Becoming a Nurse: Promoting Yourself and Your Career
Finding Your Niche in Nursing
Some people enter their nursing program knowing their chosen career path, be it pediatrics, critical care, or psychiatric nursing. Most people, however, are unsure. Don't be concerned if you have no idea about what type of nursing career will work best for you. You'll figure it out when you're in school going through your clinical rotations, or you'll have a defining moment that you can help create. Encourage your student nurses association to bring in nurses from different specialties to do panel presentations. Talk to your instructors and ask them about their career history. Find out how they started and how their career path led to teaching. Many instructors practice; ask if you can shadow them for a day or two. Read, read, and read. Journal articles provide as much insight on careers as they do on nursing care.
To increase your chances of obtaining a job in your specialty area, get some experience before you graduate. Nursing clinical rotations are pretty standard. All have adult health (medical-surgical nursing), pediatrics, and women's health; most have psychiatric nursing; and BSN programs have community health and critical care. Some programs offer nursing specialty electives, especially perioperative nursing, disaster nursing, and holistic nursing. These electives may or may not have practicum experience, but every little bit helps. A didactic course in palliative care still makes you a more desirable employee than another graduate with no palliative care background. If your program offers your specialty of interest, take it. If not, get creative:
- If your program has options for independent study, ask to use it to get experience in the specialty that interests you.
- Do a Web search to see if another school offers an elective course in your specialty. Many universities offer these courses online. Just make sure the credits will transfer if you need them to graduate.
- Volunteer. If you want to work in pediatrics, volunteer at a day care center; if you want to work in palliative care, volunteer at a hospice.
- Work with faculty on their research projects or publications.
- Write your own articles. As a student, you already have enough knowledge to write a case study.
Every little bit helps because the bits become resume material. Nurse recruiters will see you as someone willing to do more than only what's needed to get by, and you will be a better nurse because you'll have more knowledge.
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