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Career crossroads

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I am about to qualify as a nurse and am not sure what sort of job to go for. I really want to be a specialist nurse and have also considered nurse teaching as a career. What would you advise?

First and foremost it is good that you are thinking about your future career right from the start. However, you do need to think very carefully about how you build your nursing career from a solid foundation.

Most career advisers and managers would strongly advise some general ward experience under your belt in the first two years of qualifying as a nurse. During your training you will have gained a great deal of knowledge on a wide range of nursing skills and had some experience of putting it into practice. However, actually working as a junior staff nurse in a ward team will give you the opportunity to gain more experience than you ever imagined. Just ask any of your colleagues and they will certainly bear out this fact.

This period will also give you a better opportunity to more carefully consider what you want to do in the future. It will give you an opportunity to see what you are particularly good at and what areas of work you are best suited for. This will then give you a better grounding to plan your future career. If, for example, teaching is your forte, then as a staff nurse there will be ample opportunity to practise these skills in your daily work as you support junior staff such as healthcare assistants and, eventually, more junior qualified nurses.

So what job should you go for?

I assume there is at least one or more clinical areas you particularly enjoyed during your ward-based training. Why not apply for jobs in these sorts of areas? Does your hospital have a staff rotation scheme for junior nurses, where you can gain a variety of experience in the early years? Perhaps, after one year, you may consider changing wards in order to gain more experience.

Most specialist areas of nursing or teaching require a firm foundation of basic nursing experience. There appears to be plenty of opportunity for you to gain this prior to moving to your chosen specialist area.

Chris Pearce, formerly a director of nursing, is a life coach with

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