What Type of Nurse Should I Be?

Posted by MANS MNA Student Liaison on February 27, 2016 at 11:55 PM

You did it! You have worked hard throughout nursing school and now that you are approaching the end, it is time to start thinking about how you want to start your career. During nursing school you have experienced a number of different nursing specialties through your rotations – L&D, med/surg, pediatrics, psych, public health, and maybe even more. Some of your peers undoubtedly had a moment in nursing school when everything “clicked” and they knew they had discovered the nursing specialty that was meant for them.

For the rest of us, the question remains: "What type of nurse should I be?"

I am here to help you figure out where to start in your job hunt with some tips I have learned along the way, starting with…

1.) Utilize your resources. If you do not even know where to begin, consider doing some research on what opportunities are out there. The National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) recently published their 2016 Career Planning Guide ( that contains information on over 60 different nursing specialties. You can also try this short quiz from Johnson & Johnson to get an idea of different nursing specialties you may want to consider:


2.) Keep an open mind. I recently took my first nursing job on a unit that I rotated on as a student. If you had told me six months ago that I would make that choice, I would have never believed you. I was so upset when I first received my placement on that unit that I considered switching off of it because it was not what I thought I wanted to do for my career. However, after 7 weeks there, I found out that I was doing exactly the kind of nursing I had imagined myself doing. The problem was that nobody had told me before that the specialty even existed, let alone how closely it matched my professional goals. Take the time to get to know a specialty before deciding it is not the right fit for you.


3.) Seek the counsel of others. During my nursing rotations, I always asked my instructors near the end of our time together what kind of nursing they could see me doing. Even though I did not end up in those areas, it helped me to get an idea of where to start looking for a specialty that fit me well. It can be very helpful to get the objective perspective of those who have observed your work with unbiased eyes.


4.) Consider your personality. You know yourself better than anyone else does. If you thrive in a fast-paced environment and enjoy new challenges, perhaps a hospital department like the ED would be a good fit for you. If you enjoy working with patients but not necessarily at the bedside, maybe a career in outpatient rehab or as a nurse educator would suit you well. Tune in to who you are as a person – not just as a nurse – to help guide you in your specialty search.


5.) Think outside the “hospital” box. There are so many different areas where nurses can practice. Most of us had experiences in hospitals during nursing school, but nurses are also needed in urgent care, primary care clinics, outpatient centers, public health departments, and beyond. While it is true that hospitals offering new grad residencies make it a little easier to get your foot in the door with no previous nursing experience, that does not mean that no opportunities await you elsewhere.


6.) Look for “rotating” nurse residencies. Some hospitals do not confine you to a unit when you first start out. Look for hospitals where you can apply for a “rotating” nurse residency in which you will have the opportunity during your orientation period to work on a variety of floors. At the end of your rotations, the hospital may allow you to “bid” to work on your preferred floor. This is a great way to gain exposure to different areas of nursing you may not have experienced previously.


7.) Think about lifestyle. Nurses are known for having a hectic schedule; however, that does not mean that you have no say over your work lifestyle at all! If you prefer working days or really do not want to work on weekends, perhaps look for opportunities in outpatient centers. If you are concerned about rotating between days and nights, look for hospitals that hire new grads for specific shifts rather than on a rotating schedule.


8.) Shadow! Reach out to people you know – friends, family members, instructors, professors – to see if they know of any shadowing opportunities where they work. If you have a particular area of interest in mind, ask around to see if you have any friends of friends who would let you shadow them for a shift. Your roommate’s brother’s girlfriend’s aunt might just be the one to expose you to the nursing specialty that is the perfect fit for you.


9.) Follow your heart. While med/surg is a wonderful specialty to work in, we are often told by instructors that it is the ideal place to start a career because it provides the foundation of all nursing practice. However, I am not of the mindset that every nurse needs a med/surg background in order to have a successful career if that is not where they want to work. In fact, I reread this blog post ( about a dozen times when trying to decide if I should take a med/surg position or work on the specialty unit I ultimately chose. According to the blog author, “Any specialty in nursing can give you a foundation in your desired nursing practice.”


10.) Don’t worry! I am willing to bet that your interests have changed quite a bit in the last decade, and chances are that they will continue to change in the next decade of your life as well. If you find out that where you end up working is not your heart’s calling – or even if it is – there is no guarantee that those feelings will be the same as time goes on. Part of what makes nursing such a colorful profession is the ability it provides to explore so many different specialties during the course of a career.

The reason you may feel lost right now is because, well, you kind of are. And that’s ok! In fact, that is exactly where you should be right now! We cannot possibly leave nursing school knowing all of the answers about what kind of nursing we are meant for just because we completed a few rotations on a handful of different units. That kind of confidence comes with time and experience and will likely continue to grow and develop as you do. Use these tips to get a head start in finding the area that is right for you… and get ready for a thrilling career ahead!


American Sentinel University. (2012). Ten considerations for choosing the best nursing specialty. Retrieved from

Battee, M. (n.d.). The myth of medical-surgical nursing: Why new grads should pursue their specialty of choice. Retrieved from

Johnson and Johnson. (n.d.). Find your specialty. Retrieved from

National Student Nurses’ Association. (2016). Personal branding and marketing: How to influence your destiny. Retrieved from

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