Finding the Right Nursing Job for You


Finding the Right Nursing Jobs for YouBy Debra Wood, RN, contributor

One of the coolest things about a nursing career is that it can flex and change with the individual. A nurse can have a variety of nursing jobs as he or she works in different specialties or settings. 

So, what is the right nursing specialty and setting for you? 

“One-hundred percent of nurses have asked this question,” said Janice Mink, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, CNRN, CPHQ, clinical content specialist at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (ACCN). 

“Regardless of whether you are a new graduate nurse, very early in your career or you’ve been working awhile, periodically we all ask ourselves, ‘Am I in the right place? Am I doing work that is fulfilling for me and helpful for my patients?’”

“Every nurse wants to do great work,” Miink added.

Michelle Eustaquio, RN, patient care administrator for VITAS Healthcare’s East Bay program in California, was working in a skilled-nursing facility when she realized hospice care was a good fit for her. 

“It was extremely fulfilling knowing I could provide comfort to patients and their families at such a sensitive time in their lives,” Eustaquio said. “If nurses are looking for an opportunity to make a significant difference in patients and families’ lives, then hospice may be a great fit, because the type of care provided is more personal than many other nursing fields.” 

Sometimes, a good nursing career fit depends on life circumstances. 

Young and energetic nurses might thrive in an emergency room or critical care unit, while a nurse with school children might want to work in a clinic with its more regular daytime hours. More experienced nurses may seek to transition to case management, research or home health. The options are seemingly endless. 

When deciding on a nursing specialty, Mink suggested that reflecting on your passion and the balance you need in your work should be your starting point.

Eustaquio found her passion, saying, “I love my job at VITAS, because every day is rewarding, which makes me even more passionate about my work.”

DISCOVER your passion among top nursing specialties.

5 ways to find the right nursing career fit

1. Create a nursing career scale

“Take time to create a personal career scale by reflecting on your experiences in nursing,” Mink said. “On the left side of the page are the aspects of nursing work you want to have. Write down nursing experiences that were energizing, interesting and motivated you to learn more. These are experiences you want to have more often.”

On the right side of the page, the nurse would write down the experiences that drained his or her energy and did not find interesting. These are the experiences to minimize. 

“Next, look at the external factors in patients and the health care environment that differ depending on the specialty,” Mink said. “If you haven’t experienced one of these yet, just imagine it now to get a sense of the choices you prefer." 

Consider whether you want to work with a certain patient age group; with people with specific diseases; where work processes remain similar day after day; and with patients who are complex and unstable, such as in critical care, or more mildly ill. 

Critical care might be a good career fit for nurses who love working with highly vulnerable and unstable patients, love detail, enjoy working in close collaboration with other professions, and continually want to learn new things. 

2. Try out different nursing specialties

Explore nursing jobs with internships or programs that allow new graduate RNs or experienced nurses to rotate through different units, Mink said.

“If you really want to know the work a particular nursing specialty does, take the time to explore the specialty through the eyes of nurses who practice in it,” Mink advised. Prepare questions based on your personal career scale. 

Travel nurses who want experience in related specialties may be able to request an assignment that will provide that opportunity.

3. Reach out to specialty nursing associations

Check out a nursing specialty from its professional organization. AACN’s website, for instance, includes stories from nurses, standards and literature to help a nurse think about a career in critical care.

“Nursing associations often provide access to educational and inspiring information, even if you are not a member,” Mink said. 

4. Answer truthfully: Are you technically savvy? 

Consider whether working with equipment and technology seems fun or overwhelming. Every nurse will have to work with technology to some degree, but some RN specialties rely on it more than others. 

If you like technology, critical care nursing might be a good career fit. 

“Electrocardiographic rhythm interpretation is fundamental to patient care,” Mink said. “Specific patient problems require critical care nurses to have competency in mechanical ventilation; continuous renal replacement therapy; and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation just to name a few.”

5. Know where to look

When making a nursing career change, you’ll need to decide where you are more comfortable: with a nursing job inside a facility or out in the field, as with home health and hospice. 

Before taking that next nursing job, Mink recommends a simple, three-way approach:

1. Look inward to reflect on what fuels your nursing passion; 

2. Look outward to explore the patients and environments where nursing specialties are practiced; and

3. Look to the experts already in the specialty being considered.

FIND your ideal nursing job with and take the next step toward your nursing career goals! 

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