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How do I find other work as a nurse after 14 years of working in a specialty?

Monday October 28, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I have been a RN for 16 years, with 14 of those years in critical care. I also have worked in catheterization lab and interventional radiology for the past 10 years. I injured my back at work, and I learned I may not be able to return to the bedside. I will complete my RN-BSN in May of 2014. I had planned to get a MSN/Ed for the future but reality has hit 20 years earlier than I planned. How do I find a job I can do after so many years of being specialized?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Frustrated,

With your 16 years in nursing, your varied experience and an impending BSN, you are in a great position to do many things. The opportunities for you are virtually unlimited. Much will depend on what you enjoy doing, what you're good at and where your interests lie. Start by reading “How to find your forte” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Forte).

When in a time of transition, it is important to begin going to live networking events such as career fairs and nursing conventions/conferences. See what's coming up (http://www.nurse.com/events/career-fairs) through the end of the year. The 2014 schedule of all of these Nurse.com-sponsored events will be available soon. Read “How to get the most out of attending a career fair” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Career-fair).

You also should attend nursing association meetings such as a local chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org), American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (www.aaacn.org) (even as a guest if you are not a member) or any other specialty that interests you to find out which one best suits you. Networking is a great way to explore options and to find a job.

You also should call everyone you know (friends, family, neighbors and former co-workers) and let them know you are looking for something non-clinical. You don't have to get into the reasons. You can simply say it is time for a change of pace. The power of networking is that people know people who might be able to help you find a job. Nearly 95% of all available jobs are filled through networking. Ask your contacts to let you know if they hear of anything or know anyone who works in a non-clinical setting/position.

Try to attend one of my upcoming “Career Alternatives for Nurses” seminars (http://www.nurse.com/events/ce-seminars) to fully explore your options, identify transferable skills, learn to stay competitive in a changing job market and find out where the jobs will be in the next 10 years. You also may find useful the article “Picking up the pieces of your career.”

Transitioning is a process so be patient with yourself. You are better prepared than you realize. Start moving in a positive forward direction in the above ways (including following the advice in the above-referenced articles) and the right path eventually will reveal itself.

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://www. Nurse.com/Events.