Anyone considering the nursing field must investigate and fully understand each sector in the profession to be successful.
“The single greatest challenge to a person entering nursing is to ascertain what part of nursing you want to go into,” said Robert N., a registered nurse who has worked as a consultant in the medical field for the past 20 years with experience in administration, counseling and all phases of nursing. “When people say, ‘Oh, you’ve worked as a nurse,’ that really doesn’t describe what I have done, although I am a nurse. I have had my RN for decades, but I also have counseling credentials and licenses with a master’s in healthcare administration. So I have gone far beyond just being a nurse.”
Robert was drawn to the medical profession from the earliest age. “I got my first job in a hospital when I was 12 years old,” he recalled. “My aunt was a half-owner in a hospital. … She employed me part-time to be at the front desk, basically answering the phone.” After high school, he followed his passion for medical issues by becoming a combat medic during the Vietnam War. The Army gave him invaluable experience as well as access to a great education. While serving in the military, Robert attended a steady stream of nursing programs to become certified as a physician’s assistant and a registered respiratory therapist. “I took advantage of the situation, so when I got out of the military I was pretty set up in my career to do just about anything I wanted to do.”
After leaving the military, Robert acquired a B.S.N., got counseling credentials, obtained a national certification in the state of Texas to council alcohol and drug abusers, and began working as a consultant for the Department of Labor as the chief nurse consultant for a team managing an 11-state region. But after 17 years of working in counseling, Robert realized it was time to re-invent his career.
A fast track to growth
Through his membership in UpLadder, Robert learned about and applied for a top executive position at MedicalEdge Healthcare Group Inc., based in Dallas. He was impressed by how quickly the company had expanded. “MedicalEdge started off as an imaging and X-ray facility here in Texas and then grew very quickly to several other states along the Eastern seaboard. They even expanded from medical imaging to cancer research and cancer treatment.”
When MedicalEdge invited Robert to interview, he was surprised to find himself discussing a post different from the one advertised. He was also impressed by the scope of career opportunities within the firm; the head of marketing and recruiting who interviewed him had quickly developed his own career at MedicalEdge, having worked as an imaging technician just two years before. Robert realized the company would provide him with a ground-floor opportunity to advance. Robert now oversees operations at the brand-new men’s cancer center at MedicalEdge’s multifaceted, multiservice treatment facility in Plano, Texas.
At a time when few professions seem impervious to layoffs, healthcare – and nursing in particular – looks to many like a safe haven. Robert warned that success requires certain attributes: “The No. 1 job in nursing is to have the ability – whether it is natural or learned – to be able to nurture. The research shows that nurturing is what gets people well the quickest,” he noted before adding: “And you know what? Men can nurture just as well, and in some cases better, than women! So it is not limited to what sex you happen to be. It is a thing of the heart.”
Having worked in nursing for more than 10? years, Robert recommends that anyone considering the field must investigate and fully understand each sector in the profession: “I went into nursing early. Back then I didn’t realize how important it was to know what part of nursing I wanted to work in. I looked at it like, ‘I can do anything I want as soon as I get this degree or this license; the doors are wide open.’ And at that point in history, they were. You could be a nurse and work in any part of nursing you want. Today that is not true: They want the nurse that is not only top of the class, but they want the nurse that has that specific certification in that area.”
His advice? “Be as specific as you can. For example, the most current nursing trend today is wound care. Most people don’t know that. And that could be [open] to a nurse with a two-year degree or a LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse) with a one-year degree. So if that nurse were to take one week out of his or her time, and become wound care-certified, they are good to go for $70,000 or $80,000 right there. So the message is: follow the trends.”