Journal Logo


It’s a Job—No, It’s a Career: Do you want a more rewarding professional life?

Mason, Diana J. PhD, RN, FAAN, AJN, Editor-in-Chief

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: 2003 - Volume 103 - Issue - p 13

I’ve been a nurse for 32 years. It’s been a very rich and satisfying career. But I didn’t set out to have one.

When I was a child, I had a tonsillectomy one year and an appendectomy the next. After one of the surgeries, two very different nurses took care of me. One was kind and gentle, feeding me ice cream and nurturing me in many ways. I felt safe with her. The other nurse was a typical Nurse Ratchet. I can still conjure her austere and callous manner. I was determined that when I had grown up I’d be a good nurse, like the first one.

This powerful experience led to my commitment to becoming a nurse. I didn’t think about nursing as a profession or career at the time. I thought about it as simply a meaningful job; providing care to others and helping them to heal. My father expected me to marry and have a family as a young adult; to him, nursing was something that I could always fall back on.

Instead, I was seduced by the challenges and inherent worth of the profession. I had the good fortune to start my journey in nursing in a good hospital, where nurses had a high degree of independence and were greatly valued. I’ve held many varied nursing positions since then, always certain that I could find another if one was not suitable. As I matured, I thought carefully about what I wanted out of work and the work environment, and refused to remain in an institution in which there was not a high level of collaboration, collegiality, and respect accorded to the nursing staff. No nurse should tolerate a work environment in which she is disrespected: either the environment should be changed or a more supportive one found. If one is willing to try new things, the options in nursing are virtually limitless.

I also found a community in nursing. In the second decade of my work, I discovered the many nursing associations that are devoted to improving working conditions, nursing care, and health. I eagerly became involved in community activities, first with my local district nurses’ association, then with my specialty organization and other groups. I learned from my colleagues, many of whom served as mentors, and I have tried in turn to serve in that capacity for the succeeding generation. I continue to find many of my nursing colleagues to be intelligent, caring, fascinating, tough, humorous people.

This Career Guide is designed to help you make the transition from viewing nursing as merely a job to seeing it as a career. The lead article describes national employment trends. If you have any doubt of the myriad opportunities that await you, simply peruse the various ads of employers of nurses. To those planning to move, the guide provides information on licensure in each state.

Other articles tell you what to look for when you’re searching for a supportive hospital or other health care facility and how to develop your career in nursing. When you make a job application, evaluate the position to determine whether it provides the kind of environment that will support you and your career goals. But to be able to compete for the best positions at the best facilities, you’ll need a résumé that indicates that you’re someone who knows what she’s doing. Two experts on résumé writing tell you how to prepare such a résumé and which pitfalls to avoid. The guide also tells you about the various specialty certifications that can demonstrate to an employer your commitment to your career and to excellence in nursing practice.

Finally, the Career Guide includes a letter from the new president of the American Nurses Association, Barbara Blakeney, MS, APRN,BC, ANP, a description of what the ANA has to offer all nurses, and a list of national specialty nursing organizations. If you haven’t found a community in nursing, get involved in one or more of these organizations. And even if you don’t want or need that sense of community, join the ANA and your specialty organization to support the advocacy work they do every day on our behalf and on behalf of our profession.

Are you tired of your job? Have a career.


© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.