Have you ever wondered how a nurse can expand on their bedside role to include other areas of interest or moving into different roles? While everyone has their own story, there are a few things that bridge many stories and that you can do to support your career journey. Maybe your goal is getting involved in research, working with a patient group, moving to a new specialty, or moving away from the bedside. These tips can help you reach your goal(s):

  • Identify your area(s) of interest. It might not be so clear right away and doing some of the other things on the list might help you better define your interests. It can be helpful to talk about things you’ve enjoyed about your job with a colleague – see what pops up through discussion. And know that these interests will change and evolve over time. It can also be helpful to occasionally, jot down things that make you appreciate the job you have now, as well as things you might think don’t work as well for your life. Looking back on these, you might start to get a clearer picture of areas that interest you.
  • Get involved! If you are asked to join a committee or workgroup, do it! Or volunteer for a committee in your organization. This is a great way to explore an interest but also to meet other people with a similar interest or to get to know other people in your organization that you might otherwise never meet.
  • Does your specialty area have a professional organization? Join in and get involved! Do they have a local chapter?- Even better – this is a great way to meet folks from your area who have similar interests.
  • Find a mentor (or two)! Is there someone doing your “dream job?” Reach out – meet for coffee and bring some questions to learn about their career path, what they like and don’t like, ask for ideas on how to get started.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a change! Many people become so focused on a particular goal/job/interest that they miss an interesting opportunity as they are speeding by. Check out different opportunities, attend talks on different specialty areas, and get to know nurses in parts of your organization.

When I graduated with my BSN in 1993, the Internet was not a household word, to say the least. But here I am years later, running a website and working with technology I could never have imagined at that time. I was always interested in patient education and looked for ways to engage in that interest – beginning with making bulletin boards on my inpatient unit. That led to joining a patient education committee, developing education materials for our unit, and eventually enrolling in a master’s program to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist. My career path made many turns along the way and ultimately brought me to OncoLink where my love of patient education introduced me to technology. There were many people who helped mentor and guide me along the way – most of them did not work in patient education or technology – but they provided a sounding board and levelheaded advice. I hope these tips can help you make the most of your career path!

Carolyn Vachani is an oncology advanced practice nurse and the Managing Editor at OncoLink. She has worked in many areas of oncology including BMT, clinical research, radiation therapy and staff development. She serves as the project leader in the development and maintenance of the OncoLife Survivorship Care Plan and has a strong interest in oncology survivorship care. She enjoys discussing just about any cancer topic, as well as gardening, cooking and, of course, her sons.