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Why I Quit Medical Device Sales To Become A Nurse

Nurses Article   (1,333 Views 14 Replies 1,276 Words)
by Sarah Jividen Sarah Jividen, BSN, RN (New Member) New Member Nurse

Sarah Jividen has 7 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency Room & Neuro Trauma.

1 Follower; 1 Article; 312 Visitors; 8 Posts

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I began my first post-college career as a traveling medical device sales representative selling medical equipment to hospital operating rooms.  Then after a decade in the field, I went back to college and earned a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Here is why I left my successful career as a corporate business person to pursue a career as an RN - and the valuable lessons I learned along the way.

Why I Quit Medical Device Sales To Become A Nurse

My nursing career path has been unconventional, to say the least.

I began my first post-college career as a medical device sales representative selling medical equipment to hospital operating rooms.  Then after a decade in the field, I went back to college and earned a Bachelors of Science in Nursing.

I hear about nurses trying to break into medical device sales all the time.  But I have never known anyone who worked in medical device sales and then went back to college for a nursing degree.  Not once.

Here is the story of why I quit a successful 10-year career in medical device sales to pursue a career as an RN...

As a very young adult, my first priority was to make money

After graduating with a BA in Journalism in 1999, I was ready to start making money.  After all, I was broke and tired of being poor.  I was also passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, so a sales job in the healthcare field seemed like a natural fit.

Over the course of my decade career in sales, I worked for a fortune 500 company and a few startups.  I covered huge territories and at one point even spent almost an entire year living out of a hotel.  It was a lot of hard work, but the money was there.  But I got better every year, despite a gnawing feeling that my calling was somewhere else.  My twenties flew by before my eyes.

One day after a lot of soul-searching I finally decided to go back to school and earn a BSN.  My sales counterparts couldn't believe I would leave the medical device industry after what most would consider a very financially successful career.  I tried to explain the best I could - that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself.  And medical sales just wasn't doing it for me anymore.

I eventually had a shift in my professional priorities

Even though I wasn't an actual healthcare professional at the time, I got to work in hospital operating rooms and observe almost every kind of surgery.  It was through those experiences that I learned I wanted to be more truly clinical - instead of just repeating a sales pitch with each new physician who gave me the time of day.

More specifically, I wanted to jump into the procedures that I was selling products and actually be a part of the medical team. Not sit and wait on the sidelines for hours until they used the product I was selling (if they used it at all).

More importantly, though, I was continually drawn to help people and learn clinical life-saving skills.  I was tired of going home every day feeling as if I wasn't doing enough with my life to make the world better.

Sounds a little cliche, I know.  But this little voice in my head kept telling me that one day all I was going to say about my life was that I was a "salesperson."  And I wanted more than that.

So one day, l quit my career and went back to school to earn my RN.

Starting over as a nursing student was humbling

I paid my own way through my nursing prerequisites and another college degree.  And let me tell you - college is so much more expensive now then it was in 2000.  I was lucky that I had such a large savings from my prior career to help get me through.

In addition, I also worked as a bartender at night - sometimes until midnight - and then had to be at a clinical rotation by 0700 the next morning.  I studied nonstop for 3 years.  Nursing school was so much harder than medical sales, or my first college degree for that matter.  In fact, I didn't even know school could be that hard.

Still, I pressed on, feeling like I was going to get kicked out at any moment for failing a test (and 1/4 of my cohort actually did get kicked out, its a miracle I wasn't in that group).  To this day, nursing school is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my professional life.

I was a nurse's assistant during nursing school

I worked as a CNA during my last year of nursing school and I both loved and hated it.  It was such an honor to give care to my patients in some of the worst times of their lives.   It was primary, basic care  - and it was important!  I tried to give my patients humility.   I helped people feel human when they felt invisible.

But being a CNA was also so challenging- both physically and physiologically.   This is because for the first time in my life I was not at the top of the food chain.  I sometimes felt like I was just a staff person to boss around.  No longer did I have my salary plus commissions, my company car and expense account, my catered lunches, my bonuses and my stock awards at the end of the year.  And sometimes I missed it, but not enough to ever go back.  

I finally attained my RN, BSN title

After three years of nursing school and a lot of sweat and tears, I finally graduated with my BSN.   I began my career specializing in a neuroscience and stroke unit and earned certifications as a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse and Public Health Nurse. In 2017, I began a new phase in my nursing career as an emergency room RN.

Being a nurse means that I am ALWAYS learning.

While being a nurse is exhausting and I have moments of extreme burnout, I do feel that nursing is my calling. I am a closet science geek and the love cerebral stimulation that I get as a nurse. I have had the opportunity to see more disease states, complex injuries and unusual diagnoses than I ever could have imagined even existed.

It would not be an exaggeration to say I learn ten new things every day at work. To top it off, I am surrounded by some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Many of my co-workers have the same drive for helping people I do. They motivate me to keep learning.

My experience in medical device sales was a valuable part of my overall career growth

In fact, I am so grateful for my time in medical sales.  My experiences have given me a much different perspective than many of my nurse peers.  And I see my experiences as a huge advantage for my professional development.

Working in the medical sales industry gave me valuable business and communication skills.  I met a lot of great friends with whom I still have close relationships with.  My organizational and time management skills are much more fine-tuned and I learned how to be a professional in the workplace.  I just like to think of myself as being a little more well-rounded now.

After all, the businesswoman in me still exists.  But now I have the clinical prowess and expertise as an experienced RN to match.  

Sarah Jividen is a registered nurse, freelance writer, and blogger at MotherNurseLove.com where she writes about nurse lifestyle topics and solutions to the nurse work-life balance. When she is not working, you will find Sarah spending time with her two toddlers, practicing yoga, attending a local concert venue, or sampling dark beers with her husband in their little Los Angeles beach suburb.

1 Follower; 1 Article; 312 Visitors; 8 Posts

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1 Follower; 5,863 Visitors; 832 Posts

Interesting story. Many nurses usually try to go the opposite way you did. It is all about finding one's peace in life. If your's is being  a nurse, then so be it. Do you think you will ever go back to medical sales?

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6,512 Visitors; 368 Posts

What is your favorite part of your career now? I am amazed that you made this change and I congratulate you for listening to your heart and honoring the desire for more fulfillment.

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167 Visitors; 12 Posts

I enjoyed reading this! I’m in the middle of changing careers ( I begin nursing school in August), and this helped answer questions and lay out what to expect. Thank you for sharing! 

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Ferocity specializes in sleep.

59 Visitors; 7 Posts

Here and before the universe itself: Evidence that saleswomen do in fact have souls. Now if only we could prove salesmen had any =\

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Sarah Jividen has 7 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency Room & Neuro Trauma.

1 Follower; 1 Article; 312 Visitors; 8 Posts

19 hours ago, Workitinurfava said:

Interesting story. Many nurses usually try to go the opposite way you did. It is all about finding one's peace in life. If your's is being  a nurse, then so be it. Do you think you will ever go back to medical sales?

Thank you for reading my article and leaving a message.  I have thought about the possibility of going back into medical sales a couple of times in recent years but each time decided that it was in my interest to explore other options.  I love the clinical aspect of nursing as well as writing, both of which I wouldn’t be doing as much as a medical salesperson.  I am so glad that I got that experience though!

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Sarah Jividen has 7 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency Room & Neuro Trauma.

1 Follower; 1 Article; 312 Visitors; 8 Posts

7 hours ago, Ferocity said:

Here and before the universe itself: Evidence that saleswomen do in fact have souls. Now if only we could prove salesmen had any =\

Thank you for reading and leaving a comment:-)

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Sarah Jividen has 7 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency Room & Neuro Trauma.

1 Follower; 1 Article; 312 Visitors; 8 Posts

10 hours ago, BSMCON_FutureRN88 said:

I enjoyed reading this! I’m in the middle of changing careers ( I begin nursing school in August), and this helped answer questions and lay out what to expect. Thank you for sharing! 

Thank you for reading and leaving a message!  Best of luck to you I’m nursing school.  It is a lot of work but also a very fulfilling career with a lot of opportunity!  

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Sarah Jividen has 7 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency Room & Neuro Trauma.

1 Follower; 1 Article; 312 Visitors; 8 Posts

19 hours ago, twinsmom788 said:

What is your favorite part of your career now? I am amazed that you made this change and I congratulate you for listening to your heart and honoring the desire for more fulfillment.

I love working in the emergency department. I have worked in a few different specialties and it took me a while to find the one I was most passionate about.  I am also passionate about writing about the nursing lifestyle.  There are so many things you can do as a nurse besides work at the bedside.   Thank you for reading!!

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

15 Followers; 88 Articles; 227,865 Visitors; 1,815 Posts

I love your story, thanks for sharing! And now you're a writer as well!

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myoglobin has 11 years experience as a ASN, BSN and specializes in ICU, trauma, neuro.

3,216 Visitors; 335 Posts

I would be curious as to how the experience of being a nurse has differed from your expectations (if it has)? 

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myoglobin has 11 years experience as a ASN, BSN and specializes in ICU, trauma, neuro.

3,216 Visitors; 335 Posts

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