“What area do you want to work in?” The ultimate question. The daunting decision. This topic applies not only to nurses, but physicians, naturopaths, physiotherapists, and everyone really. The medical field is broken into so many different areas; it’s often overwhelming to figure out where you want to be. In the end, whether you choose it or whether it chooses you, you will end up ‘specializing’ in something.
I often get asked by eager nursing school students for advice on this topic. And I remember all too well what it was like going through it myself. What do I pick for my final consolidation? What area do I really want to work in?
So, here's some advice here for all of those trying to figure it out.
1. Find good mentors + people to shadow
Here’s a little secret: everyone is rooting for you. Most people do enjoy mentoring others, and it never hurts to ask. Most departments allow you to shadow others, and it will give you a really good idea of what the unit is really like. If you don't know someone working in an area of interest and you’d love to see what a real day-in-the-life is like, reach out to the department manager at a local hospital and ask to follow someone for a few hours. Another way to find a mentor is to use social media- Instagram is actually a great place to discover other healthcare professionals! If they're not in your city to shadow, you can always email or phone and ask some questions- understanding both the best parts and the worst parts of one’s specialized area will give you great insight into whether or not you may also enjoy it there. :)
2. Know your own strengths + weaknesses, and the things you enjoy best.
Easier said than done. I always find it helpful to reflect on the things I actually enjoy doing most, the things I enjoy the least, and the things I am good at. You’d be surprised sometimes at the differences in what you think you like compared to what you truly enjoy. If you’ve had a really good day at clinical ask yourself why- was it the people you worked with or was it the surgery you were able to attend? Was it because you were able to teach a patient something about their condition, or was there fast-paced decision making? If you find yourself getting better grades in certain topics, or find them more interesting, take note of this! Do you like learning about pregnancy, pediatrics, mental health? Are you fascinated with QRS waves or do you prefer the alveoli in the lungs? :)
When I first started nursing school, I thought I wanted an adrenalin filled position, and to work in the ED. What I found over time is that although I do enjoy a thrill once in a while, I'm also very good at the teaching aspect of nursing. This, coupled with the fact that I was very interested in pregnancy and birth, and always felt connected to new mothers, is why I chose to be a NICU nurse. I love the thrill of a delivery, taking care of tiny little babies, and helping new momma’s cope with the ups and downs! I did not realize that the teaching aspect of nursing would be something I enjoyed so much, and it took time and reflection for me to realize that.
3. Don’t overthink it, you can ALWAYS change direction.
The average person pivots their career every 5-10 years. I understand that being fresh out of school sometimes means you can’t be too choosy with where you work. Let the process unfold, follow your gut, ask around, and don’t worry if you need to change positions. If you don’t like where you’re working, work towards something new. There are tons of additional courses and certifications that you can take to help you advance your career or get you to where you want to be.
4. Don’t always rely on your school experience.
Sometimes what you see and experience in school is not reality. Just because you had a really bad (or really good!) experience in one department, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. Also, understand that school is just the very beginning of your learning; you will realize quickly that you don't know a thing. Health care policies change so rapidly, new research is constant, and there is always room for growth in every area.
We also hope that you can use the Kits Scrubs community to reach out to others who are going through the same difficult decisions you are, or to find mentors who might help guide you through your career! If you haven't already, follow us on IG for weekly spotlights on healthcare providers doing cool things!
And remember, keep growing all ways.
Disclaimer: Kits Scrubs Inc. website and blog not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. As health and nutrition research continuously changes, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website. Please talk to your healthcare provider for medical advice and concerns.
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