nurse in scrubs and mask arriving at hospital for shift

What Career Path in Nursing Is Right for You?

With so many potential career paths in nursing, it can be not easy to settle on a single concentration.

You know that professional focus is an important part of nursing career success, but maybe you find yourself interested in several nursing fields and can't decide which one is the best for you.

By following the tips outlined below, you're certain to find a personally rewarding nursing career path that inspires confidence and brings out your best qualities.

5 Ways To Determine The Right Nursing Career Path For You

1. Start by Identifying your Interests

If you want to find success in the nursing career path you choose, it's important to consider areas that hold your attention.

"First, evaluate your interests," suggests Becca Kaye, a nurse advocate who also works with Medical Scrubs Collection. "Do you enjoy working with children? Do you like working with seniors? Are you interested in being a case manager?"

These are just a few examples of the types of questions you should ask yourself when figuring out your possible career paths in nursing.

Dr. Vincent Hall, RN, CNE, Director of the MS Nursing program at Walden University, takes this concept a little further.

"Take the time to assess what types of patient care you enjoy and where your talents are," he says. "Do you want to provide direct patient care but in a more autonomous role? If so, an advanced practice role, such as a nurse practitioner, maybe your next move. Do you enjoy supervisory roles or technology? Nursing administration or informatics may be great options to fulfill your career goals."

2. Play to Your Strengths

Along with your interests, it's important to take your skills and talents into consideration. If you really love pediatric work but you find yourself awkward and uncomfortable around children, that may not be the right career path for you.

Nancy Brook, MSN, RN, NP at Stanford Healthcare, offers the following areas you should consider:

  • Age: "Do you want to work with adults, children, babies, or geriatric patients?"
  • Setting: "Do you prefer to work in an acute or outpatient/ambulatory setting?"
  • Acuity: "Do you want to work with patients that are acutely ill or those who have an episodic illness or injury?"
  • Style: "Do you prefer to offer hands-on/bedside care or to work with patients via phone or by counseling and managing their care (as a case manager)?"

Personality is also an important factor when making your decision. "What is your personality like?" asks Shanna Shafer, BSN, the Managing Editor and Strategic Communications Director for

"Are you an adrenaline junkie? Then you might be great in a trauma unit or as a flight nurse. Do you prefer calm and quiet interactions with only occasional surprises? Then an assisted living, teaching environment, or school may be a good nursing setting for you. Are you spontaneous and motivated by change? Then check out contract nursing opportunities!"

3. Consider your Personal Needs

To make sure the career paths in nursing you consider are sustainable over the long term, make sure the demands on you are realistic. Shafer points out the importance of preferred scheduling.

"If you like working nights, you don't want to get a clinic job," she says. "Similarly, if you want a Monday-Friday position, avoid an acute care hospital job or an on-call position."

Your willingness to build on your education should also be part of the equation. "If you're trying to get into the nursing profession as quickly as possible, with no interest in going to school in the long term, you may be a good fit for an LPN or Staff RN position," Shafer suggests.

"Conversely, if you are prepared to expand your education, enjoy academia, and want to achieve a graduate degree, you may be looking into becoming a nursing instructor, an advanced practice nurse, or a nurse researcher."

4. Identify your Professional Goals

Even if you haven't decided on your preferred career paths in nursing, you may have a good idea of your professional goals.

"Think about the long game of your professional career and goals," suggests Hall. "Map out where you want to be in the next five years, 10 years or longer. Explore what experience and educational preparation you might need and how to prepare and position yourself to reach those goals."

Knowing the type of position you want to be in down the road can help eliminate any nursing career path that won't take you there.

5. Remember Career Paths in Nursing Should be Flexible

More than anything, remember that a nursing career path decision doesn't have to be set in stone. It's okay to change your mind over time as you gain new experiences and knowledge.

"Once you've decided which specialty you feel is best, try a day in the field," Kaye says, suggesting nurses spend a day with someone they know who works that specialty. "This way, you know exactly what your future job will entail...and you can make a truly educated decision on whether or not this is the career path you'd like to take."

Frank Sturniolo, RN, CPEN, MBTI Cert., CPI, PALS instructor, a Course Director of San Diego ENPC, suggests nurses stay flexible when making their choice between different career paths in nursing. "Be open to learning," he says. "You may find a path that was otherwise hidden. Every nursing experience will prepare you for the next."

When you decide, your flexibility is still important to maintain your chosen nursing career path.

"Be flexible whenever possible," says Hall. "To reach your professional goals, you may need to consider transferring to another unit, moving to another facility or institution, or even relocating to another area or state."

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