How to Reinvent Your Nursing Career

Written by: Bridget Montes, BSN, RN

 

Travel nursing changed my life — but no, I’m not traveling across the US in a van, sunbathing in Hawaii, or doing yoga in Bali.

Actually, as I’m typing this, it’s about midnight, and I’m in bed with my two fur babies snuggled next to me. It’s been raining all day (and for the last three days, too), so we really haven’t moved much from this very location (except to go downstairs for snacks and potty breaks for the doggo. The essentials).

I know it’s not exciting. It’s just regular ol’ life. So, if I’m living a “regular” life and not driving off into the sunset somewhere, then how exactly did traveling nursing change my life?

My First Travel Assignment


In 2022, my partner and I had the opportunity to travel, so we went ALL in. I applied for travel nursing contracts, selected one and arranged for my first assignment. We sold all our belongings, packed the essentials. After that, we gathered our dog and cat into our 4Runner, and started our 2,500-mile drive to the Deep South. The adventure had just begun.

We drove through the forested mountain passes of Oregon into the vast countryside of central California. Then, turned east and drove through Arizona’s canyons, then through New Mexico’s desert. We even found ourselves in the middle of one of the wildest snowstorms we’ve ever experienced while driving through Oklahoma. Still, we kept going until we found ourselves in the warm, sunny southern states, down to our destination.

After a few weeks of working on this assignment, I worked a series of shifts that profoundly impacted me. I experienced a depth of grief I had only experienced once before in my career. But this time, on a unit with nurses I barely knew. There was no support system. Being the dedicated and professional nurse that I am, I pushed these emotions deep down and carried on with my work without skipping a beat. At least that’s what I believed at the time.

THE “WAKE-UP CALL”

A week later, I found myself at a dinner party with two strangers. While finding common ground in our professional careers, my host asked, “How do you cope with it all?”

Completely caught off guard, I laughed nervously and tried to dismiss the question with a stupid joke, saying, “I don’t, but it’s fine — I’m fine.”

However, my host wouldn’t let it go and persisted, asking again, “No, really. How do you cope with it all?”

My smile faded, my usual diplomatic answers escaped me. Finding no words to politely excuse myself from the conversation, I burst into uncontrollable tears. I completely unraveled and turned into an absolute mess of a human right in front of two perfect strangers.

Embarrassing, to say the least — life-changing, to say the most.

I look back on those particular shifts and that specific dinner now. I would not be where I am today if not for that instantaneous moment of overwhelming grief and vulnerability bubbling up to the surface. Otherwise, it would have remained tucked away, never to be heard or spoken of again, and I would not have had the courage to make any changes.

Truthfully, during my short stint as a travel nurse, I realized something that changed my life and the course of my career…

There’s no point in suffering in a job when being a nurse gives you the space to reinvent yourself.

So, with my newfound courage, I decided to reinvent my career using three simple steps.


Step 1: Self-Assessment

I know it sounds cliché. Maybe a bit annoying (since I’m sure you’ve heard it before). Before you can start reinventing yourself and your career, you have to spend time getting to know YOU. Understand your strengths, weaknesses, and values. Reflect on what you enjoy, what you’re passionate about, and what you’re naturally good at. Many tools and resources are available to help with this process, from personality tests to simple journal prompts. By understanding yourself better, you can make more informed decisions about the future of your career.

 

Step 2: Research

No career path or job is perfect. You won’t necessarily find the perfect fit for you, especially right off the bat. It might take some trial and error, so the second step to reinventing your career is research and exploration. Once you have a sense of your strengths and interests, it’s time to start exploring. This can involve networking with professionals in your desired field, listening to podcasts from people doing what you’re interested in, or even volunteering or taking on freelance work to gain experience. By immersing yourself in your potential new path, you can better understand what it entails and whether it’s a good fit for you.


Step 3: Taking Imperfect Action

Once you’ve identified a new career path, it’s time to set actionable goals and create a plan to achieve them. I want to emphasize that you don’t have to have everything perfectly lined up and figured out to take action. In fact, taking imperfect action is infinitely better than taking NO action. Your imperfect action can involve taking courses or certifications, building a portfolio, or trying and failing (or trying and succeeding) at something new. You’ll figure it out along the way as long as you keep going. It’s also important to be realistic about the time required to make a successful career transition, but with perseverance and dedication, anything is possible.


Now you’re on your way to reinventing your nursing career.

So, after completely falling apart and having a mental health crisis in the middle of an unassuming dinner party, I decided to finally take action. It was time to reinvent my career, rediscover my joy, and make strides to actually create my dream life.

While the road has had its fair share of twists and turns, I still wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.

Many nurses find themselves at a crossroads in their professional lives, whether it’s due to burnout, a desire for something new, or a need to pivot in response to changing circumstances. Whatever it is, you are not alone.

By following these three simple steps — self-assessment, research, and taking imperfect action — you can reinvent your career and find a fulfilling career path that aligns with your strengths and values.

Know you’re on your way to reinventing your nursing career, and it won’t be “easy,” but it will be rewarding.

Don’t be afraid to take the leap and pursue your dreams because,with unwavering determination, you can achieve anything.

About Bridget:

Bridget is a nurse turned website copywriter on a mission to use empathetic storytelling to write connection-worthy words for other nurses in business. You can find her at www.sleepdeprivednurse.com.

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