Are You Playing in the Right Healthcare Sandbox?

By Keith Carlson via Multibriefs

Within the healthcare industry, there are endless choices when it comes to carving out the career path that’s right for you. Whether in medicine, nursing, leadership, or elsewhere, the world can indeed be your oyster if you play your cards right, network assiduously, make good choices, follow your values, and honor your intuition.

We can, of course, encounter option paralysis when faced with too many alternatives; however, with a burgeoning healthcare industry facing an increasingly aging and diversifying population, the avenues for career success and satisfaction are legion. So, are you playing in the right career sandbox?

What You Want Matters

If you decide to become a nurse, there will be plenty of people with strong opinions about where you should work after graduation, what kinds of nursing are best to pursue, and how you should structure and plan your new career. If you go into medicine, the same plethora of choices and opinions apply, and there are plenty of sandboxes to choose from.

From physical therapists and speech language pathologists to those seeking success through informatics or public health, what you want matters more than any “shoulds” that your friends, colleagues, professors, family, and even total strangers impose on you. Those "shoulds" should likely go in one ear and out the other.

So, how does a newly minted healthcare professional make the right choices? Consider these notions for this process:

  • Why did you enter the healthcare arena in the first place? What drew you to this industry?
  • While you were in school, what were the experiences that held the most meaning for you?
  • Do you enjoy task-based work or are you more of a thinker, planner, leader, scientist, or theoretician?
  • Is patient care the thing that lights your fire? If not, it certainly isn’t the only game in town.
  • What are your career goals for 5 years, 10 years, and perhaps even 20 years hence? Do you have a plan or are you trusting your intuition and serendipity (a strategy that can actually be quite successful if you’re good at trusting your gut and being in the right place at the right time)?
  • If you’ve frequently been told what you “should” pursue, do any of those choices feel right?
  • Where do your greatest talents and strengths lie vis-à-vis the skills and knowledge inherent in your new career?
  • If you have a sense of what you want in the mid- or long-term, what path(s) do you feel are most likely to get you where you want to go?
  • Are there others who’ve carved a professional niche that you would like to emulate?
  • Do you have debts and financial concerns that your new career must adequately address?
  • Will the career path you’re planning allow you to create the lifestyle you desire and deserve?

These and other questions can help you focus on what’s most important, leading you in a direction that’s aligned with your desires, goals, strengths, and personal/professional interests.

There’s No Shortage of Sandboxes

Let’s say you graduate from nursing school and take a med-surg position because everyone said you should. After a year or so, you realize that acute care nursing is far from what you really want to do.

With your clinical skills, knowledge, and experience, you can plot any career course that can move you in the direction of the professional satisfaction and lifestyle you desire. However, in order to accomplish this, you need to know yourself well so that your choices are aligned with your true nature.

If you’ve finished medical residency and landed a position that doesn’t suit you, you may feel locked into your chosen specialty even though you’re beginning to chafe at the restrictions of your current path. Remember that when you see only limited choices, it’s probably because your thinking is limited; can you open the window and let in the fresh air of your many potential options?

And if you’ve chosen a clinical career route (RN, MD, PT, etc.) but then realize you have more gifts in areas like leadership, informatics, or other nonclinical milieus, you must realize that an informatics nurse is as valuable as an oncology nurse, and a medical consultant is as valid a choice as that of trauma surgeon. In our society, certain roles seem to hold more prestige than others, but you truly need to ignore those unfounded opinions and chart your own course.

There are, of course, many healthcare career sandboxes in which you can play. Make prudent choices, listen to the voice inside of you more than the ones imposing their will from the outside, and trust the power of your intuition and self-knowledge. The world is truly at your feet; can you see the possibilities?

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, has been a nurse since 1996. He is the blogger behind the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway, a widely read freelance nurse writer, and motivational/keynote speaker. Keith is the host of The Nurse Keith Show, a popular nursing career podcast. Under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching, Keith's passion is helping nurses and healthcare professionals create ultimate satisfaction in both their personal and professional lives.


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