What do you think of when you hear the word “stuck”? Immovable? Unchangeable? Trapped? Nobody wants to feel stuck, but how many of us find ourselves there anyway in our personal or professional lives?
“There are so many opportunities in nursing. How could a nurse ever feel stuck?”
Why Are So Many Nurses STUCK?
They feel stuck in a certain type of nursing. They are afraid to leave the “known” for the “unknown.” They don’t know what to do because they don’t meet qualifications for something new.
The reality is even though the field of nursing is broad, many times choosing one path means losing your skills in another. Becoming an expert in one specialty may leave you terrified to try something new making you go back to a beginner nurse once again. Many positions require years of experience in a particular area unless you get a new grad position or find a new-to-specialty opening. It is true that nurses are always needed, but the need they want you to fill may not be what makes you happy.
How Common Can It Be?
Here are some compelling stories…
- I met a new nurse coming who wants to be a psych nurse, but with the nearest psych unit an hour away, it’s not available where she lives.
- A few nurses have told me they do not like working with the “typical” adult patients and want to change to Labor and Delivery.
- One nurse loved working in the prison system as an LVN, but is sticking to hospital nursing because without hospital experience her career would be limited to the prison system if she ever wanted to change down the road.
- I spoke with a nurse practitioner whose dream job turned into anything but and they are struggling with the decision of where to go next.
Feeling stuck is discouraging and, in many cases, depressing. It goes beyond having hard days at work. You could even have a good day at work, but be completely unhappy if it is not where you want to be. Do you or a nurse you know feel stuck?
Here are some ways to get unstuck:
- Travel nursing: This is a great option if you are single or have a significant other who is willing to travel with you. You can fill your adventure void by working in different cities and states. Research the different companies out there. Find one you trust that has the best benefits and contract terms. You get paid more than a staff nurse and they also provide a stipend for living expenses. You are only responsible for the contracted term and then you can change it up again. If you find that you really like the hospital you’re traveling at, apply to work there as a staff nurse. I’ve known multiple travelers who talked to the manager, applied, and became permanent co-workers.
- Part-Time/Per Diem: I had a nurse tell me, “I can do anything for 2 days a week. If I worked full-time, I would hate it.” Cutting back hours is common with nurses going back to school and moms wanting to stay home more with their children. Having that extra day to shift around responsibilities or one less day to arrange childcare gives their schedule more freedom. Even if you aren’t in school and don’t have kids, it might be a needed change to have less hours in your current position.
- Switch it up: Change to a new specialty. What area of nursing are you curious or passionate about? You may not be qualified now, but there are steps you could take. Do you need specialty certification? Take the course. Do you need a higher degree? Research programs. Is day shift running you ragged or night shift messing with your circadian rhythm? Talk to your manager to switch shifts. Are you burnt out on hospital hours? Change to outpatient, office, or school nursing. Is your dream specialty not available where you live? Start taking steps to move toward your dream.
Change is never easy. It is often scary and complicated, but do not let fear keep you STUCK. If you put in the work and get creative, you will find ways to be happier tomorrow than you are today.
Have you ever felt STUCK as a nurse or do you currently feel STUCK now? Share your story!