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I'm an RN in a sales position and want to get into a clinical role. Is there any hope for me?

Wednesday September 26, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I am a nurse who has never worked as a nurse. I graduated in 2007, at age 40, hoping to have a second career. I accepted a clinical support position with a medical manufacturer and was promoted to a sales position, where I have been since. I have tried to get into nursing, with no success. I completed a nurse refresher course, which apparently has not given me any leverage to get a foot in the door. My point being is, I have never been a sales person and somehow I ended up in this position. Entering into a new clinical support role has not worked either — since I made the jump to sales and am no longer considered a good fit in a clinical role. I know I should be glad to be employed, but I feel like a square peg in a round hole. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Is there any hope for me at this point?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Saul,

Yes, there is hope for you, but it may not be in the way or place you envisioned.

The hospital job market for nurses is extremely competitive right now. Even many experienced nurses, without very current experience, are not being hired. So finding a hospital bedside position right now is unlikely to happen. The good news is that jobs are shifting out of the hospital into alternative care settings, the community and the home. So there are many, many other clinical settings you can break into, including the whole ambulatory care spectrum.

I recommend you start volunteering now, even a few hours a week (I understand that you need to keep working in a paid position) in a healthcare/clinical setting as a nurse. You might even be able to get paid temporary work as a flu clinic nurse ('tis the season), or something similar. Contact a blood bank, free clinic or the American Red Cross. This will serve as a transition step for you. Your recent refresher course will help with these volunteer or paid positions. Take whatever you can get to get your foot in the door and gain some recent experience. This is a good way to expand your professional network.

I suggest that you join and participate in your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org). This will help you get reconnected to the nursing profession, get you up to date with issues and trends and further expand your network. Everything happens through networking.

Rather than saying or thinking that you haven’t worked in nursing, rephrase that to "I have been working in nursing in a nontraditional role," which you have, even in a medical sales position. There's a big difference in those two thoughts/statements.

Even though you are not a new nurse, you’ll find some helpful tips and advice in the article “New nurse, new job strategies” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Strategies).

Transitioning back is a process, so be patient. You’re already moving in the right direction, having taken the refresher course. Build on that momentum by taking the above advice, including that in the referenced article, you’ll eventually get to where you want to be.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.