Re-inventing Your Nursing Career


Published: 23 July 2020

There comes a time in almost every nurse’s life when professional and/or personal reinvention is called for.

Such a moment may be born of upheaval precipitated by a variety of factors, or it may simply be an inner knowing that change is needed. In any case, the common thread is that, for whatever reason, your lifestyle and/or career path are crying out for change, evolution, recalibration and renewal.

Change Comes in Many Forms

Life events that give rise to the desire for change in your nursing career may include, but are not limited to:

  • A pandemic, or other local, regional, national or global crisis;
  • Childbirth or adoption;
  • The death of a loved one;
  • Moving to a new town, city, state, region, province, or even country;
  • The development of a chronic health condition;
  • Injury or disability (of yourself or others);
  • A significant birthday or anniversary;
  • Engagement, marriage, separation or divorce; and
  • Trauma of any kind.

When your life circumstances, safety, livelihood, longevity or health are threatened or called into question, that’s often a signal that some soul-searching may be on the horizon. No matter the event or situation, this can be both an exciting and anxious time.

Turning a new decade may seem arbitrarily significant, but most people feel some emotional, spiritual, or psychic weight when they ‘round the corner’ into their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Reaching any of these developmental, age-related milestones can have a potentially profound effect, especially if, at that moment, you’re feeling less than fulfilled, or perhaps blatantly unhappy. In most cases, your turning 30 or 60 will elicit very different responses about what you want out of the next chapter of your life. After all, turning 60 often signifies that you’re entering the ‘autumn’ of your life - sometimes referred to as ‘the third act’ - whereas, turning 30 is when many say the developmental ‘summer’ begins.

Marriage, the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one and other events can almost force you to look at your life and career through a new lens. That lens may be very uncomfortable, or it may be an opportunity to reassess your priorities and make bold choices.

older nurse celebrating birthday

When the Desire or Need for Change Strikes

No matter the cause, if you find yourself in a place of re-evaluation and re-invention, there are some questions to ask yourself so that you can leave no stones unturned in your self-exploration:

  • Has something happened in my personal life that has me questioning my career?
  • Have my needs changed in terms of schedule, time off, or other factors?
  • Am I satisfied in my current role or specialty?
  • Is there something I’ve been wanting for my career that seems more important than ever?
  • Has the healthcare climate changed in the area where I live? Am I finding the right path to help me feel like I’m moving forward?
  • Have I changed physically, emotionally or psychologically in ways that cause me to question my choices, lifestyle or workstyle?

Many other questions can be asked, but the denominator shared in these circumstances is that something has triggered this new line of thinking or feeling, and some action is called for.

How to Re-invent?

If re-invention seems likely or definite, there are a number of strategies for moving forward. You may want to meet with a mentor or colleague who you admire, and ask them to talk it over. If you’re interested in a particular nursing specialty, networking with people who do the things that interest you can be very helpful. You can meet such individuals at conferences, meetings, seminars and also on social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms. Facebook and LinkedIn host many valuable groups where nurses can interact with one another.

You may prefer a mental health counsellor, psychotherapist, faith leader or career coach to help you sort out your feelings, desires, fears and potential consequences of both action and inaction. A career coach may actually be a nurse or healthcare provider themselves, or you may find a career specialist who understands the specific challenges of a healthcare career from the outside.

There are countless webinars, online courses, podcasts, blogs, articles and books about careers and career changes, and there are specialty websites geared towards nurses where you can receive support, advice and commiseration for your situation and feelings.

The re-invention or re-invigoration of your nursing career may or may not involve returning to school or seeking a certification; only time and research will tell.

nurse talking to colleague for advice


Reinvention is a process during which you need to be gentle and patient with yourself. Dig deep to determine the cause of your desire for change. Seek wise counsel, don’t go it alone, tap every resource you can and use your critical thinking and innate curiosity as you embark on the adventure that will lead you to the next chapter of your personal life and nursing career.