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How can I get a position in critical care without med/surg?


Dear Donna,

I graduated from nursing school in 2005. I went right back for my BSN from 2005-2006. During this time, I did agency work in subacute and long-term care facilities because these jobs complemented my school schedule. Right out of school I excelled as a charge nurse. I also took full-time employment as a visiting nurse from 2006-2007. Then went fee-for-service to experience med/surg in a hospital setting. I have tried to keep a med/surg position on two occasions at two totally different facilities for longer than three months (one old-fashioned and paper full and the other paperless and on the cutting edge of technology). I couldn’t do it. My heart isn’t in it. I love patient care — not paging the doctor 50 times a day and little-to-no patient contact. I would love to do critical care, and every nurse educator, professor, and preceptor I ever had agrees. But how can I get a position in critical care without med/surg? My current employer wants me to stay in med/surg for six months. I am ready to quit. I can’t do 90 more days. I am on my eighth job since I graduated. If I quit, I always have my agency jobs and home care, but I want to be a CCRN, not a jack of all trades. I have written one too many letters of resignation.


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Kelli,

There are several issues here. If ICU is truly what you want to do, then do whatever you need to do to find an ICU position for yourself. I’m not sure why you took a med/surg position in the first place, but med/surg is not necessary to work in ICU. Nor is it a specialty that every nurse enjoys or needs to work in.

Choosing the right employer is just as important as finding the right specialty. Be sure to tour any unit you are considering working in, and speak with the manager and staff nurses. How does everyone treat you? Do they answer your questions and seem friendly? Do you get a welcoming feeling? Does the facility have a comprehensive orientation that includes an orientation for your specialty?

Before making the move to ICU, be sure it is the right specialty for you. Do some informational interviewing with nurses who already work in that specialty. See the articles “How to Change Specialties” and “How to Find Your Forte” .

I am concerned about the fact that you’ve had so many positions since graduating. I’m wondering if there is some other underlying issue. Maybe you can discuss this with one of your former instructors. Please do your homework as suggested above and in the above referenced articles before making another move.

My best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nursing Spectrum’s “Dear Donna” and author of Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional. To ask Donna your question, go to Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call (800) 866-0919 or visit

By | 2008-03-25T00:00:00-04:00 March 25th, 2008|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|0 Comments

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