5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Changing Specialties

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Changing SpecialtiesChanging specialties can be an exciting challenge for nurses unhappy with the area of practice they’ve chosen or looking for a more dynamic path with more long-term opportunities.

But it can also mean taking a step back in seniority, knowledge and pay.

Phyllis Quinlan, CCRN, PhD, president of MFW Consultants in New York, says it’s important to get to the root of why you want to change before you make a leap you’ll regret. You may also find that there are opportunities within your own specialty that you haven’t explored.

Your first move should be to assess yourself as you would a patient, Quinlan says. Here are five things to think about:

Is it my professional life or personal life that needs the change? “What I see happen is that people in their late 30s and 40s make a change in their career, looking for an answer that’s really achieved within themselves and they set themselves up for disappointment,” Quinlan says. It could be that you need to take a look at a relationship that’s not working. Maybe you’re dealing with empty-nest syndrome or caring for an aging relative. It’s important to keep these feelings separate from the way you feel about your career to make a smart decision, she says

Are current physical demands pushing me toward change?  Twelve-hour days are one thing in your 30s, but they may be too much now. If you are looking to scale back on the physical demands, moving to case management, data analysis, teaching or infection control are among a wealth of attractive options.

Am I tired of seeing the same kind of patients? This may be a sign of compassion fatigue. “It is not uncommon about 15 years into a profession,” Quinlan says. “You’re getting irritable, you’re getting antsy…. You need to find out why you’re not putting enough back into the well to take care of yourself as you’re trying to do for everybody else.” She says that’s when you start to see leapfrogging of careers.

How much orientation could I expect in a new specialty? Ask about training opportunities. “Think of the value of an internship or residency program…. That’s truly an investment,” Quinlan says. “That will give you the opportunity to use your skill set, blend it and enhance it as opposed to being thrown into a situation with the understanding that you’re an RN, you can do anything. Try not to hurt anybody.”

Am I looking to change because I can’t get along with my boss? “There are always going to be cliques, there’s always going to be a hierarchy,” Quninlan says. That won’t necessarily change by moving to a new specialty.

Sometimes changing specialties is the right answer, but first take the time to figure out what’s missing.

“If you’re looking for this elusive perfect set-up, you’re going to be disappointed,” Quinlan says, adding that unless you’re in a situation where you’re experiencing some form of abuse, you may want to consider staying where you are and looking at what can make your current situation better.

© HealthCallings.com, Dice Holdings Inc., 2012

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About Marcia Frellick

Marcia Frellick is a Chicago-based independent journalist with 25 years of experience writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and online news sites. A graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Frellick’s work has appeared in AllHealthCareJobs.com, health care magazines including Nursing Spectrum, Hospitalists, Today in OT and Today in PT, Hospitals & Health Networks and Trustee and the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois Issues magazine, Northwestern magazine and several other publications.

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