I am beginning to think that I made the wrong choice in becoming an RN. Can you recommend an appropriate specialty for me?

By | 2022-02-08T14:40:27-05:00 October 13th, 2008|0 Comments


Dear Donna,

I am beginning to think that I made the wrong choice in becoming an RN. I have had four very different jobs since graduating five years ago, and I have been perpetually dissatisfied. I have worked in outpatient infectious disease, telemetry, clinic management for low income patients, and critical care with a cardiology/cardiac surgery focus.

The problem is generally a combination of boredom, feeling that I am not using my skills to their fullest, and finding that nurses are supposed to be everything to everyone. I am most interested in clinical decision making (pathophysiology, managing unstable patients, etc.), the skilled aspects of patient care (teaching, helping patients make decisions), and leadership. I have a strong aversion to ADLs in all forms, and I realize that most RNs do not get to avoid this. It seems that nurses are expected to have all of the latest knowledge and skills, but we are also expected to take care of all of the other things as well without necessary opportunities to delegate.

I have considered returning for my MS, yet I am unsure that any niche for an advanced practice nurse would work for me either, including nurse education, and the expense of graduate school is too great for me to handle without a clear plan.

It is not really like me to be so dissatisfied, and reading over the message I am sending you, I realize that I sound fairly whiney. However, I never imagined that I would grow up to be something that I don’t really love.

So my question is this: What would you suggest as my next step? I am burnt out on my current job and feel that I need to get out, but I don’t want to just start another job that is also unlikely to work for me. Also, do you have any suggestions for a nursing job that allows high-level skills and gets me out of the things I can’t stand?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Heidi,

It is challenging to respond to your note without knowing more details. This sounds more like something you need to sit down and discuss with an RN career coach. However, I will offer the following advice.

Based on what you have written above, emergency department/trauma center nursing might meet your needs. No ADLs, fast-paced, high tech, minimal “extra” stuff to take care of — heavy emphasis on direct patient care/stabilizing patients. Any critical care area requires a high level of skill, sharp critical thinking skills, etc. This can also tie in with flight nursing, which some nurses do simultaneously. Both are challenging, and you obviously need a good challenge. Of course, you can work in the ED and not do flight nursing.

I would suggest that you explore this specialty by visiting the Web site of the Emergency Nurses Association at http:// www.ena.org. Do some informational interviewing with several ED nurses and find out if you can shadow an ED nurse for a few hours. The later may not be possible, but it never hurts to ask.

I also wonder if you belong to any professional associations, such as your state nurses association? Staying isolated in nursing is a sure way to be unhappy and unsuccessful in the profession. You must immerse yourself in the community of nursing, and this is one way to do it. It broadens your horizons and your perspective. It acts as a support system for you and an information pipeline.

Regarding school, you don’t need to become a nurse practitioner to pursue higher education in nursing. You also don’t need to go broke. There is plenty of scholarship money available for those who go after it. Read the following articles: “Go Back to School and Change Your Life” , “How to Get Back to School” , and “Master the Scholarship Game” .

Please read my latest book, The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Strategies for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career, to help you decide where to go from here and get your career on track. Find out more at http://www.nurse.com/ce/7250. You might also benefit from attending my Career Alternatives for Nurses® seminar. See where I’ll be at http://events.nursingspectrum.com/seminar.

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 and The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career. Information about the books is available at www.nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.nurse.com/asktheexperts/deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call (800) 866-0919 or visit http://events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.


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