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I have returned to the U.S. after nine months volunteering in Honduras. I am very confused as to what I want to do now. Any resources or suggestions?

Wednesday November 28, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I am back in the U.S. after living in Honduras for nine months. I was volunteering with an orphanage organization, working in the community clinic and at an on-site pediatric clinic. Before that I worked on a neuroscience unit in a pediatric facility for four years, where I was really involved in the organization, helping them achieve their Magnet designation.

Now that I am back in the U.S., I am really at a loss as to what I want to do. I love the hospital atmosphere, but don't think I want to go back to bedside nursing. I would love to continue to help the underserved/uninsured population, but can that only be done in small clinic settings?

I would love to attend your nursing seminar, but I am not near the areas where they are offered and can't afford to fly to them right now. Do you have any resources or suggestions?

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Lost and Confused,

You don’t mention what state you are in, but you need to establish a local network of nurses/healthcare professionals. Networking is a great way to explore options, find a job and build a support system. You should attend nursing career fairs in your area and local chapter meetings of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org/), whether you are a member or not. Everything happens through networking.

Also, I recommend you start volunteering in a healthcare setting now while you figure out where to go from here. Consider a free clinic, blood bank, the American Red Cross, a hospice, the local public health department or whatever interests you. Volunteering is a great way to further expand your network, learn new skills, hone old ones and account for time while in transition. Volunteering often leads to paid employment.

Again, I don’t know what state you are in, but many cities, counties and states have health-related programs of all types for the underserved and at-risk population. Start making some phone calls, asking around, and doing Internet research. Talk to your local public health nurse. This might be a good place for you to volunteer while you figure things out.

Regarding Career Alternatives for Nurses, the program is available in a home study version on CD or DVD. It’s the next best thing to coming to a seminar. Find out more at CE.Nurse.com/Professional-Development.

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.