.

I would add that the challenges of changing specialties remained present for me throughout the years. Sometimes we older nurses get mad at ourselves while starting a new job in an unfamiliar specialty and think "I should know this! I've been a nurse for <large number of years>!"

May all of us who are not new grads have supportive preceptors.

Great article!

I needed to hear this I tried to return to the hospital not as a bedside but in another role, did not have a good orientation and the preceptor had been a nurse for 8 years, young nurse manager decided I was confrontational and did not progress quickly enough as per my 3 out of 4 preceptors said also she took me off orientation early because of staff shortage/call outs. I am now going to try another field with nurses my age over 50 it's a lot of paperwork but I am optimistic.

I'm looking forward to retiring from this profession.