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Shenese Stewart

Ask a Registered Nurse: Working in a Hospital vs. a Family Clinic

As a nurse, you have the opportunity to pursue your career in a variety of healthcare settings, from a hospital emergency room to a long-term care facility.

As a nurse, you have the opportunity to pursue your career in a variety of healthcare settings, from a hospital emergency room to a long-term care facility. The ideal work environment is different for every nurse, and finding the right place for you can take some time.

We asked Herzing nursing graduate Shenese Stewart about her nursing experiences and her advice for finding the right role.

1. What nursing roles and environments do you have experience in?

I have worked as a registered nurse (RN) for eight months and I was a licensed practical nurse (LPN) for four years prior to returning to school for my associate degree in nursing. I have experience in family practice, urgent care, med-surg, corrections and oncology.

2. What are some of the differences between working in a family practice clinic vs. the medical surgical floor?

The biggest differences are the hours and the types of shifts that you work. When I worked at a family practice, I worked eight-hour shifts, five days a week. We closed at 5 p.m. and were not open on holidays or weekends. On a med-surg floor, you typically work three 12-hour shifts per week and every other weekend. There are usually major and minor holiday requirements. During the winter months, it is a good idea to bring an overnight bag in case of snow or bad weather. The patient load is different, too. In a clinic setting, you are typically caring for one patient at a time who can walk in and walk out. On a med-surg floor, you will be caring for multiple patients at a time with various medical orders, labs results and procedures with multiple treatment team members involved in the process.

3. What skills are most important for each?

Soft skills, such as communication and critical thinking, are essential for either work environment. Anyone can be taught to be a manager, but not everyone is a leader. Your attitude, work ethic and integrity will determine your success. Your ability to be flexible and adapt to a quickly changing environment will allow you to be effective in the workplace. Being authentic to your values and morals will help you stay fulfilled by your work.

4. Where do you currently work and what do you like the most about your current role?

I currently work in a med-surg oncology and a med-surg corrections unit. What I like the most is the ability to learn more than I feel my brain can keep up with. I am never bored. I am constantly challenged, and I am in a position to make a true difference in the lives of my patients. My job keeps me grounded, centered, non-judgmental and forces me out of my comfort zone.

5. Do you have any advice for nurses who are trying to find the right role/work environment for them?

If you find you chose the wrong position, do not be afraid to say "this may not be a good fit for me." I recently had a colleague say she felt like a failure because she did not like the hospital setting, and people were telling her that the hospital is "real nursing." That is simply not true. It’s important to find the path you love, or you will be miserable and ineffective.

Working as a PRN (a Per Diem Nurse, someone works as a temporary fill-in for hospitals, clinics and other facilities) helps you see if you like a particular setting without the commitment of being a full-time employee. It also helps you add different experiences to your resume. You are able to meet new people, expand your professional network and learn new things.

The most important aspect of nursing is to be true to yourself and follow what is in your heart. There are many opportunities in nursing, and there is an avenue for everyone. The hard part will not be finding a job. It will be choosing what job to take. Make sure you choose the position that inspires you to want to go to work each day.

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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