Dear Graduate Nurses: Have the Time of Your Life

Nursing represents one of the most exciting and fulfilling careers you could possibly have chosen. Yes, this profession can be demanding. Recent images of nurses with faces bruised from wearing the PPE required to care for COVID-19 patients reminds us exactly how demanding nursing can be.

But these pictures also remind us what a difference nurses make in the lives of those they care for – and why people constantly name nurses as the most trusted professionals in the world.

As you graduate, members of the nursing class of 2020, try to look upon your new career as the greatest adventure imaginable – and have the time of your lives while pursuing it. Your opportunities are nearly limitless.

The Bedside…and Beyond

You may start your nursing career as a caregiver at the bedside. Many nurses do. Hands-on nursing offers the opportunity not only to build your skills but to experience the great fulfillment that comes from caring for people during some of the most challenging and vulnerable moments in their life.

You might begin by working in a hospital or an outpatient surgery center. You may enter the profession by caring for patients in a PACU or in a community health setting. These experiences will help you figure out precisely which aspects of nursing you love – so that you can choose a path to broaden your horizons and expand your career, aligned with your passion.

Oh, the Possibilities

As you progress through your first nursing positions, your eyes may open to the stunning range of career options that await you. You may even discover nursing careers that allow you to combine outside interests with your nursing skills to carve out a niche that gives you great satisfaction.

Consider these wide-ranging career possibilities that you could specialize in during your nursing lifetime:

  • Camp nursing
  • Critical Care nursing
  • Flight nursing
  • Hyperbaric nursing
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Parish nursing
  • Hospice nursing
  • Case management
  • Oncology nursing
  • Utilization review
  • Dialysis nursing
  • Midwifery
  • Health coaching
  • Public health nursing
  • Surgical nursing
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

So many options! Which path will you take?

Nursing Practice to the Max

As you advance in your career, you may find the idea of nursing leadership appealing. Perhaps you aspire to become a CNO. Or a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

To take your nursing practice to the max, you’ll need to go back to school. But earning a DNP isn’t the only path to advanced nursing practice. Other advanced degrees can take you places, too. Check out these possibilities:

  • Pursue a PhD to become a researcher or nurse educator
  • Pursue an MBA in Healthcare to become healthcare leader, such as CNO, COO or CEO
  • Pursue a CRNA degree to become a nurse anesthetist
  • Pursue dual masters degrees in nursing and public administration to become a public health executive
  • Pursue a law degree to become a nurse/JD
  • Pursue a degree in informatics to help design technology solutions for healthcare

Not feeling the love for more college courses right now? No problem! As you progress through your career, you can expand your practice by earning certifications in your areas of interest, such as labor and delivery, neonatal care, pediatrics, geriatrics, coronary care, or neurology.

A Seat at The Table

Graduate nurses often have ideas on ways nursing can evolve, and one of the ways you can give voice to these ideas is by joining your professional organizations and volunteering for committee work. Don’t let your initial lack of clinical experience hold you back from taking a seat at the table. You not only will add a valuable voice to the chorus that is shaping nursing day by day, but you’ll build an expansive network of fellow nurses with common interests – plus, you’ll gain valuable leadership experience.  

Have the Time of Your Life

With so many opportunities in front of you, it’s almost impossible to predict the path your nursing career will take in the beginning, but no matter how you end up molding it, follow one simple rule: Pursue your passions. This approach will help assure you have the time of your life during your nursing adventure!

Learning to navigate and integrate the many ways that nursing experiences will show up in your life, the excitement, the unforgettable moments, the joys and the sorrows, is key to becoming all you can be as a nurse.  Whatever path you choose, there is one thing you can be sure of: the lives you touch, the communities you serve, the difference you make matters.


About the Author

Elizabeth_Hanes_RNElizabeth Hanes, RN is ‘the nurse who knows' content. She is a freelance writer who combines her knowledge of nursing with over 20 years in journalism. Her unique background brings credibility and authenticity to her writing.