Why Being a Nurse Means You Have Many Options

One of the best aspects of becoming a nurse is that you are able to choose from a wide variety of nursing specialties. Even better, is that you are not stuck in that specialty for the rest of your career.


  • Specializes in Health writer, NICU, Peds, Home Health, Hospice. Has 16 years experience.
Why Being a Nurse Means You Have Many Options

There are many nurses who remain in one specialty until the day they put up their stethoscope and finally set sail on the ship of retirement. Good for them! For those who like to change things up whenever they feel the need to, nursing is a great career to consider.

Choosing Your First Nursing Job

Once you get through the daunting task of finishing nursing school and the even more daunting task of passing the NCLEX exam, your next step is deciding which area of nursing you want to start out in. The best advice for choosing your new-grad nursing role is to ask yourself which clinical rotation fascinated you the most, or which disease processes you find the most interesting. Landing your first nursing job in a department that interests you will greatly improve your overall nursing experience. 

Many experienced nurses recommend starting on a Med-Surg floor. Learning the art of multi-tasking and time management are essential to succeed in nursing. You will need to practice and then master common nursing skills like placing IVs, foley catheter/drain care, medication management, comprehensive assessments, etc. 

I started as a new grad in the NICU. I was 100% sure that I would retire as a NICU nurse and would never need to find the "wink" on a female adult again! Little did I know that after ten years of working my dream job as a NICU nurse, I would be switching things up and having to re-learn nursing skills and disease processes that I hadn't dealt with since nursing school. I finally understood why so many nurses recommend starting on Med-Surg or a similar unit. What you learn there is invaluable and will continue to guide you throughout your entire nursing career. 

Each Area of Nursing is a Specialty

The truth about nursing is that each unit is its own specialty. A trauma ICU nurse with 20 years of experience could be floated to the NICU, and they wouldn't know where to begin. The expression "a nurse is a nurse is a nurse" is completely false and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Even if you start out on Med-Surg, you cannot transfer to the OR and immediately jump in. You will have months of training! This is why changing departments or specialties should not be dismissed due to the fear of the unknown. It is the same for all nurses. If you accept a new position, you will need to be trained. 

Switching Things Up

This is why nursing is so amazing. There is a wide range of options from which to choose. Tired of being an ER nurse? Well, by golly, transfer to labor and delivery and feel like a new grad all over again! The only downfall of switching things up often is not being able to fine-tune your skills and become very knowledgeable in your field. Although, healthcare is always evolving. Once you think you know something, policies change, and therefore, nurses are ALWAYS learning and growing.

If/when the day comes that you no longer relish in your nursing position, there is a myriad of choices to turn to. Maybe you will want to take a stab at school nursing, the cath lab, remote patient care monitoring, legal nursing, and so on, and so on. Continuing your education is another great way to open new doors for yourself. You may be ready to become an advanced practice nurse or move into a management position. 

Taking the Plunge

As long as you put your heart into it, switching things up in nursing is a fun, challenging, and fulfilling way to expand your resume. Try it, and if you are not pleased, you can move on to your next specialty of choice. If you need a change in pace, try a new type of nursing before you decide to leave your nursing career completely. Chances are, you may just reinvent yourself!

April Rowe, RN since 2007. Health Writer/Blogger, NICU, Peds, Home Health, Hospice, Endoscopy

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Tweety, BSN, RN

32,990 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 31 years experience.

Nursing is good that way.  I've transferred specialities several times...trauma, telemetry, neurology, admissions, ortho, post-op.  The good thing is I've done it all at the same hospital and now have been there 30 years.  Sometimes you have to change jobs to get something you enjoy but I've been lucky to get some longevity.

Specializes in Home Health,Peds. Has 19 years experience.

I agree with the article,but it should be noted  that it is  very difficult to make lateral moves,especially from non acute to acute.

Just ask any nurse who started out in a non-acute position and tried to secure a position in acute care years later. 

Sometimes I think it is easier to secure an acute position as a new grad than it is as an experienced nurse.

Think about it: How many programs do you see put forth by hospitals to train experienced nurses into an acute position vs new grad residencies?

Specializes in Critical Care/Vascular Access. Has 17 years experience.

@April Rowe, great article! Good reminder to all of us that we have great options available! Don't leave nursing, just switch it up. Many hospital systems are adding programs so that nurses can move around to different specialties. Some of the best nurses I worked with in ICU were Med/Surg nurses who switched. 🙂