Written by: J. Peperone
Because nursing has over 100 specialties to choose from, deciding which nursing specialty is best suited for you can become an overwhelming task at any academically prepared level. Research proves we like having choices available to us, but only if we have a few choices to choose from. Too many available choices increase the complexity of our decision-making and will impair our ability to evaluate options clearly. A study done by Lyengar & Lepper reveled that people reported greater fulfillment with their final decisions when their options were limited (no more than six choices). Because of the wide variety of career options available today, choosing a nursing specialty can be challenging. Here are strategies which will help you simplify and navigate any decision making process so you can arrive at the best outcome for you.
Know your personality type
Different nursing specialties attract certain personality types. In an extensive literature review on personality study done by Kennedy, Curtis, and Waters, found that nurses who matched their personality to their specialty were more satisfied with their career and had less stress. In their study, ER nurses scored highest in areas of open-mindedness, tolerance for others, altruism, and were unafraid to ask questions about a patient’s social, political or religious values. Not surprisingly, all these qualities contribute to an ER nurses success. Nurses working in critical care scored high on flexibility and were more comfortable with uncertainty compared to other specialty nurses. Community health nurses were more introspective and plan-oriented. Personality testing can be a valuable screening career tool because it provides feedback about your personality characteristics that identify your unique strengths; some that you may never knew you had. However, these personality tests are not designed to place you in a specialty, but provide feedback about personality qualities you possess and how your personality strengths can match certain career specialties.
Do Your Research
Before choosing a specialty of interest, it is important to do your research. A good place to start is joining a professional nursing organization for that nursing specialty. Here you can find mentors, education, advice, and current jobs available. Choose three or four specialties that spark interest in you then start researching. Read current nursing articles about that specialty, attend workshops, and find any advanced certifications that specialty has. Many specialties have advanced certifications and offer additional educational courses. However, each certification has different requirements to obtain advanced certification. When doing your research, be sure to study job market availability within the specialty in your area. The local job market may not have abundant jobs in that specialty. It is critical to understand the job market in your area, along with the job requirements, before making a commitment to anything.
Learn Your Strengths & Weakness
Learn what your strengths are. Are you good at teaching, public speaking, and work better under pressure? It’s important to know what your strengths and weakness are. Do your strengths align more with primary preventative care or tertiary care? Knowing your strengths that set you apart from others is beneficial. At the same time, working to improve a weakness can be equally beneficial to your career success. Nobody is perfect, but having an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses hinges on your career advancement. Having a successful career requires understanding of what you are good at and what you need to improve on to become better. You want to use your strengths and talents that will benefit everyone, while not exposing your weaknesses. RichardStep Strengths and Weaknesses Aptitude Test (RSWAT) is a free tool that you can use to assess your strengths and weaknesses.
List Your Priorities
List your priorities when choosing a nursing specialty. Your priorities may or may not fit the job. For some people flexibility remains a top list priority because of family obligations. Everyone’s priorities are different and what works for one person may not work for someone else. That said, create a list with two or three important priorities that mean the most to you then assesses job specialties that could possibly fit those priorities. Keep in mind that it is important to be flexible within any job specialty and have realistic priorities that work in the real world.
Trust your Intuition (Yes you do have it)
Most people will tell you to make career decisions based on logic and reason. And I agree, to an extent. Sometimes our inner instinct can pick up on things that our conscious overthinking mind cannot process. In 1988, Tim Cook, an analytical engineer, accepted a senior vice president job with Apple. He describes how nothing made any logical sense on why he should accept the job. Many even advised him not to take the job with Apple. Tim Cook stated that he trusts his intuition for making important decisions and calls his decision of taking the job with Apple “a prime example.” For most of us, our path in finding a career specialty will not be a clear-cut straight path, but if we listen to our intuition it will guide us on the right path to take.
Be Open To New Opportunities
Having an open mind to new opportunities is integral in any career that you will choose. Amalie Holier, CEO and co-owner of Advanced Practice Education Associates, stated that after graduating NP School she never intended to work with pregnant, pediatric, or psychiatric patients (the 3 P’s). Ironically, because of her openness to opportunities and enthusiasm for learning, her first NP job included all three patients. Being open to unforeseen opportunities will not only expand your education base but could possibly redirect your career goals, but may even leave career serendipity. An open mind to unexpected opportunities will push you in ways to grow beyond your comfort zones redesigning your strengths and talents. Everyone benefits from this.
Whether you are starting a new nursing career or changing your job specialty there is more than one road to any career specialty. As you consider how to reach your career goals, be willing to take some career risks in order to learn and grow. Knowledge of yourself and your career goals will not only make you marketable, but will provide valuable insight of your personality type, strengths, and weaknesses. Deciding on the right career suited for you requires exhausting effort, but if you use the knowledge and tools available to follow through, the end result will be worth it.
Connely, T., & Zeelenberg, M. (2002). Regret in decision making. Current
Directions In Psycological Science, 11, 212-216.
Kennedy, B., Curtis, K., & Waters, D. (2014), Is there a relationshio between
personality and choice of nursing specialty: an integrative literature review.
BMC Nursing. 13:40.
Lyenger S. S., & Lepper, M. R. (2000). When choice is demotivating: can one desire too much of a
good thing?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 995-1006.