Nurse Podcast

Episode 5. 4 Steps to Determine Your Unique Career Path

What You Will Learn In This Episode:

How do I find my nursing niche? How do I advance my career as a nurse? Have you asked these questions before? There are so many career paths for nurses that we get stuck. It’s a good problem and a bad problem to have. It’s good because it gives us options. It’s bad, because we have so many options that we stay stuck because we don’t know what to choose or are afraid to make a wrong choice. If so, stick around in this episode. I address these questions and more.

Connect with Bonnie Meadows MSN, APRN, ACCNS-AG

Website: The Ambitious Nurse Podcast Our Services: Instagram: @professionalascension Want to blaze a trail in your career? Download my complimentary Nursing Growth Starter Guide at Complementary career advancement guide.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Bonnie Meadows MSN, APRN, ACCNS-AG

 Want to blaze a trail in your career? Download my FREE Nursing Growth Starter Guide at


Welcome to The Ambitious Nurse Podcast, where I provide tips, tools, and resources for the experienced nurse to put in your career bag to help you be a better person, a better leader, a better professional, and most of all, a better nurse. I’m your host, Bonnie Meadows, a career coach, and a Clinical Nurse Specialist with over 18 years of experience in healthcare and nursing. It’s my passion to help experienced nurses develop their careers to impact healthcare and their communities.

Hello, everyone. We are back to talk about your unique nursing career. Four steps to determine your nursing career path.

You know, really charting out your career can be sometimes nerve wrecking. Especially when you thought it would go one way and it just doesn’t seem like it’s working out to be that way. You may have come into nursing thinking, I’m going to do this thing. And then you get into nursing. You’re like, I don’t want to do that thing. So then what else am I going to do?

Or you get to that thing and you’re like, this ain’t it. So what next? And if you’re anything like me, like you really want a guarantee, but you know, everything in life is not a guarantee.

I thought about this the other day, and I thought to myself… finding the right nursing career path is like finding a husband. You’ve got to go through a few decent jobs, bad jobs, sometimes good jobs before you really find the right one. The one that’s right for you. The spouse that’s right for you. That’s kind of what it’s like.

So most nursing career paths are chosen for various reasons when we start out or even once we get in it. What will make me the most money? What job is the easiest? Popularity of the role. Like everybody is going to do that.

In my time, it was, everybody’s going to be a CRNA. That wasn’t my calling. It wasn’t what I desired to do, but the majority of the people. So it was either CRNs or nurse practitioner. The people look happy. You’re like, “Well, I want to do what they’re doing because they look like they’re happy in what they’re doing.” Or it has a certain prestige to it. The title looks good.

Those are all reasons why people sometimes choose a certain career path. And it might not necessarily be they feel called to it, but it just is one of those reasons. But there’s only one unique path for you. I didn’t say one specific job for you, for there are all types of jobs out there that could be in your career path. But there’s only one unique career path for you.

So in this episode, you’re going to learn four steps that you can take to determine your unique career path. The best nursing career path for you.

When I was a student, a nursing student, I worked as a nurse aid in a hospital. It’s not the current hospital system that I work for. But I worked night shift. I actually, loved night shift. So, I worked this one night. It was on a surgical unit. I believe there was like three nurses working on that night.

And one of the nurses said to me, “You’re in nursing school? I would never tell another nurse to be a nurse. I would not. You should quit right now. You don’t want to do this.”

And I thought to myself, “Well, if she’s telling me this then why is she still here? Like, why hasn’t she moved on?” That’s that bitterness that I talk about. Like, you’re not helping the profession at all when you’re telling the nursing student that they’re making a bad decision. That just doesn’t help. If she believed that then why hadn’t she left? Like, you’re working in it and you’re telling me that this is not a good decision. She obviously had not found the best career path in general for her. And I pray today that she has. Obviously she had not.

Every person can find the career path that fills their cup, gives them joy and makes an impact in the patient’s life. It’s not perfect, but you can find what you need. What’s best for you. And it kind of overshadows all of those other things, depending on what’s going on. But it overshadows all of those other things that cause you to want to leave the nursing profession altogether.

70% of nurses feel nursing is still a great career, but only 12% are happy with where they are. And this survey was taken in 2021.

No one should ever have to feel like they’re settling for a nursing career they don’t like. If you’re in the settling moment of, “Well, I guess this is where I’ll be”, and there’s nothing hindering you from moving forward and moving on to something different, really take a listen to these four steps because you need to really figure out what your career path is. You need to see that light at the end of the tunnel, you need to have something worth moving forward to, something that just fills your cup as a nurse. And I’m not saying it’s all roses. I’m not saying that every day is going to be a great day, but overall you should have more good days than bad days, and there shouldn’t be this dark cloud, but it should be, “I see the light in what I do and what I can do in my career”.

So let’s take a look at one of the first things that you should do when you’re trying to determine your unique career path.

Consider your interests. Are you doing something that you’re not really interested in, but you’re interested in something else? If you’re in the hospital but you really like working in the community, then you might want to consider a career path working in the community. Working in public health. Working for the American Red Cross. Things like that. You should ask to shadow people in those areas. It’s okay to come to grips with, “I’m not going to be working in the hospital.” Just because you may think working in the hospital might have a prestige about it, maybe you should consider working in the community or you may be holding yourself back saying, “Oh, Well, I would love to do that, but they don’t make a whole lot of money.” Because we will say that to ourselves. You might want to reevaluate that because you never know what they’re doing out there in the community and how their salary is set up. You don’t really know that until you ask. And you never know, you might be set up with the perfect job that meets your salary needs. So ask to shadow people, do a job search and compare your current skills with what is required in an area that you’re interested in. And start making moves to work towards building out a career path just based on your interests.

Determine your career goals. If you’ve identified what you’re interested in. Now you need to figure out what are your career goals? Are your career goals to work upward in the same company that you’re in or in someone’s company? Or is it to work outward? You’ll hear me talk about this phrase of work upward versus working outward because it was something that I had to come to terms with, of my career path is going to be working outward and not necessarily working upward. Because my values didn’t match with upward, they changed.

My values at one point in time matched my lifestyle of working upward. They no longer match my lifestyle and what I desire. So I have to work outward. I don’t mind working outward, because I’ve found that my joy is in working outward and it actually helps me in my regular day job. It actually brings me joy to work outward. Outward meaning in professional organizations and in advocacy. Those things fill my cup and remind me of why I do what I do inward in the job that I go to everyday.

So determine your career goals. A lot of times you can get help in determining your career goals by either finding yourself a mentor either in your current area or in an area where you’re taking interest. Where you’ve taken note of your interest.

And also another thing that you can do is find a career coach. Yes, I am a career coach and that is what I do. I help people to determine their career path. A lot of times people will come to me and they will say, “I really want to do something different.” And then I take them through steps of how to figure out what that different is. Because a lot of times we just don’t know. We just see what’s in front of us and we’re like, “I don’t want to do that. And I don’t want to do that.”

And because I work with bedside nurses a lot, usually the conversation is, ” I don’t want to be a nurse practitioner. I don’t want to be a CRNA. I don’t want to be a nurse manager. What else can I do?” And then I’d take them through various questions, conversations. Sometimes my conversations are with nurses who already have a Master’s Degree They’re Nurse Practitioners. They may be educators, or either some of my friends who have Doctorate degrees, and they’re just trying to figure out how to expand their horizon, what their next career paths should be. Because sometimes you get to where you think the end of your career path is and you’re like, “Okay, well now I’m here now. What? Now what? I got the BSN. Now what? I have the Master’s degree. Now what? I have the Doctorate degree. Now what?”

And there’s more to it than that. There’s more that you can do.

Number three. Use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to determine your career path. Identify what’s important to you in that. And the first thing is fiscal. What are your salary needs? You got to eat. You got to sleep.

What are your family needs? What kind of family support do you have in order to chart the career path that is before you?

And sometimes you don’t necessarily have to push your interests out of the way in order to take a career path that may be a little bit easier. You just might have to go a little bit slower in making a decision regarding your career path. So don’t count something out just because what’s going on right now. As they say, don’t make a permanent decision in a temporary situation.

However you need to consider what is best for you. What will meet your needs? The top is self-actualization. And self-actualization is that thought process of what’s going to fill my cup? What brings me joy? All of those things. And that’s when all of the other needs of Maslow’s pyramid are met.

Now, you didn’t think I was going to bring out the psychology, but Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it makes some sense. That’s just the nerd in me though.

Lastly, you want to develop self-awareness. And I talk about self-awareness in my framework.

And heads up, I do have a group coaching program that is coming out very soon. This is my first time talking about it on the podcast. However, in my group coaching program, it is all about how to develop your career path. And one of the things that I really dig into is helping people to develop self- awareness. And if you’ve heard any of my previous podcasts, you’ll hear me talk about self-awareness and how it includes building your confidence and developing your professional brand.

It’s identifying your core values. It’s figuring out what your strengths and weaknesses are in order for you to really get a grasp of, this is what I need to include in my career path. It will bring so much clarity to where you want to go and even where you are right now. And help you to come up with a plan for what’s next. So it’s really important to develop self-awareness when you’re wanting to map out your nursing career path.

If you’re at a place where you’re like, “I don’t want to just hop to another job. I’m tired of just job hopping to really figure out what I want to do.” Sometimes job hopping is necessary. Sometimes you haven’t taken a moment to really reflect and develop a self- awareness about what you want to do. What will feel your cup? What brings me joy?

Doing these four things: identifying what you’re interested in, determining your career goals or your end game, using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to determine what’s important to you, and developing self-awareness will help you in determining your nursing career paths.

Thanks for joining us this week on the ambitious nurse podcast to review the show notes and any links mentioned in today’s episode, please go to The Ambitious Nurse Podcast ( If you enjoyed this conversation, follow or subscribe so you don’t miss a future episode. Also, please consider leaving a rating, review and or comment about what you want to hear. This helps more nurses just like you find this podcast. Thank you for joining me, Bonnie Meadows on The Ambitious Nurse Podcast. I look forward to chatting with you the next time. And remember, you don’t have to grow your career alone. As iron sharpens iron one person sharpens another. Thank you for letting me sharpen you as you take this knowledge to sharpen the next.

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