Time for a Nursing Career Pivot?

It might be a difficult new boss. It might be a corporate merger that results in you working for a new healthcare provider with different company values. Or it might just be that you woke up one day and realized that the previous passion you had for your nursing work was no longer there, and in its place was a creeping case of burnout. 

When circumstances have changed

Each of these or other career-disrupting circumstances can happen at any moment, in any nursing or healthcare management career.

What can be very, very different, however, is how individuals choose to respond. Because according to Pivot: The Only Move that Matters is Your Next One, the reality is that you actually have lots of good options to pursue, once you make the decision to take charge of your career and pivot.

Considering a pivot

Pivot author and career expert Jenny Blake defines a career pivot as…

a doubling down on what is working to make a purposeful shift in a new, related direction. Pivoting…is an intentional, methodical process for nimbly navigating career changes.

A career pivot, then, isn’t necessarily leaving behind all the knowledge, experience, seniority and friendships you’ve built up based on your existing nursing or healthcare work, but rather building on those assets to shift to a related but better-for-you career option. Or as Blake points out about her own career pivot from Google to launch a career-consulting business, “I shifted the context of my work environment, but not the content, given that I applied a similar set of strengths and activities.”

For nursing and healthcare management professionals, shifting the context of your work environment could include such changes as, among others:

  • Who your work focuses on. This might involve, for example, working with a different community, or businesses rather than the public, or a special group of patients, such as the elderly.
  • The type of organization you work for. In this case, you might be rethinking your career choices in terms of working for a public vs. private institution, a small vs. large organization, a mission-focused vs. a profit-focused employer, among other types of alternatives.
  • How you work. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be ready to engage at a higher level with your work or you may be seeking a more balanced (translation: fewer hours) work-life approach. You may be considering the benefits of contract or project work, or working from a home office, or trying to craft a nursing or healthcare management career that incorporates substantial travel. The key is that with a career pivot, you’re seeking ways to structure your work to better align with your life.

Planning a pivot

To help you move from “considering” to the “planning” stage, Blake identifies a four-stage process to support your goals: Plant, Scan, Pilot, and Launch. She likens this process to executing a basketball pivot, wherein a player keeps one foot firmly anchored, or planted, then scans the court for open teammates (or in your case, for potential career opportunities), pilots or tests various possibilities to see how well they might work, and then launches toward the best option.

To put this in terms of your nursing or healthcare management career, your pivot process might look like this:

  1. Plant. Figure out what is working for you in your career. What do you like about your current situation, what skills and expertise are you known for and proud of, what personal and/or professional strengths can you always rely on? Essentially, this first step is where you anchor your career thinking to what’s good right now so that you don’t lose that as you move forward.
  2. Scan. This is your research phase, that is, where you begin to identify what interesting career opportunities might exist for you. You do this by scanning all the information tools readily available to you: associations, print and online articles, career profiles, friends and colleagues, job descriptions in the nursing and healthcare management fields, industry overviews, “best employers in healthcare” lists, and LinkedIn groups such as Healthcare Industry Professionals Group, among others. Your goal is to gather as much career-relevant information as you can. Where are the new opportunities, what industry sectors and employers are growing (or not), what new career paths are opening up, what industry trends might create new jobs with a need for your particular expertise? Think of this step as creating a map of potential directions in which to pivot.
  3. Pilot. This step is about testing out your ideas and assumptions. After you’ve identified some potential pivots, you’ll want to develop more “real-world” information about how well each actually fits what you have in mind. This might mean volunteering in a certain setting (perhaps a community clinic) or doing a specific type of work (working with pediatric cancer patients) to see if you actually enjoy it; reaching out to several professionals already doing the type of work you have in mind and requesting informational interviews so you can learn the insiders’ view; or even (briefly, and if possible) doing your potential pivot work on the side while you continue in your current job. Your goal is to test your assumptions and narrow down your pivot direction based on what you learn.
  4. Launch. By now you should have enough information about your targeted career pivot that you can feel reasonably confident about your choice. You’re ready to start investing yourself in any needed steps in order to move forward, for example, going back to school to accelerate your career, joining a professional association to start building a career network in your chosen area, and immersing yourself in all aspects of your targeted career choice in order to become an outstanding candidate for relevant job openings.

The healthcare industry is primed to be one of the fastest-growing and healthiest (no pun intended) sectors of the economy for decades. You made a terrific career decision when you decided to become part of this dynamic field. And now, you have a process with which you can continue to grow that career in ways that fit not only who you are today, but who you might like to become tomorrow.

This article was brought to you by American Sentinel’s career coach, Kim Dority – be sure to check out her other articles for more tips.