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How can an RN transition from patient care to leadership?

Dear Donna,

I have 26 years of clinical experience almost exclusively providing primary care in four different settings. I would like to transition to a project-oriented leadership role rather than direct patient care. Some examples are linking direct care and population health and developing and implementing new patient care delivery models. I have a DNP, MPH, bioethics training and some quasi-administrative experience. I am at the top of the pay scale in as a clinician in my state. I hope to be active and gainfully employed for the next 10-15 years. What do you recommend for an RN who wants to transition from patient care to leadership?

Looking to Transition

Dear Looking to Transition

With your background and credentials, you have quite a few options. Your biggest problem may be choosing among them.

Because you are in a transitioning process and exploring your options, it is important for you to start networking with those in roles/specialties similar to what you seek. Start getting out to local chapter meetings, as a guest, of the American College of Healthcare Executives , the American Public Health Association and the Association of Nurse Executives just to name a few. This type of in-person high-level networking is a great way to build your professional network and explore options.

Everything happens through word of mouth, aka networking, so the more people you speak to, the closer you will get to finding the right position. Be sure to have business cards made if you don’t already have some and carry them with you at all times. You’ll want to exchange contact info with those you meet and stay in touch.

I also suggest that you start making in-person or telephone appointments to do informational interviews with individuals working in leadership roles in related associations, agencies and companies where you might work. These include healthcare consulting companies, your state public health department, ambulatory care centers/association (where care management and population health find a home) and your state chapter of the American Nurses Association. The article, “The scoop on informational interviewing” outlines this process for you but you can modify the questions according to your interests.

At your level of experience you also should consult with a professional recruiter or headhunter. Find them by getting referrals/recommendations from those you meet through the above-mentioned channels.

Read “Nursing—a new paradigm” and connect with those mentioned in the article via LinkedIn. Set up an informational interview with some of them as well. Be sure to have your own LinkedIn profile updated with keywords and information related to the type of position you are seeking.

The classified ads will not list this type of position so you need to take a proactive approach to find your next job. Start generating positive career momentum and the right path or opportunity will eventually reveal itself.

Best wishes,

By | 2020-04-15T15:59:03-04:00 July 9th, 2015|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|1 Comment

About the Author:

Donna Cardillo
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, is president of Known as The Inspiration Nurse, she is a keynote speaker, retreat and seminar leader, 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." She brings more than 25 years of clinical, management and business experience to her role as career guru.

One Comment

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    Dr. Janice G. Brewington July 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Dear Donna,

    I was impressed with your response to “Looking for Transition” as well as the service you provide about careers and transition. I am writing to share information about the National League for Nursing’s three leadership programs LEAD, 2) Leadership Development Program for Simulation Educators and 3) Executive Leadership Program for Nursing Education and Practice. This information i located on the NLN website at development-programs/leadership. If you have any questions, please let me know.


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