Start a New Year with a New Specialty


Sometimes nurses find they need a change in their career which may mean a new specialty. Whether it is because of burning out in your current job or a lifestyle change sometimes it is just needed.  I changed several times in my nursing career for different reasons.  If you are feeling the burn and need to change why not start a New Year with a new specialty?

Specialty training for nurses can be expensive and intensive for an organization.  Depending on the specialty it can cost a hospital in the neighborhood of $60,000 per nurse.  The more critical the specialty the more costly the training.  Changing your specialty is not always easy but there are times when it is just necessary. I began having a hard time driving at night which meant I had to change from the Hospice Night Triage nurse to a daytime position.  I changed specialties to become a Legal Nurse Consultant and worked the days and hours I wanted.

The great thing for nurses is there are many specialties to choose from.   According to Johnson & Johnson’s, there are as many as 100 and if you count subspecialties the list is extensive.  Check out the Discover Nursing site and take the quiz to see what is a good match for you.

We might experience a nursing shortage but never a shortage of nursing specialties according to the American Board of Nursing Specialties. The board is comprised of 32 member organizations representing distinct nursing specialties

If you are planning a new specialty in the New Year here is a plan to help you move forward to a new career.  Many specialties are filled by Travel Nurses so wouldn’t have to give up something your love.

  • Is it the specialty or the job you are struggling with?  For me, it was driving at night that was the issue with the job.  What is causing you to be dissatisfied?  Are you unhappy with your work schedule or staffing?  Do you have an unpleasant work environment due to management or coworkers? Is there a simple fix to the situation like changing locations or shifts?  Are the hours less than satisfying?  Many specialties require on-call schedules, is that an issue? Before you make a drastic change in your career identify if it is the job or the specialty.
  • If changing your specialty is a must try to find a good match.  You will want one that motivates you to be and do your best.  Sometimes your gut instinct is a good indicator for your next choice.   There is no evidence to support matching your personality to a specialty so do your research and see where it leads you.  I didn’t like children or the elderly so I knew peds and geriatrics was not for me.  The best specialty might not just be in a hospital setting.  There are plenty of well-paying jobs out there with Mondy to Friday schedules and good benefits.
  • What is your motivation for working as a nurse? When I entered the field I was looking for a carer where I could always find a job no matter where I chose to live.  Nurses should not be in it for the money.  The best specialty is not always the best paying one.  When I certified as a Faith Community Nurse it was not for the money because it was low on the list of worst paying jobs.  I did it for the satisfaction of serving as a bridge between health and faith.   That said money is a strong motivator for many nurses.   If that is the case do your homework.  The report from reports the 2017 rates for the 50 states. These are not for the different specialties so it is usually the case that a specialty pays more.
  • If you decide to change your specialty you will need to do your due diligence.  You will want to find out as much as possible about your choice of specialty.  Network with others in the specialty.  There is a wealth of information on the internet and most is free.  Find as much as you can about how the new specialty affects the family life of others.  You will need to know what the qualifications are and if certification is required.  Are you able to transfer within your current organization or do you need to change locations?
  • When changing organizations find one that agrees to retrain and has a good tuition reimbursement program. Depending on the specialty there may be a requirement for further education.  This may be a time when returning to school makes the most sence.  Remember the healthcare system is ever evolving.  There is a greater need for Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants today with new insurance reimbursement plans causing many doctors to leave their practice.  Some organizations will require a time obligation as payback.  This time will be helpful while you gain experience in your new specialty.

Remember if you move from organization to another in your new specialty negotiate your salary. I never was good at negotiating during my career but here are some tips that may help as you grow.   A new employer will recognize that a nurse who is already credentialed in a specialty is a valuable commodity. Just know that with your status you are worth more so be proud of what you have accomplished and use it to your advantage.


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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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