I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Regina* had decided to give up on nursing. After 25 years in the profession, she had a “been there, done that” mentality and felt bored to tears. Her experience included multiple traditional and non-traditional specialties and multiple employers from hospitals to insurance companies. “I felt that I had exhausted my options in this profession and desperately needed a change. I was still telling myself, ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!'”

She opted to go for career testing thinking that would reveal what she should be doing with her life. The testing indicated that she might be good as a librarian, teacher, or psychologist. When Regina contacted me, she had been trying to find a position as a librarian with no success. She was seeking help in securing work in that field.

For starters, I informed Regina that career testing does not tell you what you should be doing per se, but rather points out what other people are doing who have similar interests and traits to yours. She was surprised to hear that and suddenly felt less certain about the path she was now pursuing. I also pointed out that I wasn’t surprised to hear the career paths that were presented to her since they have much in common with nursing. And that although the day to day work might seem different in some ways, these careers still had teaching, nurturing, and healing at their core – just like nursing.

As we discussed what Regina loved to do most and where her strengths lie, she revealed that she was an avid reader, committed to lifelong learning, and that teaching was always a love she had although she was adamant that she had no interest in teaching nursing. “Why not do something with all of that in nursing that is a complete departure from what you’ve done in the past?” I presented. Regina looked at me skeptically and said “I don’t think any such thing exists –at least not anything that would interest or excite me.”

We discussed various teaching options she had such as community education, working for a private education company, or doing health education in schools. While doing some informational interviewing with others in the education field at my suggestion, Regina learned of a position that was being created at a local high school for a “healthcare careers coordinator.” The school was looking for a nurse (no degree necessary) who could develop related curriculum, arrange for students to become certified nurses’ aides while still in school, teach/advise them about various healthcare career paths, and compile related resources for the school library!

When Regina heard about this position, she was stunned because she had no idea any such thing existed. I informed her that many schools had or were developing these special programs since healthcare is a great career path.

Regina wound up applying for and being offered the position. She found something that was completely different from any position she’d ever had but that still made a positive impact. In addition to using her nursing knowledge and experience, Regina felt like she was also part teacher, psychologist, career coach, and even librarian in a way! She had found a way to merge her credentials, experience, and interests and continue to “nurse” in her own unique way. Regina has reinvented herself within the nursing profession and is now helping others decide what they want to be when they grow up.

Expose yourself to new ideas, new people, new information, and new ways of working as a nurse through seminars, networking, reading and formal education. Although looking outside of the profession sometimes seems like the only way to go, looking deeper within yourself and your chosen profession often makes the most sense.

* Not her real name

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