Three easy steps to narrow down your nursing career options

March 31, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

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You figured out a long time ago that you want to be a nurse. You’ve always been passionate about helping people, and you have all of the traits necessary for anyone who’d like to pursue this career path. But the one thing that still has you tied up in knots is deciding which specialty is the right fit for you.

You read about transplant nursing, and that sounds like a field that you’d like to work in – but then again, so does paediatric nursing, oncology nursing, and several others. Each of these requires a whole different type of training and even though you can switch careers later down the line, it’ll mean having to go back to school and learning a whole new set of skills.

Taking the time to narrow down your specialty options at the outset can save you time and money, and the heartache that can result from switching fields mid-career. These tips will help you make a more informed decision:

Step 1 – Explore your likes & dislikes, strengths & weaknesses

This is the most crucial factor in choosing a nursing specialty. Every specialty has its own set of requirements that make them better suited to certain personalities. Finding a perfect match will impact your entire attitude towards your job – you’ll enjoy every day at work and will also be more successful in your career.

Ask yourself these few questions:

Step 2 – Explore your shortlisted specialties in more detail

Once you’ve answered the above questions, you’ll find you have a better idea of your likes and dislikes, and which areas of nursing are better suited to your skills and which aren’t.

It’s time to narrow it down some more. For example, if you’ve identified that you’re better suited to working with children, you now have to decide whether your strength lies in working with newborn babies, premature newborns, toddlers or school children. Again, each of these requires different skill sets.

Start by getting some more details about your shortlisted specialties. Learn about what each job entails and what to expect. Read about the pros and cons of the job. Compare the rewards of working in that specialty against the challenges you can expect to face.

Most important of all, learn about the educational and training requirements for that specialty. Some specialties have longer and more intensive training requirements that can be a huge deterrent if you are looking for a quick entry into the nursing field.

Step 3 – Obtain experience

While reading about the different specialties can give you valuable insight into each one, it still gives you somebody else’s view. The thought of delivering babies may sound exciting to you but what about the other side of it? As a nurse in this specialty, you will have to handle the good as well as the bad. There’s a lot that goes on that is often not written about, and you may not realise till it is too late. To prevent this, you need to take your specialty exploration one step further.

One way to do this is by embarking upon a shadowing placement in a clinical environment. Shadowing involves following medical professionals in their place of work and observing what goes on. You’ll see what a nurse does while at work, how they interact with patients and all of the ups and downs of the job. It will give you a better idea of a day in the life of a nurse.

Take the example of a labour nurse again; a shadowing placement will help you understand what it’s like to help with deliveries, what it feels like to hold a newborn baby in your hands and also the challenges involved with complicated deliveries. An experience such as this is invaluable in helping you make the right nursing career choices.

When you take these steps to narrow down your nursing career options, you’ll be able to make more confident, informed choices, which also reduces the likelihood that you’ll want to switch specialities in the middle of your career.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.