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Nursing career-change mistakes to avoid

You’re committed to a career in nursing but feel you desperately need a change. Whether it’s a difficult boss, lack of career advancement, boredom or burnout that’s causing the problem, it’s worth asking yourself these questions before you switch nursing jobs or specialities.

1Are you taking the first thing that comes along?

When you’re unhappy at work, it can be tempting to jump at the first opportunity that presents itself.

‘You need to ensure that you’re moving for the right reasons, and that the new role won’t come with the same (or a whole new set) of problems. Take time to do some soul searching and consider what you’ve enjoyed most and least during your career,’ advises Ann Griffin-Aaronlahti, Managing Director at Professional Connections nurse staffing agency.

Ann suggests drawing up a checklist of “must haves” and “nice to haves”. The list might include working hours, salary, location and type of duties and responsibilities. ‘Once you’ve made the list, rank them in order of importance. If the job doesn’t meet your top priorities, consider doing temporary agency work until you can find a permanent role that does.’

2. Have you done enough research?

Whatever your reasons for wanting a change, you can never do enough research before you make a decision.

‘Online networking sites are a good way to make useful contacts, but you can’t beat meeting people face to face. Go to seminars, conferences, careers fairs and networking events and talk to people who work in the area you want to get into,’ advises Julie Watkins, a careers adviser at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

‘It can also help to speak with nurses who have recently left that role or particular speciality. You won’t necessarily have the same experience as them, but the conversation might throw up some interesting insights. Try to arrange a period of work shadowing too. There’s nothing like actually doing the job to know whether it’s right for you.’

3. How many times have you switched specialities?

You might have enjoyed your last placement or post, and your new mentor might be the most inspirational person you’ve ever met, but think carefully before you switch specialities.

‘Changing nursing specialities can be a great way to develop new skills and discover where your passion lies, but it can be less productive to switch too quickly or too many times,’ warns Julie.

‘Give your current speciality a fair chance before you consider switching – and be clear about your reasons for wanting to change. Just because you admire someone who is doing well in that area doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right career path for you in the long term.’

4. How will it look on your CV?

If you haven’t remained in any of your posts for longer than six months or a year consider sticking out the job a bit longer.

‘Employers both of private companies and large state organisations are looking for longevity and commitment in their new staff. Hospitals invest a great deal of money in the recruitment, orientation and training of new nurses. They want a committed professional that will be with them for a reasonable period of time,’ warns Ann.

Job-hop too frequently, and a potential employer may wonder how likely you are to stay in the role. Be prepared to discuss the issue at interview and make sure you can explain your decisions and why the position is really the one for you.

5. Why move sideways when you could go upwards?

Nick Simpson, CEO of nursing agency MSI Group, advises nurses against continually moving sideways in their career. Instead of switching roles at your current level of responsibility, could you find something that will help you advance professionally?

‘The call for Advanced Nursing Practitioners (ANPs) is on the rise, with recent reports indicating that demand increased 64% between quarter one and quarter two of 2015. This increased demand can be attributed not only to structural changes within the NHS but also to continued GP shortages, and as a result is unlikely to subside anytime soon.

‘Bridging the gap between acute and primary care, ANPs are becoming increasingly important to the future of the health service. The additional training required can be undertaken on a part-time basis and completed in between two to five years. Being an ANP can offer a variety of challenges and, of course, higher levels of remuneration,’ adds Nick.

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