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A career in nursing can be different from other careers. There are many reasons you might be called to nursing. But your current role does not need to be the same throughout your entire career. Some nurses will find that they don’t like their current specialty. The great thing about nursing is that you are not necessarily stuck in the same role.

You can go back to nursing school to earn a more advanced degree. Or you can move laterally in order to work in a specialty that is a better fit for your lifestyle and the type of patients you want to serve.

Changing specialties sounds complicated and, depending on the type of change you plan on making, it might not be simple. You might be able to change specialties within your current hospital or facility, or you might need advanced nursing education to make the switch. The important part of your journey is that you are able to move to a position where you feel the most fulfilled. The answers to these questions are different for every nurse. Some do very well with one specialty but not as well with others.

Some nursing specialties mean longer hours and less work/life balance. For other nurses, it is really all about patient care. Some nurses do very well working in neonatal care or as ER nurses who see a lot of different types of cases. Other nurses might work better with end-of-life or geriatrics. There are so many variables, and you need to be able to choose the right work environment for your skills and personal preferences. Nursing is an important calling, and many nurses find that they have a better ability to help certain patients and their families.

How Hard is it to Change Nursing Specialties?

Some nurses will put off switching nursing specialties because it might seem like a difficult thing to do. The truth is that you can change nursing specialties, formally, by adding to your education. You can also change nursing specialties informally.

Many nurses already have the educational background and training to work in a different specialty. You might be boxing yourself in by assuming the experience you have will not transfer over. In many cases, switching to a different specialty can be relatively simple.

First, you need to understand the requirements for the new specialty. It might entail a more advanced nursing education, certification requirements, on-the-job training, or a combination. These are things that you can research ahead of time. This may mean starting with less seniority or lower pay than you have currently. But it’s often worth it to start over, or at a lower level, if you enjoy the work more.

Career Changes for Nurse Practitioners

A nurse practitioner (NP) has many options for choosing a different specialty. Advanced nursing education can help meet the standard requirements for a new specialty. Many nurse practitioners choose to change their specialty based on personal reasons or due to life changes. For instance, an NP who works an inordinate number of hours for a hospital might want to switch specialties after starting a family to limit work hours.

There are several specialties to consider and many of these have sub-specialties. There are nurses who complete training but then realize that they aren’t suited for a specific type of patient. For instance, some nurses enjoy working with children but not the elderly. These nurses might have more fulfilling careers in pediatrics.

How to Know When it’s Time to Make a Nursing Career Change

It can be difficult to know when to make a change in your current specialty. Some reasons that you might be unhappy with your current position may have nothing to do with the specialty and everything to do with the facility or company culture where you currently work.

There are many reasons that you might be unhappy with a job that has nothing to do with the patients or your actual role. Ask yourself whether you are unhappy due to scheduling, colleagues, the work climate, or other issues. If your dissatisfaction has nothing to do with patients and the type of care you provide, you might not want to switch specialties.

Here are a few common reasons that nurses change specialties.

1. You no longer feel challenged

If you have been in the field for a while and you do not feel like you are being challenged, you might feel like you could contribute more than you currently are. These are indications that you might benefit from more education or increased responsibilities.

2. You’ve lost your passion

If you’re happy with your current role, you should feel passionate about the patients you serve and the job you do. If you are not proud of the work you do or have no excitement in the wins in your day, it might be a good sign that you need to switch your work life.

3. You dread going to work

Anyone who dreads going into work should consider a career change. If you have already ruled out the idea that it is the staff or organization, you might consider a specialty change. Some specialties are just not a good fit for every nurse. Working with the same types of trauma or cases over an extended period of time can take its toll.

4. You want to work in a different setting

Working in a different setting can be an excellent way to grow or define your career. Switching specialties can give you the opportunity to work in a completely different setting and capacity where you feel that your contributions matter more.

Tips for transitioning into a new specialty

Any transition can seem daunting. If you’ve been in your specialty for a long time, it might be difficult to think about moving to a completely new field. Here are some tips to help you transition smoothly and to make sure that you choose the best fit for your new career path.

1. Network

Networking with other nurses in your new specialty can be exceptionally helpful. They can give you information on the type of work they do, what they like about their position, and some of the things they find challenging. Networking is a great way to find new positions, but it can also be a great way to build a professional support system.

2. Self-Reflection

Transitioning to a new position is often a big life change. It is a good idea to do some serious self-evaluation and reflection. You need to really analyze why you want the change and what you are looking for in terms of a fulfilling career. This honest reflection can help you determine the best direction for you.

3. Research specialty available options

Research is key to finding the right new specialty. This will help you prepare if you need more education or training. But it can also be a launching pad to help you find options you may not have thought of before.

4. Look for the right match

When transitioning from one specialty to another, you want to look for a good match. You will not necessarily want to take the first job offered to you. You want to make sure that the facility and environment are right for your needs.

5. Additional education

Additional education can often help you pivot to a dream job or help you prepare for a change. Consider researching advanced nursing degrees as a way to explore possible future positions.


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