How much hospital bedside nursing experience do you think a nurse ought to get before she ventures onto a nontraditional path?

By | 2022-02-07T17:58:00-05:00 May 22nd, 2008|0 Comments


Dear Donna,

I have three separate but related questions: How much hospital bedside nursing experience do you think a nurse ought to get before she ventures onto a nontraditional path? I am 2 1/2 years out of nursing school. Due to multiple interstate moves and then having a baby I’ve only worked 15 months of that time. All my experience has been in hospitals, but it’s been pretty sedate — I’ve not yet been in a code. Do I need to put in more time in the trenches before I can be considered credible in a nontraditional role? My passion is patient safety and quality improvement, and I think my skills are best suited to either management or entrepreneurship.

What option do you recommend for a nurse who wants to stay in the profession while being able to stay home with her kids?

I currently work two night shifts every other weekend (8 hours a week) so I can avoid putting my baby into daycare. I think I could manage more hours towards my career, perhaps 24 hours a week. Would you recommend I spend them picking up more shifts at work, working on an advanced degree, or becoming active in professional organizations, work committees, and other networking activities. I know I could do some combination of the three, but which will get me the most value long-term? Does it make a difference that I know my long-term plans do not involve staying by the bedside?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Karishma,

Two or three years of hospital experience is ideal not only for credibility but also to give you an opportunity to truly develop confidence and competence as an RN. However, that is not a hard and fast rule.

When all is said and done, you have to go in the direction that your life and career takes you. You have to follow your heart and do what works bets for you and your family and pursue your personal interests.

If you want to work from home, look into opportunities working for an insurance company doing case management, telephone advice, or telephone triage. Contact some nursing agencies, too, and see if that have anything available to work from home. Many agencies have nontraditional as well as traditional positions.

Regarding how to spend your “extra time,” that is something only you can decide. All of the things you mention are important, and I would hate to see you have to choose one over the other. You certainly can at least join a professional association, even if you only get out to occasional meetings and still do other things. And why not start looking into schools anyway and see where that takes you.

If you haven’t already done so, please read my book Your First Year as a Nurse — Making the Transition From Total Novice to Successful Professional . It will answer many of your questions and then some.

My best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nursing Spectrum/NurseWeek’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


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