Updated: Apr 25
The Pathway to Nursing: The road to becoming a nurse has its challenges; however the end result is worth the strenuous work involved! An interview was conducted to understand what it truly takes to get into this career path and possibly get your questions answered.
Note this interviewee has chosen to remain anonymous.
Interview conducted by Alyssa Soroka
(Nursing License Map, 2021)
Name of your position?
Clinical Nurse Specialist for Women's Health
What does that role entail?
In short, it involves working with multi-disciplinary teams to support the care of our specialty population and the health care system.
The long answer. Advanced practice nurses practice in the 5 domains of the STRONG model: Clinical, Leadership, Research, Professional Practice and Publications, and Supportive Systems. This involves both clinical expertise and clinical aspects to the role, such as working within leadership teams to promote nursing practice within their specialty and navigating changes in the system and best practices and new clinical practices to support and improve patient care. This can mean written publications, involvement in different national organizations, drafting guidelines, and using evidence-based practices to support workflow in the practice and throughout the system.
What is your educational background?
BSc Microbiology, Bachelors of Nursing, Masters of Nursing, and Perinatal Certification with the Nursing Association.
Is there anything you wish you knew when you started your career?
I wish I knew that I liked nursing as much as I did because I would have gone straight into nursing instead of doing a science degree first. I originally thought I wanted to be a doctor.
What are some lessons learned during your journey from entering the nursing field to earning leadership or higher-level positions that you think helped advance your career?
You see people in roles where you’re like "Hey, I would really like to do that role" and you see things that you really like in what they do, and think "How can I do that?". So then you seek out opportunities to get to those goals that you see. Then taking the jump of courage to go over to a different place than you aren’t used to trying something else; from there you start seeing different leadership positions and figuring out what you like in your role.
The best thing I ever did was take my masters because even though I didn't need it for a Nurse Educator role, it taught me a lot about understanding theories and the “bigger picture”.
Putting things together, and not just at a specific level but thinking “how does this problem affect not just the unit I'm taking care of but also the entire hospital? Or what would be the impact at a city-wide level? Or provincial-wide level?”. That opened up doors of connecting with different people in different projects, and that helped me do my job well and also helped me move into the Clinical Nurse Specialist role from the Nurse Educator role. You just keep building relationships and continuing to do education. People in higher positions don't just stop education when they are done with one thing, they are always reading, learning new things, or seeking out different opportunities to advance or learn about what they are doing and how they can do it better.
In essence; you see things you like in other roles, and seek out the opportunities for those goals. Reaching out to people in the roles you want, and figuring out what you like. You have to always be willing to learn.
Did you find that a lot of networking was necessary to further your career?
Networking was a huge part of not just advancing my career but also in making me feel confident about what I’m doing. I'm really passionate about connecting with people not just in my program but also outside of our program and across Canada. I think it's really important to see what people do with different resources than what we have.
Was gender bias ever an issue for you in your career?
Not really, because nursing is a predominantly female-driven role. I don't know if it's gender bias, but medicine is typically a male-dominated profession, so there's a difference between the nursing and medical field. Now there's a lot of women going into medicine and beginning to take leadership positions in areas like Women's Health, and so you see a lot more women physicians around that area of medicine.
What is your work-life balance like? Is this a good position for it ?
My work-life balance is better now. I think when you first start you feel like you need to do so much work. We say this a lot amongst our team: “fake it till you make it”, you feel like "Do I really deserve to be in this position? Am I good enough? Do I know enough? Am I doing a good enough job?". So you work really really hard at making sure you get things completed on time and finishing projects even though there's not really a set deadline for it. You bring it home and work on it because you want to be credible; you want to show everyone that you can do it. Then - I don't know if it an age thing or if you just get comfortable with your job (because I've been in a leadership position for over 14 years, and in my current position for just over 7 years) - you just start to know the work will be there when you get back, and your family is going to grow up and you need to spend time with them. So I don't bring work home as much as I used to unless I have something due and I need to finish it. I'm lucky enough to be in the type of position where my work supported flexible deadlines, as long as you maintain the super important deadlines.
Was it easy for you to find a job?
To find a job as a nurse was very easy but then once you start to get into leadership positions, it’s not easy to find a job. You need to be patient because you also want to find a job that fits you properly.
For example; I didn't want to be a Nurse Educator just anywhere, I wanted to be an educator labor and delivery. I didn’t want to be a clinical nurse specialist in any program, I wanted to support women's health.
You just have to wait. There aren't very many leadership positions, so you have to wait until they open up, and hope that you have done enough education and done a good enough job in your other roles to be able to get those positions when they do come up.
Any general career advice for women/female-identifying individuals who are trying to progress in the health industry (specific or non-specific to your field)?
Some advice for young women who are coming up is to not burn yourself out too early. We think we have to be able to do everything.
For Example; raising a family and advancing our career, and trying to do everything all at once.
I always tell my younger co-workers “Slow down, don't burn yourself out too early”. Do a good job when you are at work, then switch to family focus at home. Have a work-life balance. Be passionate.
If you aren’t passionate about where you are moving, then it might not be the right choice for you and you might need to look at something different.