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2021 career health check-up (or check out?)

2021 career health check-up (or check out?)
Photo: 2021 career health check-up (or check out?)
If you're healthcare worker, especially on the frontline of COVID-19, you'd be forgiven for considering a career change – even briefly!

2020 was a challenging year, and 2021 is uncertain with recurrent outbreaks and vaccine concerns. But many health care professionals maintain – it's more than just a job, it's calling.

So, how do you know if it's time to take a different path? Whether you've been affected by the pandemic at work or are simply frustrated with your current role, it's difficult to know when to pivot professionally.

Does burnout mean it's time to check out – or are there ways to come back brighter and stronger? Career Coach Leah Lambert says nursing has many transferable skills, but challenging times don't always signal the end of a career.
"I had a senior nurse who was feeling very de-motivated, which was compounded by complications caused by COVID-19 and a fear of putting her elderly parents at risk. 

"We explored several career options, but she was successful in gaining a position in contact tracing.

"She utilises her strong administration, organisation and patient-care skills while feeling safer working outside of the hospital environment."

Career opportunities abound for nurses who feel the clinical setting is no longer a good fit, despite being exceptional at their job.

"I had an early career nurse who was disengaged with her work despite performing well. 

"During our time working together, we discussed what parts of her roles she enjoyed and her frustrations.

"We figured out that she felt frustrated by the repetitive nature of the role.

"She felt that she wasn't able to use her problem-solving skills and that it was too-process driven," says Ms Lambert.

After discussions about transferable skills, Ms Lambert's client realised she wanted a new career.

"She ultimately established a new career in medical devices. She now utilises her clinical background but has more autonomy and more opportunity to problem-solve."

Main frustrations in nursing

Ms Lambert says working with nurses over the past twelve months has highlighted some common frustrations in the profession, including:

• A lack of support from management
• Overwhelming workload (even before COVID-19)
• Toxic environment
• Hospital structure too hierarchical (not enough opportunities for nurses to move up)
• Shift work
• Repetitive nature of the work
• Low work satisfaction
• Perceived low pay


Nursing's most transferable skills

The most transferable skills that nurses have at their disposal when considering a career change are:

• Clinical/health expertise & knowledge
• Time management
• Ability to work under pressure
• Teamwork / collaboration
• High attention to detail
• Client service/patient care
• Ability to empathise

Aged care nurse Melissa Gole says the pandemic has made work-life difficult, but there are ways to rise above it.

"Work has been challenging with restrictions and isolation – even more so with so many critics!

"It has been very hard with the COVID-19 conspiracy theorists especially if they're your friends."

While working on the frontline in Australian is challenging, we are fortunate compared to problems faced overseas.

"Our mates in the US are exhausted, and what's even sadder is seeing the numbers of health care workers die over there.

"We have been much luckier with our health care system here. I'm sure many people have died in other countries because they couldn't afford access to health care."

The impact on those in residential aged care and their families has been particularly brutal, especially during lockdowns.

"It must have been so hard for them not to see their loved ones.

"A lot of our older people absolutely love their grandkids and to have all that time without seeing them would be so hard."

Staying career positive is about self-care and a positive attitude, says Ms Gole

"I believe in staying away from negative people, having a positive mindset and taking time to connect online.

"There's been a lot of great opportunities with art, cooking, exercise, dancing and yoga classes online."

Health workers with health issues and those in high-risk roles are particularly vulnerable during the pandemic.

"I worked at a hospital where everyone goes straight from the airport. I have autoimmune issues, so I'm glad I moved to a place that's much lower risk.

"I'm training to move into another profession but hope to take a lot of my learnings with me," says Ms Gole.

Seek's resident psychologist Sabina Read says like many health care workers, COVID-19 has increased her workload, but it's crucial to avoid burnout.

"There are no gold medals for running yourself into the ground. Sometimes us health workers need to say I'm navigating challenges too!

"I've observed an optimistic camaraderie and unity in the healthcare and medical industries.

"Australians have needed guidance, assurance, and treatment for their physical and mental wounds.

"I think individually and collectively, as a workforce in this sector, we have stepped up, says Ms Read.

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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.