When you stop to think about all the positive reasons you might choose to be a nurse, you’ll find there is a long list. It’s a great profession to get into for its job security, its rewarding nature, and the fact that you can progress well throughout your career. Something else that is truly exciting and a positive reason to get into nursing is that, if you have a particular interest or skill, you will have the chance to specialize. That could be specializing in a certain department, working with very young children or the elderly, helping those with specific conditions, or perhaps becoming a nurse leader.
No matter what you choose to do, it’s a good idea to spend a lot of time making that decision. Although you won’t be stuck doing something you dislike if you find you have made the wrong choice – you can always start again – it will save you a lot of time and stress if you choose wisely from the start. With that in mind, here are some ideas to help you choose a nursing specialty.
Start at the Beginning
There is a hugely important point to remember when you are choosing a nursing specialty; don’t rush. The fact is that you don’t have to choose a specialty at all. If you’re happy and comfortable working as a more general nurse, then that’s what you can stick with until the day you retire. Don’t worry about expectations and what other people are choosing to do with their careers; this is your job and your life, and you need to do what works for you.
However, if you do know you want to become a more specialized nurse, there is no need to panic and try to do everything at once. If you do this, you’ll miss out on a lot of the experiences – and the chance to gain experience – that will make you a great nurse in any future section you might decide to work in. It’s far better to simply start at the beginning and work as hard as you can. Concentrate on gaining your RN qualification, and then do the work required, building up your knowledge, experience, and confidence as you go. At some point, when you’re ready and not before, you’ll know you can move forward in whatever direction suits you.
The more experience and confidence you can gain as a nurse, the better you will be when it comes to specializing. Plus, this is something that will help you no end when you need to choose what kind of specialism you want to work in. You’ll be able to determine what you like and don’t like about nursing and use that – as well as the skills you hone – to pick the right area to move into.
Research Nursing Degrees
When you have an idea about what you might want to specialize in, and perhaps have two or three different options in mind, it’s a good idea to look into what qualifications you need for each discipline. This can help you narrow things down much more easily. For example, some areas need less study than others, and if you aren’t keen on going back to school and want to move forward more quickly, that’s the kind of choice you can make. If you love studying and are happy to go back to school, then there might be other, better options, that will allow for that. Of course, you need to be happy to work in the area you’re choosing as well. Don’t just opt for something because it requires only a little – or a lot – of study.
There are many different degrees and many ways to study them. Something that works out well for working nurses is an online degree; this means you can work at the same time, so you won’t lose any of your experience and you can still earn money. You’ll study when you have free time and on your schedule. This will mean that the course will take longer to complete, but many nurses feel it is worth it; after all, you’ll be using the time anyway, so why not make something useful of it and study for a new qualification such as an online AGPCNP MSN program, for example?
Identify Your Nursing Goals
Going through life without any goals is a difficult thing to do. You’ll find that you never quite know if you’re making the right choices because you don’t have any specific plans to follow. This can mean that you don’t make any choices at all and that you don’t get as far ahead in life as you otherwise would do.
This is true for life in general, but it’s also true specifically when it comes to your nursing career. It’s far better to have goals to work towards – and to help you focus and ensure you make the right decisions – than it is to just wander through life without any direction to go in or goals to follow through on.
It can seem like a big chore to identify your nursing goals and plan to work towards them, and it indeed will – or rather, should – take some time. However, once you have done it, you will find that everything else falls much more neatly into place.
Start with some self-reflection. You need to know what you want out of life and whether nursing is truly for you – after all, there isn’t much point in making nursing career goals if you don’t feel you want to be a nurse any longer. If you are still keen to be a nurse, you will then need to consider your wants and needs in life and how they will fit in with your career. Then, you should consider your strengths and weaknesses and what you enjoy when it comes to nursing. Adding all this together will help you determine what your nursing goals are, and that should help you understand what specialty discipline you need to move into if that is part of your overall plan.
Consider Your Work-Life Balance
We briefly mentioned how you should think about how your nursing career fits with your needs and wants in life in the point above, and now we can look at that in more detail. This is essentially the process of improving your work-life balance. The work-life balance is just what it sounds like; it’s the ability to successfully balance your responsibilities within the workplace with your responsibilities – to others and yourself – at home. That means you need to have a clear delineation between each part of your life, and you must always have your health and happiness at the core of everything.
What is your work-life balance like now? Are you happy with it, or could it be improved? Sometimes it can be hard to achieve a good work-life balance when you are a nurse because of the long hours, shift work, and additional study that will be required. You’ll have to work some weekends and some nights, and it might be your turn to work Christmas or Thanksgiving this year.
If you feel that your work-life balance is out of sync and you’re working too much and missing out on the things that are important in life, then you should look for a nursing specialty that will allow for more flexibility, that has better hours, or even that allows you to work from home – there are some, particularly in the field of telemedicine, that offer this option. This could be the thing that helps you make your final decision, so pay attention to how much you’re working and what it is doing for the rest of your life.
What Will You Be Paid?
Most people don’t go into nursing for the money. Although it’s not as terrible as many people think, a nurse’s salary is often the last thing on their minds because they want to help people; that’s the most important part.
However, there’s no denying the fact that money is crucial in life, and no matter what you feel about that, you need to be paid fairly for the work you do. In nursing, different disciplines have different pay scales, and of course, the more qualified you are and the more senior roles you take on, the more you will be paid.
If you have a salary in mind that you want to reach or that you need to ensure you can satisfy all your outgoing payments and still have money left over, either to use for fun or save for something important (perhaps even both) then look into the areas of nursing that pay at least that amount.
Although choosing a position based on the salary is often a bad idea if you want to be happy in your work, it can work well to narrow your options down if you were finding it hard to make your final choice. For some, thinking about the money aspect of nursing is distasteful, but it shouldn’t be. You work hard and should be paid for that work.