My Career Change: What I Love and What I Don't

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Nurse in hospital

Our guest blogger Shannon Barnes shares her experience with switching careers from working in marketing to starting her new life as a nurse. Here she discusses what she loved about the change and what was difficult to adapt to.

It’s 4 am on a Monday morning, and I’m not very excited about being awake. Of my own volition, I must add. My kids didn’t wake up from a bad dream and need soothing back to sleep, nor did a thunderstorm wake me with its bluster. No, today, I’m up at 4 am because I’m flying out to Washington D.C. for work. I’m attending a Steering Committee meeting with nurses, physicians and statisticians from seven other academic hospitals, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and The National Heart Lung Blood Institute (NHLBI). If that isn’t enough collective brain power to get you excited, I’m not sure what is. And it dawns on me (pardon the pun), as I’m trying to stay awake on the plane, that most of the nurses I know are accustomed to being awake at this insufferable hour. They are either coming to the close of their long overnight shift or are beginning to stir awake to start their day shift. It’s at that moment that I realize that, as a nurse, I have a pretty fantastic position. Let me tell you why my job is so wonderful, along with the things that make me want to tear my hair out, because let’s be honest, there are always those things too.

I’m a clinical research nurse at a large academic health center, but I haven’t always been that. Nursing is a second career for me. In 2009, I made that leap that you may be considering right now and returned to school to earn my BSN through an accelerated nursing degree program after working for 13 years in marketing. While that background may seem like an odd stepping stone to nursing, it has served me well. For example, to work in marketing, one must have a hearty sense of humor and thick skin. I also developed the ability to manage approximately one million tasks simultaneously. Reflecting on my nursing role, I realize that maybe my previous career was just the training ground for managing all the carefully-maintained chaos a nurse experiences every day.

So, as I sit here sleepy from my early morning, daydreaming about my perfect workday, I realize most of this already happens to me daily. I have a schedule most bedside nurses are envious of—I work flexible hours from 8 am to 5 pm through the weekdays. No weekends. No holidays. Ever. (And I have time to eat lunch! What nurse gets to do that?!) I have a large degree of autonomy and responsibility to manage the clinical research studies we are conducting. There is a blend of both hands-on patient care, as well as management work. I’m particularly grateful for this aspect since most of my peers have to choose between cleaning up literal messes or metaphorical ones. My role as a research nurse enables me to still be with patients but simultaneously provides management and career advancement opportunities. Finally, I have an ability to positively impact a great number of people, not just one patient at a time. The research we conduct will change the face of clinical care, and I can publish papers that will impact the role of nursing on a broad scale. Yes, my own name in print!

Even though I am enamored with my position as a research nurse, I do daydream about how it could be more perfect. For example, in the meeting this morning with the aforementioned big brains, I’d literally get a seat at the table instead of a chair along the wall. And while at that meeting, we would make decisions quickly without belaboring every. single. little. detail. There would be no committees, nor any committees about committees. I’m serious. We have a committee than manages the other committees. It’s the height of efficiency.

But I suppose changing the world does require a bit of conversation, yes? And let’s be honest, that’s really what clinical research is doing. For example, research conducted by the National Institute for Nursing Research on the length of NICU admissions determined that implementation of an educational intervention program for parents of premature infants can reduce anxiety, depression, length of hospital stay and save approximately $5,000 per infant. That translates to a potential savings of approximately $2.4 billion annually in the U.S.

With that in mind, I’m heading into this meeting excited about collaborating with my peers about how we can make a difference in the health and well-being of patients. And, not-so-secretly, I’m very excited about seeing my name on the header of a clinical publication.

A nursing career isn’t always perfect, but it’s definitely worth it.

(Author’s Note: Upon arriving to the meeting, I pleasantly discovered my name card at a seat at the table, elbow-to-elbow with the Medical Officer from the NIH and the Chair of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Looks like nursing is finally getting both the literal and metaphorical seat at the table. And, once again, I’m reaffirmed in my career change.)


If you're ready to take the leap into a new career, learn about Marian University's Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program today!